Timothy Wayne Brookover ~ October 19, 1960 – June 10, 2013

10 Jun

Note: I wrote this yesterday while Tim was still alive. I deleted it last night before went to bed because I had some concerns about some of the content.

Upon awakening just now I found out the sad news that Tim had died in Houston last night at 9:30.

 

As I write this, my friend Tim Brookover is occupying a bed at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. He is suffering from a wide variety of ailments and indignities related to cancer. Several infections are ravaging his immune system and the cancer itself is causing intense pain, which in turn (along with pain meds) causes an intense delirium, which then creates a high level of anxiety.

A couple of times I’ve tried to imagine what Tim is experiencing and seeing in his delirious states — but I have stopped because it is just too sad and it makes me feel completely helpless.

As of last night the doctors have stopped infusing Tim with antibiotics to treat the infections and are sticking strictly to palliative care. In others words, they are doing whatever they can do to just reduce his pain and eliminate the anxiety and stress.

Now, the truth is, Tim may in fact get better and go home — this time. And, I actually have a feeling that he will go home at  least one more time. However, I, just like his parents (whose emails keep me in the loop on Tim’s condition), know that this will not go on much longer.

###

In the Fall of 1980 I enrolled at the University of Houston as a journalism major. One of the cool things about that was that UH had it’s own daily newspaper, The Daily Cougar, that students put out all by themselves with no help or censorship from the faculty or administration. In fact, the newspaper was not related in any way to the actual Journalism department — there was no ‘adviser,’ but, journalism students did get class credit for writing and editing the paper. The Daily Cougar had it’s own advertising department — just like any newspaper — staffed by professionals, but, again, the ad department had nothing to do with the editorial content of the paper;  they simply filled a certain percentage of the pages each day with profitable advertisements.

During orientation, I was given a tour of the Daily Cougar offices. It was a large, bustling, busy place, filled with loud wisecracking staff members, computers, and lay-out boards (typesetters still printed up the ads and the articles and the headlines and photo captions on paper and then glued them to boards that were driven to the printer every night).  On this tour we were introduced to one very-harried yet amused-looking young man as ‘the managing editor.” His name was Tim Brookover.

I don’t remember what Tim said at that moment. But I do remember that it was clever and hilarious in a way that was new and exciting to me and it made me want to be a part of The Daily Cougar and to hang out with people like Tim Brookover.

And that is what I did. For the next two years (while barely attending classes), my life was dominated by that newspaper and the people on the staff. I wrote article after article and even became the News Editor, a position that I believe paid a stipend of $500 per month and came with an office.

I became close friends with the dozen or so people that made up the world of that paper, and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie that came with that world. It was a world of constant laughter and jokes — mostly focused on a cynical and sarcastic point-of-view, a view I was completely comfortable with.

Now, Tim, he was both the funniest and the most cynical. I’d never met anyone like him. While he clearly thought the world and all its humans were completely awful (“people are the worst” he would say all the time) and he could be devastating in his sarcasm, he was still always a likable even loveable person who you just knew was actually the sweetest guy in the world. How he pulled that off — I have no idea.

While, like I said, I became close with many of the other staffers, I ended up being particularly close with Tim. We ended up sharing an apartment and spent many long nights talking about anything and everything — after a while I don’t think there was really anything (almost) that we were afraid to share with each other. Plus, we had so many of the same interests — we both loved fiction and drama and movies and TV and going to live theatre and looking at and reading about contemporary art (a particular enthusiasm of Tim’s). We were passionate about pop culture and could talk about it endlessly — though I am still convinced that Tim’s insights were always more insightful and definitely way funnier.

Tim spent many days and nights with me visiting my parents and my sister and her family at my parents’ large house in a town just north of Houston called The Woodlands. It was a brand-new house nestled in the East Texas piney woods — I  remember being struck by the fact (as a suburban Southern California boy) that there were no fences in The Woodlands, just a thick forest. Every house had a fancy wood deck in back, from which one could see a half dozen other neighbors each enjoying their own decks. I loved that.

My parents were so well-off compared to us two college students that they actually had this new thing called “cable TV,” which included CNN and MTV, the Nashville Network, and various channels dedicated to old movies. Tim and I would stay up nearly all night on the weekends watching all these wonderful channels. I particularly remember us watching the movie Kiss Me Deadly for the first time. Can you imagine? I think Tim was actually speechless for a while.

Also fun for us was watching Jim and Tammy Baker — pre-scandal. Tim and I were both fascinated by the Bakers and their nightly show — of course it appealed to our low opinion of humanity. Watching the Bakers with Tim was particularly delightful — he could do deadly impersonations of both Jim and Tammy and when one or the other said something particularly ludicrous Tim would repeat the phrase again and again for days or weeks afterward. Often, I would laugh so hard no sound would come out of my mouth — do you know what I mean?

During this friendship I had several girlfriends and even got engaged briefly while Tim never dated and never seemed to have any interest in girls or even the subject of sex. After a while I did wonder if he was gay, which was an open question that was answered when I happened to look in one of his dresser drawyers to borrow something (I really have no idea why I was in his dresser but I remain convinced it was an innocent thing on my part) and found it full of gay porn magazines.

I never said anything about my discovery even though Tim and I remained close friends. In the Summer of 1983 I left the University of Houston without graduating (I was about to flunk out anyway) to take a job as a reporter for a daily paper in Tyler, Texas. This job only lasted about a year and I spent most of my weekends driving back to Houston to stay with Tim in order to be with him and to  visit my then girlfriend Deena Moore.

Within a year I met my first wife in Tyler (a midwife who had scholarly ambitions) and moved with her to Austin so she could go to graduate school in anthropology at the University of Texas. The marriage lasted just over a year as did my stay in Austin. I was a mess this whole time (bad marriage, bad jobs, depression) and Tim was a constant support — I’d drive back to Houston to hang with him and he often visited me in Austin.

It was during one of these visits that Tim came out to me as gay. Looking back I guess I should have acted surprised because when I immediately confessed that I’d seen the magazines in the drawer and had known for a couple of years the poor guy looked kind of let down. Clearly he had thought that he had a secret that had actually been a secret until just that moment. It felt horrible to disappoint him.

In 1986 I moved back to California. I stayed in contact with Tim for quite a while and he even came to visit once. Then, for the next couple of decades I tried to keep in contact. For years I always called him on his birthday, at Christmas, and  at Thanksgiving. This was something I didn’t do even with most of my family members. That was how important Tim was to me. That was how much I loved him.

It was during this time that Tim got the HIV virus and went on the cocktail of treatments — which seemed to work out fine. He held a variety of jobs: editor of Houston-based magazines, grant-writer for the Contemporary Arts Museum, and executive of several Houston-area Gay and Lesbian political organizations. I think it is safe to say that he is well-regarded in the Houston Gay and Lesbian Community and is loved and cared about by many many people. Have no doubt about this.

At some point about 12 years ago I noticed that Tim was not so quick to respond to my calls or emails. In fact, he basically stopped engaging with me at all. I tried hard to keep contact but after a while it just became clear to me that I was no longer as important to him as he was to me. I do not know why this happened. All I know is that I would email him and he just would not answer. Then, when Facebook happened, I tried to connect with him there — but he just wasn’t into it.

So, of course, I got pissed off and stopped trying. Fuck Tim Brookover, I thought.

Then, about a year ago, my old Houston girlfriend Deena Moore (who I was keeping some contact with) wrote me about her own cancer as well as Tim’s. She was suffering from colon cancer while Tim had anal cancer. They were both seriously ill and she told me I should contact Tim. Still pissed, I said that Tim was no longer my friend. Then, last August or so, Tim went into M.D. Anderson with similar symptoms as now and Deena told me I should get on his father’s email list. So, I got on the list and was saddened to find out how much Tim was suffering. It seemed like he was no longer working (and I found out from Deena that his longtime partner Albert had recently died) and that he was living with and being cared for by his very kind mother and father.

One day, feeling so sad and sentimental, I sent flowers and a note to Tim at his parents house (I got their address using resources at my law firm job). I didn’t know if Tim would ever get the gift and message or not. But, luckily for me, this gesture did the trick. Ever since receiving the flowers Tim has been in communication with me on Facebook and on this blog. He has been an avid follower of my writing career and has said so many wonderful nice supportive things about my published stories and my various other successes.

(Note: Deena died last January)

This was so important to me. All those years ago in Houston I would go on and on about my artistic ambitions, about how I wanted to be a writer and artist, and how I wanted to create exciting, original new work. And, one of the things that haunted me in the decades since was that I never accomplished those goals — I never really wrote anything for years. But, now to actually be writing and having success and to know that Tim was watching, participating in and appreciating what I was doing — wow, that was just the best thing ever.

###

So, okay, now Tim is in the hospital. Suffering. And, I care about him so much. Just the other day I wrote his dad George an email asking about his son. George was so gracious to answer and to let me know that Tim talked about me and my writing successes all the time and had recently told his parents about my recent move to Kona, Hawaii.

Made me cry.

But, jeez, now that I’ve written 2020 words about Tim and his condition I feel like shit, like all I’ve written about is about ME and not about Tim. I meant this blog to be a tribute to a wonderful man, but, maybe, hopefully, it is a tribute to a wonderful friendship that died for a while and was revived and now, I am certain, will last forever.

Tim Brookover — I love you.

timandalbert

Tim, on the right, with his partner Albert in 2010.

6 Responses to “Timothy Wayne Brookover ~ October 19, 1960 – June 10, 2013”

  1. jakazimerJ.A. Kazimer June 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  2. Doug Dodson June 18, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Mike, you are so eloquent. We were both lucky to have known Tim.

  3. Katherine December 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Dear Mike,

    I am very glad that you wrote and posted this. Thank you. Timothy Brookover, my brilliant editor, my delightful collaborator, my sensitive confidant, my colleague in Houston’s tiny bombed-out publishing world in the seven years that followed the oil bust of the mid nineteen-eighties, so important to me professionally as a writer, and personally as well; during those years, I used to say, we were “professionally married,” but we were more than that. We were also dear, deeply trusted and trustworthy, completely mutually invested friends. We took such pleasure in each other’s company: together we laughed and laughed and brain-stormed and hatched plans and ate and disclosed our respective vicissitudes to one another. I am not on FaceBook now nor was I during the years of Tim’s terrible cancer ordeal. I did not receive the notification about Timothy’s memorial service sent via email, sent most kindly from a former mutual colleague, until too late. To miss that was very, very bitter medicine, indeed. I so wanted to grieve his loss with his family and his faith community and others who genuinely understood his brilliance and the kindness and radiant wit he possessed. Tim had not let me know how ill he was. That he was dying. The hurt of that withholding cut very, very deep. It is now heading on Christmas 2014. I am feeling his absence and the loss keenly again.

    I can relate to your story. When Tim and I were a professional team, which we were in multiple settings together over a period of years, in a variety of full-time jobs under different auspices; from my point-of-view, which is the only one I can speak from, by the early nineties, we were both at our happiest and strongest professionally when we were working within this creative professional partnership we had forged together. [Unfortunately, I had not articulated that clearly to myself or to Timothy at that point. However, my actions themselves were informed by the knowledge I apparently did have on some unconscious level.] I was not joking when I told the hiring professionals I was negotiating with on our behalf in 1990 that Tim and I were “professionally married,” and, frankly, we were a great package deal. Because we were. The questions that hurt so much after Tim’s death: Why had he cut me out so radically at the end of his life? And actually, clearly, long before that? But even when he was dying? Why had he not given me an opportunity to tell him in words how important he was to me, to tell him all the positive, loving, affirming truths about his own talented self that I so wanted to tell him? Why had he cut me off from being able to be of any service at all to him at those times when he was suffering? Why had he disallowed, in effect, my ability to be present to him/with him, in any way–for both of our sakes? To comfort him? To make him laugh? To help him remember that he was loved and cherished and respected–by me? That we had a particular unique rich history together that I would carry forward within me? That meant a tremendous amount to me?

    My life-partner thinks the answers to these painful questions can be found in the depth of Tim’s disappointment in the way Timothy believed the story ended. In the heights he had worked to soar to as a magazine editor before his diagnosis, (the editor’s desk in NYC he would surely have laid claim to and subsequently decided not to pursue after his diagnosis–too far from his family and his AIDS doctors); the heights he had expected I would soar in his stead or under his editor’s eye or even simply on my own. [Or in the best parallel play fashion, perhaps, we would fly to acclaim independently, separately, still communicating with one another, calling back and forth in the sky first one and then the other in Timothy’s original sky-bluing for each of us? Editor. Writer. Cranes at 33,000 feet communicating to one another, cruising on drafts high between the mountain passes, keeping each other up to the minute simply by shifting the feather positioning on our heads.]

    Myself? I am not sure. I did not understand my neurobiologically-wired eccentric relationship to time at that time nor did I see then this completely predictable, horrible “casualty” that would result. I think I hurt his feelings without ever meaning to or intending to or realizing it until entirely, entirely too late. This makes me incredibly sad. I did not keep in touch in the fashion he expected. He had no way of making sense of this. Probably misinterpreted it. How could he know that my delight in him, my exultant esteem for him stayed a constant? My feelings never changed a whit? He had no way of knowing that I am genuinely different in this way. And of course he took it personally, although it had nothing to do with him personally, actually. But people do, generally, naturally.

    A lesser point: I think Tim needed me significantly less, in a very particular way by the end of his life. By then, he had long-since come out to his family, his father and mother’s church community, the city of Houston, the world. His respected and cherished parents and brothers and sister now knew and had embraced his homosexuality and his AIDS diagnosis. I would imagine perhaps by the time of his death, they had each long-since known the dreadful nighttime hours unable to sleep, alone and raging silently or debating mentally relentlessly, or simply spent and sad, lying watching a crack of light on the dark ceiling until, finally, heaving upright and heading to the refrigerator for a glass of water without needing to turn on the kitchen light to find their way, had years of practice at neatly tucking the pain out of sight. I functioned as a kind place-holder, a role which felt like being tasked with carrying Olympic-class weights alone in my apartment at night, during the long years before he could bear to end his family’s care-free nights and days.

    But mostly I have concluded that using the same oldest-boy-child-Lutheran-raised-backbone that he relied on when he deliberately chose to spare his family from grief in the early years following his diagnosis, I believe he chose, correctly or not, consciously or not, to shield me from the narcissistic wounding he endured and lived with in the last years of his life.

    • Mike Monson December 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Thanks Katherine. I think we met once or twice, right? Maybe at a dinner when you both were at one of the Houston magazines?

  4. Gold Inside Me Too February 10, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    A wonder to meet in this particular, significant way now. Thank you.

    I do have formless memories that span time of Tim speaking about you; you definitely were in a category of one. For a variety of reasons, I would deduce: the large catalogue of important shared formative experiences, that laughing together, most important, that laughing together, the mentoring/co-creating during The Cougar years; but then, even after that era had ended, I can tell you that you held a unique position in Tim’s heart/mind during the years when he and I were so close. In part because he regarded you as his most important strictly friend, by that time you two were no longer associated through working on the paper or UH or as roommates. I recall his visiting you in California. He always appeared to me to brighten with warmth and happiness when he spoke of you and/or the friendship. Timothy had “talent” talent as an editor. And he discerned that in you, Mike. And nurtured you. I would consider that an honor, Mike, to treasure. And Tim’s sustaining legacy to you.

    He would be so proud of you today if he were alive. I have absolute clarity and conviction on that point. I think if he were alive today, his mien would beam delight any time you [and by extension, your life/your writing/your defining success for yourself and achieving that] popped into his mind. To know the number of books you’ve produced, that you have co-founded a publishing company, that your books are moving on Amazon every day the way they are?

    Imagine a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon representation of our Timothy, a 28-year-old blonde Tim [Even though, oh, how the professional Tim paced a cage of frustration at 28, enraged, his chronological age a block (times change)], with whatever perfect body form he’d most enjoy, freely floatable now; make for him a fixed luxuriant undulate line of hair, a wave rising gently up and away from his forehead, cresting, his understated organic crown, before subsiding, progressively, in rows of flattened letter “s” shapes curving over his head. Imagine an orange chiffon scarf, his prop of greatest mirth, streaming from his triumphantly raised hands, as he moves majestically, at his pace, up at tree-crown level down your block smiling his beatific unadulterated joy.

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