Tomorrow my closest friend celebrates his 59th birthday. In our hearts we’re brothers.
Over the years I’ve thought about how I should write about Michael Sulsona. In addition to be a remarkable man with a capacity to seamlessly accept the realities of life like no one I’ve ever known, he is one of the best playwrights and screenwriters in the country. But to write about him, to write about this friendship of ours, this brotherhood of ours that has lived for more than 35 years at this point, how to do that?
Trying to accurately tell you how much I love Michael, how much this man’s presence in my life has meant to me all these years is impossible. I’d be more successful describing the Grand Canyon to someone – over the phone. In other words, the task of writing the all of it is clearly impossible.
I can tell you that Michael was an early lesson for me that disability can mean anything but. Michael, a former (and always) Marine lost his legs in Vietnam. It was Michael who taught me you don’t have to stand up to stand tall.
I can tell you that Michael and, as they each entered the world, his sons, Vincent and Philip, have been the the only steady presence in my life. In other words, they are family. Once, not long ago when talking with Phil, I said, “Sometimes I feel like we’re family.” Phil looked at me, smiled, and, gently correcting me, said, “Uncle Peter, you are family.”
Now that I think about it, that is the gift of Michael (and his boys) for me. They have given me family, themselves. No matter what has happened in my life, they’ve been there. And for a man who has been on his own since he was 16 years old, there is no greater gift than family, real family, family of the heart like Michael, Vincent and Philip and now, blessedly, Michael’s wife Frieda.
I know I would have gotten through things like the shooting, my mother’s suicide,a fight with alcoholism and more had Michael not been in my life. But getting through them would’ve been a helluva lot harder and I’m not sure I would have weathered things as well as I have.
Happy Birthday, Michael. I love you very much. You too boys. You too Frieda.
Photo by Frieda Tucker