Vivat Aeternum, Dennis: I

Kage Baker commented, in her last few weeks, that she was glad she was leaving before more of the people she loved died. Our brethren and sistren of Faire, in particular, had begun to tatter away in great numbers into immortal glory – she had forbidden me to keep her posted on the daily death report.

“I’ll know for my self soon enough,” she said reasonably. “I’ll be glad to see them, and they can throw me a surprise party. And to paraphrase that little shit, John Adams: Phyllis and Ernie and Dennis still live!”

It was a comfort to her.

Phyllis Patterson. Ernie Caswell. Dennis Day. They were a sacred triad at the time that Kage and I joined Faire. Kage and I loved them, all three, as parents and mentors and the senior playmates in our weird little world. They came up with the best games, and made sure we all played fairly.

Well. Phyllis Patterson went to Skyfaire, (as the good and noble Greg Fors calls the Faire afterlife, and the memorial page on Facebook) in 2014. Ernie Caswell is in a senior care home now, battling the slings and arrows of age. And Dennis Day, who inexplicably disappeared in July 2018, has finally been found: remains found in his house 2 months ago have been definitely identified as Dennis Day.

Hundreds of us have been waiting for nearly a year to find out, calling in every favour we could with everyone we knew in any media; pushing the story out in the public, screaming for all the attention we could get, pointing out that the disappearance of this elderly man – an actor, a brother and an uncle and a friend, and an ex-Mousketeer, for God’s sake – had vanished without a trace and it mattered.

I don’t know why it took so long to find him: the police apparently didn’t bring in a cadaver dog in their initial search. I think most of us waiting to hear the identification had already reached the conclusion that, yes, it had to be Dennis: however it had happened, he was there in the empty house, waiting to be found. Our mourning started when the body was located – having it finally ID’d as Dennis is almost a relief. Now we know. Now his body can be given rest. Now Sylvia McRae can add his name to Skyfaire, and we can all picture the riot of celebration and beer that must have greeted Dennis when he walked in.

The investigation continues, though. There are weird and terrible questions still to answer. No one knew he was going anywhere, last July: not even his partner, Ernie, who no longer lived in their house by then. Dennis’ car was found miles away, in the possession of a man and woman who said they didn’t even know who Dennis Day was. No cause of death has been determined; it may not be possible to determine one at this point. And the police are still considering it a questionable death – which I fear means that someone murdered Dennis, and no one knows who or why.

I loved Dennis Day. He was part of my heart, part of my blood and bones. The wait to discover where he was, and then the wait to make sure it was him, has tormented me every day; me, and all his family and friends who also loved him and suffered to lose him. I think we all know that we’ve been lucky to find Dennis at all – but right now, for me at least, the black wind of grief is blowing harder because I knew he was almost lost forever. Ultimately, I will be grateful. But tonight, I am filled with wrath and sorrow.

I could write a thousand words to laud Dennis’ accomplishments, relate his amazing stories, remember lovingly all the things he taught me and the doors he opened to me. But not tonight, Dear Readers. I am too old, too tired, too wounded for it. My heart can still bleed, and it leaves me gasping from yet another blow.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will write about the golden light of the days when I learned improv from an ex-Mousketeer standing on a hay bale.

I am so grateful I didn’t have to tell Kage.