Loss, Friendship, Healing and GRL:
So, the snarky part of me (always healthy and ready and willing and raring to go) would say something sarcastically wistful like “Ah, the healing power of the shared love of peen and books”, and it has. I’ve said those words. And it’s the truth. It’s also the thin cover I can use for the deep down truth. I haven’t necessarily kept it to myself, this truth, I’ve told people, been open about the experience. It’s just easier (and, let’s face it, natural) to express myself under a cloak of snark.
This past January, the night of the tenth, a Friday, my mom passed away unexpectedly. It was a virus and it took over her body and wouldn’t let go. She didn’t have much armor to begin with, though. For over fifteen years, she’d battled an auto-immune disease (it has a really long name) for which there is no cure, just ways of managing the symptoms. They never knew how she got it.
My mom and I were, and are, a lot alike. Outspoken, big-hearted, stubborn, confident and ready to do what it takes. That’s how she approached dealing with life day after day, especially after that diagnosis well more than a decade ago. She could have kept to herself, remained “safe”, attempting to live a life as free from germs as possible, not really living. No way would she do that, and she didn’t.
She kept up her substitute teaching, which she loved, and the kids loved her. She taught upper level Spanish, took no guff and the kids respected that. She did this up until the last few years. She was involved in all the family gatherings and travels and such. She traveled everywhere, all around the country for family and fun, and all around the world with my dad. They went back to some of what became their favorite places: Paris, England, Belgium, the Netherlands. She knew it was a risk each time she got aboard a plane or train or taxi or boat, but it’s called living life and that’s what she did.
Christmas of 2013, she and I flew down to Atlanta to visit family over the holiday. Her sister and several of my cousins live there. It was a bittersweet time as my uncle had just passed away barely a month before. We had a good visit, just spending time together mostly. On the flight home about a week later, one of the topics of conversation was travel plans for 2014, where each of us wanted to and were planning to go, the whys and how longs. Within a week of returning home, she was sick. A couple of days later, she was in the hospital. By Friday evening of that week, she was gone.
Devastation. Shock. Overwhelming pain. Overwhelming love. So much.
My mom is a big reason why I am who I am. This is one of the things that allowed me to claw my way through all of those annoying, horrible and real stages of grief and arrive where I stand today, right now.
I’d known since the summer of 2013 that I wanted to go to GayRomLit. I wanted to meet some of these people with whom I’d bonded, shared giggles and stories and all of the fun stuff that has come with finding this community of readers and storytellers. I knew that, given it would be another year before it came around, those bonds would be even stronger, more laughs and stories shared, more of everything. I was ready.
Everything worked out, as many of you know, and I was able to attend GRL. Attend. Such an unassuming word for an entirely involved experience. This was to be the final large hump to conquer on this road of healing, getting back to me, with new aspects in tow.
I didn’t have major doubts as I hopped in my car and started the drive west from Columbus to Bloomingdale. I was nervous as it was the first solo long road trip since mom (I’ve done many a road trip over the years), so it was another “first” in that sense. Despite any nervousness, I was excited to meet all of these people for the first time. Yup, I didn’t “know” a soul when I arrived. That would all change.
I entered the hotel and walked to the front desk to stand in line to check in. Within five minutes, I spotted Brandilyn there in the lobby. I walked over and said hi, I’m Andrea, and she wrapped her arms tightly around me and squeeeeeezed. I was happily stunned and I knew right at that moment that things would at least be ok. I took a breath and went to get checked in.
Can I just say that I love her vice grip style hugs? Because I do.
After I got checked in, I was walking out to my car for the first load of stuff and ran into Lisa and JA. We did quick hugs and parted, laughing because we were all making those same trips hauling stuff and simply excited to be there.
Not long after, PizzyGirl and I met for the first time. We ended up sharing a quick, early dinner and it was just as quickly becoming apparent we were proving in person what we knew to be true from our online interactions: we were fantastic at sharing laughs and talking a mile a minute, hitting it off and feeling comfortable within moments.
Christine. My girl. Yes, we use the cliché of “a sister from another mother” because it’s utterly, undeniably true. The level of ease between us didn’t even have to settle in, it was already there. It had simply been waiting for us to meet already so it could do its thing and live the dream.
Edmond, that exclamation of delight he let loose upon first sight of me almost outshone the hug that immediately followed. Almost. Our wonderfully undignified and exuberant sharing of many hugs before exchanging a “catch ya later” may have reached double digits. He and I have experienced similar life events over the last couple of years, some painful, some joyful, all life-changing. I think like recognized like right off the bat. Doesn’t hurt that we share that gestures vaguely Midwest thing.
Paisley. She’s thoughtful and so in tune with everyone around her. I could not stop myself from smiling when with her, as if I’d have it any other way. Her heart is huge. I’m surprised it can remain firmly in place without bursting out and doing a jig. Upon seeing that smile for the first time, our PBA team was complete and it felt so right.
V. Talk about another heart the size of the universe. Like my mom, she’s very crafty, especially with things involving the use of needles like knitting and crocheting. A couple of years ago while on a trip to Ireland, I had purchased a skein of green virgin wool for my mom. I knew she’d take her time going through all of the possible projects in which to use it. Sometime around the holidays last year, she had finally decided to use it in constructing a cover for a toss pillow. She never got the chance.
I held onto that yarn knowing I’d eventually figure out who should get it, who would be the perfect person to incorporate it into something they’d have and love for a long time, just like my mom would have done. I’m crafty with the paper and the paint and the markers, but not the yarn. Then came V. I took the yarn with me. When I gave it to her, the look on her face and the hug we shared said it all: I’d chosen wisely. 😉 I also knew my mom would love knowing that the yarn would be getting used by someone who enjoys working with it as much as she did.
So, along with the laughing and smiling until my face hurt, the drooling over books and other things, and the wonderful panels and readings, I had the experience of meeting and making some wonderful, thoughtful and understanding friends. I was able to share this healing with them, because of them.
There are so many people, so many hearts that have helped and are helping me along this road. Every single one of you was with me each moment I was enjoying GRL. Each time I smiled and it threatened to break my face. Each time I shared a hug with glee, without reservation. Each time I took a quiet moment for myself, I felt ok, I felt strong, I felt happy. Happy. Without guilt or analysis or worry or uncertainty.
Thank you, all of you, for being there with me, in the room and in my heart. Thank you, mom. I know you were there, too. Because of you, there is me. And I’m back. With joy. Thank you. I love you.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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