About fifty years ago, when I was a first-year graduate student at Stanford, I sat down at a table in the coffeehouse and struck up a conversation with three young women who turned out to be 17-year-old high school students, in their senior year at Palo Alto High. Afterwards, one of them -- the one with the beautiful grey eyes and the Cheshire-cat grin -- turned to her friends and said "That's the man I'm going to marry."
Five years later her two friends were the bridesmaids at our wedding.
I would later tell people that she stalked me for five years, but in fact she simply became my best friend. I've never met anyone who made friends as easily. Or who was better at figuring out what I needed but was either afraid to ask for, or completely oblivious to.
For her memorial, our daughter wrote:
My mother was one of those people who could light up a room with little more than a smile, she could make you laugh so hard you cried, and she could talk your ear off with sewing, gossip, cooking, tea, or gardening any day of the week. She also had one of the biggest hearts, biggest hugs, and biggest personalities of any one I’ve ever met. She was also very sick, and had been on and off for most of my life, so with her death...I hope she finds some measure of peace.
She loved taking care of her friends -- her usual greeting was "Have you eaten today? When?" Her con suites were legendary. When we had a spare room in the house there was often somebody staying in it, whether for a weekend, a week, or a year. Most of the West Coast filk community knew her as "Mama Colleen". We called our house in San Jose "Grand Central Starport", and she started our Wednesday pizza nights shortly before our first kid was born, because she wanted to be sure of getting some adult conversation every week.
She was also the toughest woman I've ever met. She earned the nickname "Turbo Snail" in rehab, pushing herself to walk again after the surgery that damaged her spinal cord. After that she had her hair dyed purple so that people would see her as "the lady with the purple hair" and not as an old woman in a wheelchair. She became a familiar sight at the hospital in Coupeville; we joked about getting her a frequent flier card.
The night our daughter Amethyst was stillborn, 31 years ago, she had sent me home to get some sleep. She did the same the night her mother died. And again the night before her last surgery, which we both knew was going to be incredibly risky. She called me the next morning on the way in to surgery; they had moved the schedule up. I told her I'd see her afterward, and added "I'll always love you." By the tine Naomi and I got to the hospital, she had already been wheeled out. We went back home that evening, expecting to see her in the morning, but when her doctor called at 10:30 to tell me she was fading, we went back to the hospital and stayed until the end. I knew she would have told me to go to sleep and come back in the morning, but she didn't get a vote that time. Her heart stopped at 4:30am.
We had been married 45 years, 6 months, 8 days, and 11 hours.
There probably isn't an afterlife, so fantasy will have to do.
She gets off her scooter part-way up the Rainbow Bridge, pats it gently on its tiller, and bids it goodbye. It scurries off -- where the ghosts of abandoned mobility aids wind up is no longer her concern.
A grey tabby cat leaps into her arms; she cradles him in one arm like a baby while with her free hand she fishes a handful of treats out of a pocket -- all of her dresses have pockets. "You're a good cat, Curio," she says.
She pauses on the field outside Valhalla to watch the fighting, which is just getting started; then goes into Freya's hall at the other end of the field to see whether she needs any help in the kitchen. After the feast she sits on the porch sipping tea with the goddess, the rest of the kitchen staff, and a couple of valkyries, swapping recipes and talking about their cats.
A young woman approaches, with the tabby walking in front to guide her. She is wearing a purple shift and a necklace of amethyst beads; she has her mother's eyes. Colleen sweeps her up in a hug that nearly knocks her over. "Amethyst!" she says, "I was afraid I'd never see you again! Have you eaten? Sit down and have a cup of tea."
Here are links to the posts I and other people have made on Dreamwidth and other places. I've plagiarized pretty freely from mine.
|Posts tagged "colleen" dreamwidth 2021-08|
| "The last thing I said was
I'll always love you"
This row is a placeholder -- I'll eventually make separate entries