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Dearest Brett

Eight years ago, I was thirty-four.  I was depressed, overwhelmed, and doing little to get better.  I also lost one of my dearest friends to cancer.
Today is the anniversary of Brett’s death.  I honor the day annually. I also still celebrate his birthday.  While he lived, we began a tradition of gag gifts for his birthday including a bulk pack of Irish Spring soap to commemorate the time an aging barfly walked up, took a deep sniff, and wondered aloud why he smelled so good and a box of Lucky Charms because of the goofy leprechaun voice he would use on the phone at work.  It didn’t matter what we gave him. He loved it and made a big show of his appreciation. He was a man of great joy and gratitude.
Some people may wonder why I continue to honor Brett in the way I do. Brett had been my confidant and the voice of reason during a time when I wasn’t the best version of myself. A coach by vocation, he would encourage me as he might have one of his players: he was direct, results-driven, and often tough.  So he continues to be my coach.  For every training run and half-marathon I complete, it is Brett to whom I dedicate the final mile. Every time I face a challenge, I remember Brett during his final months.  While these thoughts may be saddening, they are also empowering.  My friend transitioned in strength, power, and joy.
This is a letter I never completed last May:
Dearest Brett,
When I was in the hospital nearly two weeks ago, I realized I was on your floor.  I don’t know which room you were in but I remember the elevator ride w T. I don’t remember the walk down the hall but I remember how you held my hand as I struggled not to cry. You told me not to worry.  That moment illustrated the man and friend you were. 

What you taught me was to persevere. And so I have. At work.  On training runs and at half-marathons.  Through illness. When I fight, I do so in the knowledge that you are in my corner.  

Diva without drama

     The power of women’s friendships is constantly being undermined by pop culture’s obsession with cattiness.  From mean girl Top Model contestants to Real Housewives reunion show drama, we are inundated with scenes of women attacking, humiliating, and betraying other women, more often that not supposedly their “friends,” for laughs and ratings.  On the other hand, anyone who has experienced girlhood and womanhood knows that the authors behind Queen Bees and Wannabes and Odd Girl Out weren’t exaggerating; friendships between women can be challenging and sometimes traumatizing.

     I admit I have had my share of frenemy drama starting in elementary school and as recently as last year.  So-called friends have talked behind my back, excluded me from activities, revealed my secrets, and turned others against me.  I admit I have been a participant in chisme, backbiting, backstabbing; we are told that this is what girls and women do by our elders but especially by popular culture.  Those who want to say Latinas are much more supportive and sisterly need only look at a telenovela or watch an old episode of Laura en America to see that catfights are part and parcel of the love story mythology; you cannot trust your sister, friend, neighbor to not covet what you have.  
     I have seen my straight and gay male friends as superior to my women friends at several times in my life, sometimes to the detriment of the many healthy friendships I have had with women.  In turning to men as my support network, I have sometimes alienated the women who have been loyal and supportive.  It has been a challenge to maintain a balanced perspective, to not buy into the stereotype that women don’t know how to be friends. 
     For the past two decades, I  have been blessed with the best friendship I could ever imagine.  My friendship with my bestie has survived through family losses, health battles, career shifts, boyfriends, and singledom.  I am proud to say that of all my friendships, both old and new, it is the one relationship that has been drama-free.  There has never been a separation or conflict that was rooted in envy, insecurity, or miscommunication.  She has been my co-worker, club buddy, and labor coach. I don’t give her enough credit for being such an amazing woman and friend.  
 I hope my daughter is blessed with a friend as true as her Titi has been for me.  

A true friend

“I had the best dog. But I still have the best friends!” me, 2/7/12, Facebook comment

For the first time since I was a year old, I won’t have a dog in the house. After nearly thirteen years, I put down my beloved Talula to rest yesterday, accompanied by my life partner, Blues, and our family veterinarian. Talula had had cancer for well over a year and we just couldn’t stand to watch her fade away slowly.

Dogs are great friends. They love unconditionally. They don’t cast judgment. They don’t engage in gossip. They don’t complain. They live in the moment and share joy with everyone they meet.

What I loved best about Talula was her genuine joie de vivre. A pit bull mix puppy found wandering in a bad Hayward neighborhood, she was always gentle and happy. Apart from my parents’ mellow Lab, Pinto, Talula was the sweetest dog I have ever known. I trusted her with my toddler. Her early experiences made her skittish but never aggressive or unpredictable.  She proved that she was more than a breed or a beginning.

During the painful process of putting Talula down, I asked Blues why humans aren’t more like dogs. Then last night, on the same social network that often makes me doubt who people really are, I was reassured that my oldest friends and some of my newest friends are loyal, trustworthy, and loving.  People, like dogs, have the potential and capacity to be authentic and selfless.

I will never forget my wonderful dog. She knew me before and after my recovery, before and after motherhood, and always gave me her heart.  While I grieve her absence, I rejoice in the peace of knowing she is at well-deserved rest.

Poem for a friend

 

I wrote the following poem in Spring 2011 as part of the “Poetry for Change” curriculum unit  in . English 11, Future Leaders for Social Change Academy
 
Four years and eleven days later
A villanelle
For Brett
We lost our friend so long ago. 
He left us before the summer came.
Our loss darkened springtime with woe.
Tainted cells grew, silent as snow,
Slowly smothered out his life’s flame.
We lost our friend so long ago.
There was no way for us to know.
In vain, all searched for one to blame.
The loss darkened springtime with woe.
We fell prey to its undertow,
Gave up hope, cowered in shame.
We lost our friend so long ago.
A robust warrior was brought low,
Disease became victor in that game.
Our loss darkened springtime with woe.
We lost him to an unseen foe.
Our lives will never be the same.
We lost our friend so long ago.
This loss darkens springtime with woe. 

Reunion in the City

The DJ is glamorous as ever: perfect hair, perfect skin, Prada wraparound shades, designer jeans, crisp white shirt, bling(was that platinum or silver?) Growing more handsome with age(I know he’d kill me to make reference to his late 30s status), he is slender and chic, a now New Yorker in the City for a weekend of spinning and shopping. And we can do lunch in the Castro without wanting to kill each other.

The DJ and I were inseparable for the better part of a decade. But, like most good teams be it the Beatles or the Supremes, we got to be too much for one another. We are better like this, fond old friends who’ve both grown up into individuals. I’m 8 months pregnant, in my first live-in relationship, all belly and mellowness(at last!). He’s fashionable professional, living out his passion for music. We live on opposite coasts and very different lifestyles but we share a bond that can’t be ruined by time or drama.

Friendship endures.

The tough go skating

Get me on roller skates under a disco ball and I’m high as a bat again. Last night, Izzy and I made our way to the Peninsula to Rainbow Skate, a weekly gay roller disco party. Suddenly, my blues were gone as I circled around and around on the hardwood to the tune of Donna Summer, SoftCell, and cheesy Top 40. Not only was it a good leg workout but it reminded me of who I am: funny, bubbly, and so cute strangers blow me kisses.