|Nov. 10th, 2014 @ 11:26 am What I said at the memorial for Velma|
I wrote this in advance, because I knew I would stumble over my words otherwise:|
I’ve known and loved Velma for most of my life, and I’m having trouble getting used to the idea that she won’t be part of the rest of it.
I was thinking about the plans for this memorial. I had the brief and reassuring thought of “I know who I can ask about this question,” and then I realized my subconscious wanted me to ask Velma, and that won’t work. Because we’re so used to bouncing things off each other, and in between the story-telling and the sharing of good and bad news, it’s been a way for one or the other of us to figure out what she thinks about something, a first step in deciding what to do. Sometimes we’d actually solve things for each other, but more often it was collaborative, or reassurance that it was okay to do what we wanted or needed, not what someone else was trying to pressure her, or me, into. When we were in our twenties, Velma agreed to be my standing “previous engagement,” if I really didn’t want to go to something. I could say “I’m sorry, I already have plans” and then call and let her know I’d said that, in case the other person checked. I only remember doing it once, but that one time, it was very helpful to know I had that option. At fifty, I think I can do without it, but knowing I could invoke that if I needed to was a comfort for years.
We met when we were 13 or so—either she was in eighth grade, or I was—and lost touch for a year or so after she graduated from our high school, after the only phone number I had for her was disconnected. Reconnecting with Velma was one of the first good things about getting involved with sf fandom, shortly after I graduated. I’m not sure when we started referring to each other as sisters, but it’s felt right for a long time. When Andy and I decided to move to Seattle, knowing she was here made that decision easier. Being close enough for casual visits again, after the few years separated by a continent, helped me feel like I could do this.
Right now I’m missing some of the little things, because they ran through so much of our time together, and maybe because that made it easier to let them slide. It never specifically seemed to matter that it had been a few years since we’d gone out for Chinese food, with lots of roast duck and mushrooms and rice, and too many cups of tea as the conversation lingered. It didn’t matter because it’s a thing we did, and assumed we would do again. And because the tea and duck really weren’t the point, so much as being in the same place: being face to face meant catching nuances that wouldn’t be there in text, or even on the phone. That extra level of meaning is one more thing to miss, which is to say, one more thing I’m glad we had.
Velma didn’t get me started keeping a journal, but she’s part of why I kept doing it. We use them differently—she would look at old journals, and sometimes find patterns, and I mostly seem to be thinking out loud, and rarely pick up old volumes of the hardcopy—but I’m glad of her example, glad of the encouragement that it’s okay to take out my journal while I’m waiting for someone or while a friend is reading, and it’s one of the many things that feels like a connection, whether or not she’s actually there or we’re doing it together right now.
I was looking at some of Velma’s old LiveJournal posts, which reminded me that she spent a lot of time thinking about boundaries and about appropriate shapes of relationships. She’s one of the people I talked to about how relationships can work, both hypothetically and on the practical level of what was and wasn’t working for each of us, and sometimes for other people. Velma was one of the first people I told when I got involved with rysmiel, and I was delighted, later, to see them becoming friends.
Someone had accused her of holding grudges, but I think that was a consequence of her tendency to give people more chances than I would have, sometimes more than I thought she should. If she did finally decide that someone was demanding too much, or that their apologies were worthless because nothing would change, that was usually after a lot of anger had built up. Someone else might have quietly broken things off, while they still had enough patience left to sort of get along. But Velma was who she was, and part of that was sometimes being too optimistic, or too trusting.
I’d like to end with the sonnet Jo Walton wrote for Velma:
I've said it all before: death sucks! And worse,
We're complex, breathtaking, and we can speak,
All irreplaceable, and each unique,
Each human death must end a universe.
People die young, die old, die at my age!
Die much beloved, or indifferent, die
As everyone must do, as you and I,
And nothing helps, not love, not hope, not rage.
Your biting joy in life, your smile, your wit,
That you were loved and needed -- so unfair,
That death devoured it all, and that we care
Who cared for you, and that's the end of it.
All we can do is live life day by day
Remember what we can, and while we may.
Cross-posted from Dreamwidth (http://redbird.dreamwidth.org/1449147.html), where there are comments. I welcome comments here or there (OpenID and "anonymous" are fine if you don't have a DW account).