In Memory of
The heat had been replaced with a refreshing westerly flow, and my body appreciated the break. Operating a bus in temps hovering near the century mark is like tanning in a microwave oven. Nearly 20 years ago, I migrated from the Desert Southwest to escape the blast furnace.
Today, I felt a shiver, but not due to weather. One of this blog's biggest supporters, most fierce critics, and my dear friend Lady Guttersnipe left Earth behind on this glorious summer day.
If you've driven Line 4 in Portland the past several years, you've probably given her a ride. She was a transit professional, out of necessity. Lady G taught many of us the finer points of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protocol. For those who are sight-impaired, it's vital to give premium service. Too far from the curb without a warning can result in a nasty fall. Add a physical disability, and the risk increases exponentially. I learned from her that a simple "we're about 18 inches from the curb, sorry" could save her great pain. She was adamant that people yield Priority Seating to her and others with disabilities, because it's reserved for people who need it. Remembering this, I often have to encourage able-bodied millennials to yield this area as necessary.
She took delight in creating her own pseudonym, Madam Guttersnipe, but corrected me earlier this year by insisting she was Lady G. "I'm a lady first, while Madam implies something I'm not," she said. Having once again read her one, vividly direct yet humorous guest post (click here) on my blog, I finally broke down in grief. I've been brave so far, intent on providing excellent service as a Bus Operator. She wanted me to do that. A single tear fell off my unshaven cheek as I drove past the street I'd take to visit her, but I stubbornly swiped it away. Lady was a tough soul who wouldn't approve of my blubbering. But oh, how I loved her. And yes, I already miss her.
Irreverent. Impossibly stubborn. Hilarious, fierce, belligerent. Sweet, yet sometimes unforgiving. Funny as hell. Gay and proud. Hard, but soft-hearted. Child of the 60s, adult for the future. Generous, but frugal bordering on the fanatical. Tough when necessary, which was always. Never a man-hater, but not one to suffer foolishly-blatant misogyny. A lover of plant, animal and human life, yet a soldier of the natural balance we could all aspire to achieve.
Often, after publishing a particularly hard-hitting post, I'd receive a painfully-honest rebuke from her. In this sharp, penetrating manner, she helped mold me into a better person and guided me toward understanding life from the perspective of one who fought multiple challenges. You see, your Deke is a basically-naive and young soul. Perhaps that's why I've lashed out in anger so often in these posts. Lady taught me to aim toward a bigger goal than merely seeking an outlet for the pressure dealt upon a "simple bus operator." It was imperative, she once told me, to use this soapbox to coax my populace toward the finer points of grace.
"Use your bully pulpit for the benefit of those who don't have such a loud voice," she once said. "If they don't move out of those seats, make them. If you don't, I will."
"Get your head out of your ass," she also said. "Self-pity doesn't sell. You're stronger than that. Use your voice for a higher purpose."
Lady also had a softer side. As I contemplated ending this blog not long ago, she counseled me to simply take a breath.
"Write for yourself now," she wrote. "Focus on helping your body. More massages. More float tanks, more yoga. Really. All that energy that went to FTDS and now the book can go to your body and spirit. You can always vent to me. Really.
"A big hug, and big admiration for the guts to really look at yourself and respond."
Coming from someone who suffered pain every second she was conscious, I took her words to heart. After a few weeks of soulful rest, time with pals and my best friend/wife, the blog pulled me back in and I found a new vision. The book, I reasoned, would sell or not. Either way, my goal of publishing it was an accomplishment very few ever realize. I took time to accept what was, and look forward to what could be.
A few weeks before Lady Guttersnipe took her leave from us all, I had the opportunity to visit her at home. I brought Chinese food, and we broke fortunes together. Each movement brought a grimace of pain from that wonderful face I always loved. She couldn't see well, and I had to speak directly to her so she could read me. She fought pity, refusing to be babied. If she wanted something, then damnit, she'd get it herself. Things were placed in her home so that she knew exactly where to find them. When I made an off-hand comment that I had forgotten to get a spoon for my rice, she insisted on rising to get me one. It was her home, and I was her guest. There was no reason for me to get it myself; she considered it her duty as my host. It bothered me for her wait on me, but there was no arguing with the warrior within her.
We remembered our trip to see Arlo Guthrie in concert last year. Discussed the marvels of my lovely wife and how she is almost as stubborn as our mutual friend. That's why they were so close, of course. Fiercely independent but reluctantly dependent upon love, and brilliant... both of them. Knowing it was likely the last time I'd see her alive, I babbled nervously about anything and everything all at once. We laughed, shed a tear on occasion, and bravely avoided the obvious. Lady was dying, and was telling me "farewell." It was excruciatingly-painful to leave her, but we managed to part with a long hug, wink and a smile.
As I drove my bus today, her laughter and wise cracks came to me on the breeze. It was tougher than usual to remain vigilant. I heard her admonishing me to keep my focus on the road. Once, as my run neared its end, I visualized her face and ornery laugh, and it helped me smile. I felt at peace, as if she laid her hand gently upon my soul and patted it quiet.
Lady G, I will always remember and love you. Thanks for helping me become a better person, for teaching me what I should know, and for your lesson of bravery. Most of all, thanks for your friendship and telling me what I didn't want to hear... especially when I needed to hear it. And yes, my tears are falling freely now. If you don't like it, tough. It's all about love, my dear.
RIP, Marcie Elizabeth. Funny... I didn't know your first name was Marcie. I always thought it was Liz.