She Read Me

I am not at a loss for family members. My mom is still around, I gave birth to three children (and they have produced four grandchildren) who are still on this earth, I have a brother who I spend time with anytime we are both available, and I have cousins galore. One of these cousins passed away last month and I attended her celebration of life last weekend.

Our Facebook Friendship

Christena “Tena” Lynn Simpson nee Savage, was my second cousin on my mother’s side. We were connected on Facebook from 2010. I loved the fact that she carried our great-grandmother’s name and the same way she spelled the shortened version. It was a unique part of our Savage family.

I’m not certain we ever met in person. Tena would have remembered if we did. If we had, I would have been very young, I do wish we would have spent more time in person while she was here.

You see, as her husband confirmed for me at her celebration–she read me. Of all of my family members, my second cousin read the words I posted: Screaming or celebrating–And I post a lot...and she kept him up on my travels and tribulations.

When her “big guy” shared that little fact with me, I teared up. I had interacted with my cousins and my mom at the celebration, hoping to hear more stories of Tena’s life, but I felt distant. I hadn’t spent time with her in person.

Talking about being equally yoked to her “big guy” for 35 years…

But we had spent time together. I realized that fact shortly after her death when I didn’t want to post any of my writing. I had recently started to write for an online site called Odyssey and I am relatively excited about all of the stories I have written…so why wasn’t I more eager to share them with my friends?

Then it hit me: I didn’t want to post because there would be no “like” from cousin Tena.

In previous years, I could count on her “like” on my Facebook shares of my blogs, as one of the first. Almost no matter what I wrote. In the past six months, as she became more ill, her likes came at odder hours and with more time between them. But they came.

As a writer constantly in search of her audience, her likes were always appreciated. As the daughter of a family full of drama and strife, the fact I could count on my second cousin to read the words I bled out of my fingers meant more than I understood until she lost the ability to push that like button.

Yes, Tena, I had you set on “see first”

I miss you, Tena. I love you. The interaction that we had from day to day, the support you gave to this writer who simply wants people to read her words, was invaluable and sorely missed. I am glad you are no longer in pain. I regret not spending more time with you here. I hope to do better with our family that remains.

Peace be with you.

A bookmark made as a remembrance by her niece representing Tena’s love of reading

Friends: Reaching Out — Reaching In

Maggie and Vin

The bright sunlight through the burgundy bedroom curtains made the dark bedroom seem like a redlight district. I’d been living out of bed for over seven years as of 2009. Brief weekends out of bed were followed by weeks of recovery from the exertion. I curled up in a ball around a tiny screen where I would communicate with my friends on Facebook. My phone was anything but smart, and it cost a modest extra fee to be able to have web service on it. But the access to a society who would laugh at my ironic jokes and understand my pain when I couldn’t sleep at 2 am was something I deemed a justifiable expense.

Cell phone

My daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington in the Fall of 2008 and as part of giving their students a way to get to know their roommates, the school suggested new students start a Facebook account. When my daughter was home for winter break, we sat together on my bed as I signed up for my own account. I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with the daughter I missed.

Some of my friends are quite witty. One of those friends had acquired friends from the online community, meaning “friends” he had never met in person. At first, I was very apprehensive about accepting “friend requests” from people I had never met. But soon conversations and jokes carried over from the friends I did know in person and

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Me & Maria Mills Greenfield (who passed 1-19-2017)

I felt like I knew people from places across the country and even the world. Places hundreds of miles from any I had visited.

While laying in bed in pain, I composed quick thoughts and shared them. It became a release. When people began to respond, I felt I had found friends in the darkness. I connected with other people who were isolated for different reasons. Many of us were dealing with pain. Chronic, neverending pain.

While certain members of the federal administration seem to do anything EXCEPT validate chronic intractable pain, that type of pain is exactly what isolates and literally cripples people, making them incapable of living their previous lives.

Many people responded to the dark comments my mind and thumbs combined to leave on other people’s posts. Quickly I accumulated a large list of friends.

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In October 2010, I decided I would rather take up my friend’s offers across the country to stay a day or a week, rather than rent a room in the gray dark winter of western Washington. I had only seen a few states of the country I lived in and a divorce after over 20 years of marriage was a great reason to explore. Many of my friends made plans to welcome me.

This last week, I lost another friend. It seems the death notices come more frequently now than they ever did. Many of the friends I met during my travels during the years from 2010 to 2017 are no longer around. Their absence in mortality does not lessen their effect on my life. In fact, the more friends who pass, the more grateful for all of them and the ways they changed my life and my attitudes.

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Vin Arnone (2014)

At some point, I will write a detailed memoir, introducing you all to each of them…those who are no longer here. For now, I will say, I would not be around if not for my friends. My friends on social media pulled me out of several seasons of depression. These same people called 911 in 2009 when I was suffering withdrawals after a doctor prescribing me Fentanyl and Percocet discharged me without notice. My friends have saved my life in many ways and on many occasions.

Because I have been the recipient of such generous attention, I know the power of social media. I know when you just need someone to talk to, usually, there is someone at the other end when you enter social media. But I also know electronic connections are not substitutes for in-person socializing. They can supplement it very well, but at some point, my brain needed to meet the people I was talking to on the other end of the data stream.

Being disabled, to be able to afford travel, I sacrificed having a home to come to when I was not traveling. For the most part of seven years, I lived without a permanent dwelling. This was an experience of its own. I am in the midst of writing a book about a part of that experience, The Car That Ran on Prayers.

Many of the people I met in person during my travels joined me online to watch how my journey continued. When I finally made the decision to come inside and begin the task of documenting it all, many of my friends and family nearly cheered with relief. It had been a long seven years for all of us.

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I reached out of my bed into a world I had no idea where or if I belonged in. Then, as I traveled, I began to reach into the people who reached into me when I was reaching out.

I have visited my friends, sat on their beds while they were curled up in pain. I love them all. I love those who have passed, and those who are still here. I love those who no longer consider themselves my friends. I love those who try harder every day, and I love those who just want a break and take it.

On the occasion of saying farewell to yet another friend, I can only reflect on all of my friends and the wonderful ways in which they have all expanded my world. I look forward to being reunited with them, and you, all when we are done on this side of the veil.

For now, I recommend calling a friend. Someone you know who gets lonely. Don’t worry, they will forgive you for not texting first. Too many of us are lonely in a world of friends.

Rest in Peace, Vin, Maria, Stephanie, Dana, Lisa, Bobby, Becky and so many more. I’ll see you on the other side. IMG_20170726_054126