This past week, I found out on facebook that a very good friend of mine died in her sleep. I found out first thing on Sunday morning and fell into a deep place of sadness that I know won’t go away soon. Totie was a friend I’ve never met. She was one of those friends that happen online now, since computers came into our lives and not all relationships take place in your town or in your neighborhood.
And since she died this week, and I will miss her book talk, and her crazy family stories (I could relate), and her incredible sense of kindness, I wanted to share how this internet relationship, as well as the others I’ve found in this way, happened in the first place.
Seattle was one of the loneliest places I’ve lived. I became a mom in Seattle, where I lived with my (now X) husband in an apartment in one of the outlying burbs of that immense place. I spent the first few months there with just my daughter and my mother in law who would visit us when she had a chance. My husband was in the Coast Guard, and it was about six weeks (probably the hardest of my life) before he could join us. My daughter Madison happened to be one of those screaming babies. Truly…the only place she settled down was in a stroller, or on an airplane, bus, or train. But those first few months, when we were so alone? She cried all time time and I thought I was going to go crazy, for good.
Then we got our first computer. It was 1997. My X got to Seattle, found a job, and got us a computer. Since he worked long hours, I was still alone much of the time, and since I was crazy, seemed to need a bit more support than what I had. So I went online one day and started “googling” things. Bingo, I found a page that gave all kinds of good advice. Mothers giving advice to other mothers. We all had children around the same age, and we could all share our stories and questions and find some relief.
Madison was less than a year old when I found this group of mothers. Over the years we’ve changed online locations, lost a few people, gained a few others and remained friends. When Madison was four and I was visiting Monterey for a friend’s wedding, I got a chance to meet one of these friends, Karleen, and her son. We made a day of it at the park. During much more dire circumstances I met Amy, who lives in Winston-Salem and took us in during the great ice storm of Charlotte that plunged us all into cold darkness a few years back. That seemed like the weirdest thing ever. I remember my brother, who was also without power, asking me if I was crazy to go up and stay with someone I’d only met online. But we went, and we had so much fun together in person.
Over the years we’ve seen so many changes…I divorced and moved across the country, and have dealt with some pretty tight financial times, worked through Madison’s diagnosis of ASD, and been through so many ups and downs as a parent, I couldn’t even begin to recount them all. Over the years we’ve talked marital issues, children’s struggles, aging parents, and depression. In the CrazyMothers group where I’m a member, you don’t have to sugar coat anything. Your life does not at all have to resemble an IKEA catalogue. These friends have seen my mistakes and my hardest moments as a woman and parent. Things I don’t share with very many people. And I have seen theirs. They’ve also seen my best stuff. When I need a kick in the pants, for someone to be honest without the bells and whistles of Southern niceties, there’s one person in particular who will just put a mirror in front of my face.
My friend Totie died this week and here’s what I knew about her. She loved her children. She loved every bit of domestic life, even when she had migraines that put her in the hospital. She was an obstetric nurse, and that is what she loved to do. Over the years she dealt with a sister who was an addict—I’m pretty sure she was all that stood between her sister and death or jail a lot of times. I know that Totie struggled with weight and with migraines; that Totie loved to read and she could tell a great story. I know also that Totie loved LOVED her grandmother. She told so many stories of her grandmother over the years. Totie’s grandmother was her hero. I know that Totie was kind…she was the kind of person who really didn’t understand why everyone couldn’t just find a way to get along, and that is the main reason her death has hit me so hard, because the world sometimes seem so full of people who can’t get along and don’t see any way to find peace with others, but Totie thought the world was a better place than that. Maybe it was because she got to watch babies being born and she got to see humans in their very first hour of life and so she knew the universe is a miracle. Maybe it was because she loved her children so much and helped so many divergent personalities find peace under one roof.
I never met Totie in person but I loved her so much. I love and have been blessed by this group of women, the CrazyMothers. I am here today because those women kept believing we would make it, encouraging me and also giving me a kick in the pants when I needed, though maybe didn’t want, it. It’s been over sixteen years of fun, truth, advice, sorrow, pride in our children and most importantly, love. Totie is the first to leave us in this way and the loss of her has left a big hole in my heart. She was so real, so true, and such a light in the world. And now her light has gone out, so it’s going to be a little darker for a while.