I just got word that one of my dearest friends has passed away. I believe she was 73. There were a few people who were extremely influential in my life, and she was one of them. We met in 1987 when she gave me my first real job in my field. I treated her more as my boss than anything else, but she saw my potential and tried to get me as much experience as possible. The next year I got a temporary job in the same office although with a new boss. I don't know how or why I had the audacity to ask her if I could stay in an empty room in her house, but she said, "yes." I did chores for her in exchange for a room. The next year I got another job in the office, and she invited me to stay with her again. My influence on her was that I helped her keep up with pop culture. She had been living alone and never turned on her t.v. I introduced her to the wonders of the VCR and the ability to rent movies. We watched the fall of the Berlin Wall together. We also watched coverage of the Loma Prieta Earthquake together which was important for her since most of her family lived in the Bay Area.
She was most influential in my wanting to pursue a career with the federal government. She taught me the ins and out of applying for jobs. She reviewed my applications and gave me pointers on how to really sell myself. She also kept me motivated to finish my master's degree. Finally, she helped open my eyes to the reality that gay people were pretty friggin awesome. It took a few years for me to finally realize that she was a lesbian. The biggest shock was that it didn't matter! I still loved her as an adopted mom. The same thing happened with my real mom. Gay people were supposed to be evil! How could it be that she was such a wonderful person who took care of her son?! It really broke down a barrier with her.
I lived with her and her partner for a few months in 1990 when I was between jobs. Once again I repaid my room and board by doing housework and running errands. They visited me in Arizona and New Mexico a couple of times. I visited them a few times as well. The last time was just over a year ago after Rainfurest '12. I'm glad I had a chance to see her before she died. She had told me about her cancer, but she seemed upbeat about the prognosis. She didn't have it beaten, but it seemed to be in remission. Obviously it got worse after I had left. At least she got to take her dream trip to Antarctica last year. I am also grateful that I had a chance to have a real heart to heart talk with her about our friendship. I asked her why she took a chance on me. We went from hardly knowing one another to being such close friends even though we were separated by 25 years. She told me that she was just happy to help a young person who she thought had potential. While she was definitely a help to me, I was also a benefit to her in that I helped her deal with living alone in a one-horse farming town. I will miss my adopted mom very much.