Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


In Memoriam

I'm in a weird head space right now. Longtime friends and readers may remember that I am still part of an e-mail list that started when I was pregnant, as a pregnancy support list. I was living in Vancouver at the time, my husband was absorbed in graduate studies and I was rather isolated being so far from friends and family. After the babies were born, many of us stuck together and the list morphed into a "moms of infants" support group, then moms of toddlers, moms of pre-schoolers, moms of... you get the picture. Today we're moms of teens, or as we're known in my house "The Moms." You don't mess with The Moms. We have each others' backs, are there for our cohorts in need of advice, celebration, compassion, humor, tech support, a shoulder to cry on, a reality check, an alternate view, and most of all love. While each of us gets along with certain sub-groups better than others, I've grown to consider these women the extended family I always wanted. They're my sisters and cousins, aunties to my daughter, their children like so many nieces and nephews.

We've been together just about 14 years now. We've weathered job loss, children with special needs, alcoholism, divorce, depression, infertility, miscarriages, cancer, the death of a child, the death of a spouse, the death of a parent... and now, the death of one of our own.

My friend Linda died suddenly in her sleep on Thursday, sometime after her husband and daughter left the house for work and school. Bob, bless him, thought to let The Moms know right away in the midst of everything else on his shoulders, in the midst of handling the arrangements and taking care of their 13-year-old daughter Elizabeth. I gasped out loud, the breath knocked out of me when I got the news.

Linda was a staunch supporter and a stalwart ally. She and Bob were among the few list members who met in DC to throw me a bridal shower when Chris and I got married, the bridal shower that I was never able to attend because I came down with pneumonia at GenCon and my doctor flat out forbade me to travel. Instead I talked to each of them on the phone, gasping and wheezing how sorry I was that I couldn't make the party they were so kind to throw me. It was my one and only opportunity to meet Linda in person, which I was never able to do. Linda shared my political leanings, sharp tongue, fiery sense of justice and expectation of decency and fair play (or pay the price). She was always quick to congratulate our (and our children's) accomplishments and condemn our detractors, a sharp wit always at the ready. I miss her input terribly already.

I may try to wrangle a trip together so I can attend her memorial on Monday. It feels like I should. This is not the time for virtual condolences or flower baskets. This is time for family to pull together. Luckily Bob is one of the few dads who also participated on our list and if any husband has any idea what The Moms mean, he does, but I want him to have more than an idea... I want him, I want Elizabeth to know how far Linda reached and how loved and appreciated she was to us. It's what I would want my friends and family to do for Chris and Kate.

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Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

I'm very sad about this. In the last month two women I know (one mom with a son the same age as Kate, one the mom of a friend who is my age) have had breast cancer relapses (and the accompanying surgeries) and another has had a scare and is considering getting a preventative mastectomy because of her family history and repeated close calls. Firedoglake founder and passionate blogger, Jane Hamsher, recently went in for treatment in her third bout with this wretched disease.

AlterNet has a nice memorial for Molly.

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David Brinkley

11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, 1 Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of TV News, and 18 years of Growing Up in North Carolina

If you don't know much about David Brinkley, you should learn a little of him. Click on the photo above for the link to his Presidental Medal of Freedom obituary, and visit http://spiritofthecarolinas.com/fall2000/article_brinkley.htm for a September 2000 spotlight on him, including some excellent photographs.

David Brinkley was like Mr. Rogers for adults. He was a class act, a professional, a talented journalist and a gentleman. He refused to be classified, sometimes weighing in as a conservative on one issue, sometimes as a liberal on another. "It depends on the issue," he said. I loved his ability to balance polite, respectful discourse without shying away from trying to address the myriad political and social issues that face the world. He was a fine man.

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Chris Bledsoe

Last year Chris Bledsoe, a friend from the game industry, lost his battle with cancer. I always tell people that Chris was a hell of a guy, and I barely knew him! We met when my Chris was working for his "best WotC boss", Bob, who had been Bledsoe's boss at a couple of other jobs and who was still a good friend. Bob, Chris, Chris, and I were up in the wilds of British Columbia at a fun little gaming convention held by a local retailer/doctor. (Guess you've gotta do what you can to fill out the necessary jobs when you live in the wilds of British Columbia.)

Bob introduced us to Chris while we hung out in the host's closed retail store. I forget why we were there... could have been to tour the place, could have been because Grant wanted to hunt up some product or something. I just remember sitting around with Bob and the Chrises and chatting away about their wild exploits as younger, less domesticated men.

An hour or so into meeting Chris Bledsoe, I found out that he'd only recently recovered from cancer. He looked fit and healthy, though his hair was barely a stubble. Apparently he'd previously had long hair and a big ol' moustache, but the cancer therapy had ruined that look for him, for a while. He was in fine spirits, quite jolly, and not concerned about his prospects in any visible way. My impression of him was that he was a little guy, slightly built, but that might have been a side effect of his cancer or treatment too. He was definitely a good deal shorter than me, though, possibly as much as a foot. Small height, but BIG personality.

That's all it took. I was absolutely smitten with the man, in a completely non-romantic way. He was one of those guys who has charisma. I'd only see him a few times a year, as we each did our stints as game company lackeys at various conventions and trade shows, but it was always a pleasure. He always greeted me as if I were some long-lost friend, and even chatting with him for a short time was guaranteed to have me laughing and smiling. He was "a character" I think you'd say. Mischievous, the kind of guy who would purposely flood your bathtub while you were passed out in your hotel room, as a prank. "Colorful" but just sweet natured enough to not be a fucker. He always had a posse, made up of loyal friends, guys he'd worked with and gone to bat for.

Last March, I saw Chris Bledsoe at one of these shows, in Las Vegas. The show was wrapping up, and I was dashing off somewhere, when who should I spy but Mr. Bledsoe, all decked out in black, adorned with flame (befitting his personality). I swung past him, commenting on how he was looking sharp, and he happily announced, "I'm on my way to my wedding!" Sure enough, his lovely girlfriend and "the usual suspects" were standing right there (all of them dressed up and looking nice) but until he said anything, I couldn't have told you there were other people in his group. It was all about him, a moment in the spotlight, or so it seemed to me.

I stopped to give him a hug and a kiss and wished him and Stacey my heartfelt congratulations, then waved them happily on to their way.

That was the last time I saw Chris Bledsoe, and less than five months later he was gone forever.

As part of this year's Origins Awards ceremony, there will be a memorial for Chris. If I have my way, his good friend and business partner will be making the trip to deliver a speech and share a little bit of Chris with those who may only have ever known him through his work. We're working out the details now and I'm hopeful that it will all come together on this short notice. If his friends can't be there to give the memorial, I will likely be slotted into the spot and will probably give an oral version of pretty much what I've written here. I'm a poor substitute for those who knew him well, but if it falls to me I'll do my utmost to make sure he gets his due and one last moment in the spotlight before his peers.

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Mr. Rogers, again

Mister Rogers, again

Today, 2000 people turned out for the public memorial service for Fred Rogers. When reminded of the date, I once again felt incredibly sad. I grieve for what we've lost in the world with his passing. Moreso because of dispicable, self-serving, dark-hearted idiots like Fred Phelps. Phelps you may know from his website (which I refuse to link to) or from his group's choice to randomly picket people and organizations that actively provide aid, support, or just plain general acceptance for homosexuals. Apparently not getting enough publicity for his twisted cause, he and his family/followers have taken to picketing randomly selected churches that belong to denominations that don't actively persecute or speak against homosexuals and homosexuality, which allows them to include as a target, you guessed it, Mr. Rogers. This nutjob is now trumpeting the message that Mr. Rogers is burning in Hell, not because of anything he did, but because of what he didn't do. Mr. Rogers never addressed homosexuality at all, and so, by Phelps' logic, he burns in hell.

I hope Phelps and his followers behaved like the cowards they are and decided not to show up to picket the memorial. Or that if they did, they get no media attention for so doing. A very large, righteously indignant part of me hopes they showed up and got their asses kicked within an inch of their pathetic, hateful lives by grieving attendees, but I don't suppose that Mr. Rogers himself would approve of such an action. Still, I'm continually horrified at the depth of hate and cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on the world.

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Goodbye Mr. Rogers

March 20, 1928 - Feb. 27, 2003

"You don't set out to be rich or famous. What you set out to do is to be helpful."

Fred Rogers, gently soft-spoken stalwart of my childhood, died today of stomach cancer. It seems such a hard, cruel way to lose such a gentle man. If there is anyone who deserved to pass peacefully from this life in a painless slumber, it's Mr. Rogers.

In the 60s and 70s, when what was hot for kids was the frantic muppet capers of Sesame Street or the neon "Hey You Guys!" hysteria of The Electric Company, I'm sure frazzled mothers across the nation really thought they were pulling one over on their kids every time they plunked us down in front of soothing, boring ol' Mr. Rogers. And perhaps for kids who came from stable, predictable homes Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was something to be mocked, a "baby show". Not for me.

Mr. Rogers offered something to me, and thousands of children like me, that we didn't have in our own lives. For half an hour a day, we were basked in gentle, predictable adult attention. Mr. Rogers was going to walk in the door of his little cottage, put on his sweater and sneakers, and invite us to join him on whatever simple adventure or project he had in mind. Every time. For a girl like myself, living in a transient world of new homes, new schools, new friends every year, a child of stressed and harried young parents, this predictability was blissful. I had no gentleness in my real world. I was a victim of bullies, ruthlessly teased, awash in grief at my parents' divorce, very little extended family around me. My parents disciplined through an ever-escalating routine of nagging, yelling, and physical punishments including slaps, hair-pulling, and spankings with hands, belts and spoons. An adult with the attitude of Mister Rogers did not exist in my life.

That's not entirely true. My father had a friend named Steve, a fishing buddy who we spent a good deal of time with. Steve and his wife didn't have children then, but they were gentle and patient with my brother and I when we saw them. Steve goofed around with us in a carefree, unfatigued way. He talked with us, not at us, not down to us. But most importantly, when we screwed up, Steve's manner was shockingly different than anything I was used to. There was a time when we kids were down by the lake, wildly swinging our fishing lines through the air without a thought in the world to the potential dangers of flying fish hooks. Steve shouted for us to stop, and I (ever the overly sensitive one) burst into tears. Part of it was from the shock of Steve raising his voice to us, it was so uncharacteristic. Part of it was from the shock of being reprimanded, since I was too young and inexperienced to make the flying fish-hooks connection for myself; I wasn't trying to be be "bad," I didn't mean to be bad. Mostly my tears came because I desperately feared I'd disappointed Steve, and I'd ruined it for myself, that he'd gotten fed up with me and the days of being treated with patience were done.

What Steve did at that point is something so very simple, but so meaningful to me, I try to remember it as often as I can with my own parenting. Steve came down to my level, sat close to me and looked me in the eye (or tried, as I sobbed and hid my face in fear and shame). He made the connection for me, explained that he hadn't yelled because he was angry at me but because he cared about me and saw that I was doing something dangerous. He cared about me, he didn't want me to get hurt by getting a fish hook in the eye, and we could go on having fun. That was a Mister Rogers moment.

I couldn't have been more than 6 when I had that exchange with Steve, because my parents were still together then and I was still living in the town where I was born. Within another year or so, my parents had split up and we moved away not too long after. While we still occasionally saw Steve and his wife, and later their children, the visits were brief and years apart. I never forgot that taste of being treated with gentleness and respect and, until I deemed myself "too old" for Mr. Rogers, Fred Rogers kept that memory aglow through his television example.

Bless you, Mr. Rogers, for all you've done. We need more people willing to take their strength from gentleness and set out in the world to be good and helpful.

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