Archive for March 17, 2022

March 17, 2022

March 17, 2022

CONFESSION:  I didn’t care about your grandmother.  She was old.  She was 85 or something, and she was sick for a long time, and she was a shell of herself––never the same after your grandfather died.  It was a relief to her and to everyone else when she finally let go.  And you told me about it because it was your grandmother, and she loved you and she pressed your forehead when you had chicken pox, and she taught you how to play badminton.

But see, that’s why losing Barbara, who was 87 years old is not at all like losing a grandmother.  And that’s why it makes me so upset.  It is losing a peer.  The last time I spoke with her was mid February when I was preparing for a show.  I needed someone to sing the hit from 1867 made popular by one of the first transmale vaudeville sensations, Ella Wesner, for a tap dance/performance piece by Stephanie Larriere for Bushwick Book Club’s show celebrating Hugh Ryan’s WHEN BROOKYN WAS QUEER at The Bureau of General Services Queer Division. I called Barbara to see if she would sing it.  She said she’d love to do it, but AJ was in town, and she wanted to spend his last night in town with him.   So she went through her entire rolodex of superstar, super talented students from the cabaret, downtown, Joe’s Pub music scene, suggesting those she thought would be good for the piece. She went through the *entire* list.

She’s not someone one would ever consider “at the end of her life” even though she was 87.  She was making art.  She was helping other people with their art.  She was writing.  Her FB posts buoyed many far and wide through these past 2 and a half years, why?  Because she knew how to share what she was going through with other people.  Why?  Because that’s what she did.  She communicated.  She connected.  She supported.  She expressed.  She was herself––thank god––and made herself available to others…. to the world… to beauty… to love.  I think that’s how we’re supposed to live life.

So yeah, it’s upsetting that she’s no longer here.  She was so good at loving.  And she was still active with it.  And right now, I figure, we need more people who are really good at it, who can not only continue to do it, but teach us all how… remind us, be a guide to us.  No one ever gave me a manual for living life.  My parents tried, but a) my Korean sucks and b) I don’t listen.

Barbara not only gave me an example of top notch, doctorate level, ninja master level loving, she helped me find my voice.  My voice.  It’s something I’ve been reaching for since I was in elementary school when I asked Mr. Buras, my 6th grade music teacher, how I could get those high notes.  He had no good answer.  I had to wait like 25 years to meet Barbara who worked with me with patience and without judgement.  With her keen observation and way of connecting to a person with innate knowing, experience in artistry, passion and compassion, she helped me to find my voice.  It’s not the perfect voice (if there is such a thing)––not even by a long shot.  But it’s mine.  It’s one of the few things about myself I’m so very happy to have.  That and I don’t have to shave my legs.  But the skin I was just born with.  The voice I had to find.  I had to listen for and allow.  Barbara gave me the space and the guidance for this to happen.  A voice means a lot as a woman.  And as an Asian woman.  What with ancestral guilt and shame and centuries telling you to be quiet, be accommodating, be polite, be perfect or be invisible.  My imperfect voice is still mine.  And Barbara, as my vocal sensei, taught me how to use it, to know it, to wield it. Remember when she would have you shape the sound into a sword pointing up out of your head?  That was so cool.

This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s kind of everything.  And I still need her.  Did anyone else notice she would kiss you full on the lips whenever she greeted you at the door?  Is that a 1950’s thing?

I know there’s a war in Ukraine.  I know there was an earthquake in Japan yesterday.  I know that there’s systemic racism and sexism and queerphobia and white supremacy engrained in Christianity in America and all manner of people treating each other horribly.  Domestic violence.  What about that.  Global warming.  Don’t get me started.  But see, that’s all the more reason we need Barbara here now.  I tried to tell the angels that.

She was game.  She was up for something.  She was up for something everyday into her 87th year.  Who does that??  I hope it’s me.  I hope I do that.  I want to be up for something until the day I die––having too much fun to flag down death, so that if it wants me, it’ll have to come and get me.

Also, I didn’t mean to insult your grandmother.  I know she was very special.  I’m in pain, and I don’t always know what to do with emotions.

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