One of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, did a book signing. The last signing of his I went to was on 06/06/03, almost 9 years to the date of this one. At that point his book "Running With Scissors" was just exploding and was on the best sellers list. He was promoting his latest book, "Dry". I had him sign those two books plus his first one, a novel "Sellevision". I even had my picture taken with him. There were maybe 50 people there at that first signing. I even had a nice chat with him. I had emailed him prior to the signing and he emailed me back the next day and referenced our conversation. "Running With Scissors" literally changed my life for the better. I put him on a pedestal and have bought all of us subsequent books, "Magical Thinking", "A Wolf At The Table", "Possible Side Effects" and "You Better Not Cry". His latest, "This Is How" is a self help book. I also have the memoir his brother, John Elder Robison, wrote "Look Me In The Eye".
Beya and I got to the signing an hour early and there were only a handful of chairs available. We got some pretty good seats and within 10 minutes of showing up all the chairs were taken up and people were sitting on the floor. By the time he came there were easily 300+ people and some weren't even allowed on the third floor because the room was so full.
I grabbed his latest book, which I hadn't bought yet, and flipped through it during the hour mom and I waited. There was a chapter titled "How To Be Sick". I read it and in it he talks of going through the death of his former boyfriend, dealing with all the things that are NOT normal that become your new normal. Some of the things he wrote I didn't agree with and other things were spot on. I struggled to keep my tears at bay and had an anxiety attack that I have no idea how I kept from becoming a full blown panic attack.
The man who changed my life.
The man who I admired so much.
Augusten was there and I was in the same room, only a few feet away from him.
He said he would read part of a chapter and then do a Q & A session before sitting down to do the signing.
"The chapter I'm going to be reading from is called 'How To Be Sick'."
Of all the damn chapters he could pick to read from, he picks the ONE that I didn't want to hear out loud?
Augusten started to read. He read about getting the handicapped placard and license plate and that when this happens you should treat yourself to cupcakes.
The memory of going to the DMV with sissy to get her placard immediately came to my mind. How much it sucked that she needed this. How horrifying it was that her doctor had written it good for 5 years. How scary it was to think that she would need this for five years. How utterly terrifying it was to think of what was going to happen after the five years were up.
Tears were streaming down my and mom's faces, I didn't even bother to try to hide it because I knew it wasn't going to stop.
And the audience laughed.
I'm going to paraphrase here but he went on to read that you need to treat yourself when you get bad news. If the doctor calls to review your test results over the phone, you get fries. If the doctor insists on reviewing them with you in person, you get cheese fries.
Again they laughed.
I, of course, remembered Tuesday, May 5th, 2009. Sissy was at my house when she got the call from her surgeon after he did the biopsy saying he needed to talk to her in person immediately.....and to bring her family.
The doctor was confirming our worst fears, that her cancer was back and had spread to her liver. We would find out in the coming days that it had spread to her lungs as well as other places. A month later we would discover her bones her infected.
And people were laughing.
Mom and I were crying.
I understand the importance of laughter when things are so horrible you don't think you can live but.......
It was at that point that I realized who my real hero's are.
My real hero's are the people who have had their lives irreparably and violently ravaged by loss.
My real hero's are:
Jen and Aviana
Holly who lost her dad
Krystal and her two sweet boys
Michelle C. who lost her daughter Kennedy
Michelle F. who lost her brother Giovanni
Kathy P. who also lost her sister from breast cancer and now her mom has cancer
LucyAnn who lost her daughter Samantha
Brittney who lost her dad
Mary who lost her brother
Beya who lost her daughter
and most of all,
Asa who lost his mum mum
If I forgot to list your name, please know that my memory is horrible and I'm sorry.
You are all my real hero's.