I don't know if I did it for Bob or because of Bob.
Bob Clayton died many years ago now, he was a good friend to me. Even after he moved to Vancouver from Toronto we stayed in very close touch with each other. Some friendships dwindle with time and distance, some don't. Ours didn't.
When Bob died of AIDS, I was devastated by the loss.
This was back in the days when I was working at becoming known as a lecturer and speaker. The funeral was planned on a day that had already been booked and I was expected, somewhere else in the world, to show up and present. I had a decision to make. I decided that I would keep the commitment and trust that people would understand. They did. Or, perhaps, they said they did.
So, on the day of Bob's funeral I was standing, making funny, in front of a room full of strangers. In my mind, the whole time, I mourned Bob, I mourned my inability to attend his funeral, I mourned the eulogy I would not give. But I did what I was supposed to do.
Now I realize that if I had cancelled, a few years later people would not remember that I had had to drop out of the event. And yet, I am faced with remembering always that my friends will remember always that I did not attend Bob's funeral.
It was a mistake.
A couple weeks ago we found out that Ruby's dance recital is this weekend. She's taking classes with the Propeller Dance Company and she loves the classes with a passion. Over Easter she asked several times if she was missing her dance class. She was relieved to know that the classes were cancelled for the holiday. Last weekend, with the recital coming soon, she went to classes on Saturday and Sunday. When I spoke with her on the phone I mentioned she was going to a lot of classes. She said, almost solemnly, 'I love it.'
So imagine my upset and surprise when I learned that I was booked to speak, to a group of parents about parenting, on the weekend of the dance recital. I knew I had a decision to make. And suddenly, I remembered Bob's laughing face. I remembered the ridiculous discussions we had. I remember his apartment here in Toronto and there in Vancouver. I remember the hole he life in my life. I remember making a very bad decision.
In my defense, and it's a poor defense. In human services, it can begin to feel that one is needed more at work than at home. In human services the needs are always greater than the resources. In human services one can lose perspective and thereby lose a sense of priorities. I've seen the same with parents - who have to parent, and advocate; who have to divide time between making money and making family; who end up losing what need not be lost of the life before. Bad decisions seem like good decisions at the time, don't they?
We sat down at the computer and wrote an email. I explained honestly what had happened. I made it clear that I was sorry to cancel but that I really, really, really, wanted to be there when Ruby takes the stage for the first time. I want her to know, without question, that Joe and I will be sitting in the audience cheering her on. We tell her we love her, but words are words and actions are actions. Love is something you do.
Pushing 'send' on the email was surprisingly easy.
I sat back in my wheelchair, seeing the notation that the message had been sent. I swear I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I think Bob approved.