After I finish a lecture, I'm a bit out of it. Those who don't do public speaking, I'm not sure they understand the rigors of it and the amount of energy that goes into the output. Someone said to me once, "What a great job, you just sit up there and talk." Well, I'm glad it looks easy, but it certainly isn't. Just try sitting and talking for 5 hours about anything!
This is not whining, I love my job and I love the opportunity to affect people and thereby, hopefully, affect change. It's just to explain something that happened when lecturing in Nanaimo. Just after finishing lecturing Joe and a woman I recognized from the deep past, appeared. I had finished only moments ago and my mind was full of the 'after lecture confusion' that I experience. She handed me a bag and in the bag was an old textbook. She was talking to me about Bob and that she had two books with his signature in it and that she knew I'd want one.
I knew immediately that she was talking about Bob Clayton, my best friend of years go who died way to young a long while back. But in the confusion of the moment, with a rush of emotion that I didn't know what to do with, I let the moment pass with simply a 'Thank you'.
In fact it's taken me a couple of days to get the courage up to open the book and look at Bob's signature in it. He and I, as I've written here in the blog before, used to work together at a group home in Toronto. I fell in like with him right away and we became good friends. He was dating a guy named Norman at the time and it was an odd and bad match. I think that relationship was part of the reason he left to live in Vancouver.
Relationships, friendships, often break down over distance. But Bob and I managed to talk regularly and I saw him on my frequent trips to British Columbia. His friendship truly mattered to me. Every time I visited him he was smaller and more frail. The AIDS virus was attacking him without care or without mercy. I talked with him the day before he slipped away into a coma, the day before he went away.
Bob left me a memento that was truely him and I treasure it, even though it isn't truly me ... a joke only he could have made. But this book with his signature means so much to me. I remember checking the staff sheet to see what shifts we were working together. I remember going out to the Black Swan for drinks after. I remember laughing and laughing and laughing.
It was Bob who taught me how to relate to people with disabilities with expectation and without pity. It was Bob who taught me that disability meant possibility, that you make up for past abuse by present joy. He'd had it tough over the years, but Bob used his past to make possible a victorious tomorrow. He was a cool dude.
So, Pam, I'm sorry I didn't really react when you gave me the book. After a lecture I'm always a bit 'alien'. But I want you to know that it's a gift that I appreciate beyond measure.
Would that I be remembered as Bob is remembered.