Patti Edmon Altered Attic: bleeding hearts

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

bleeding hearts

I walked into the living room on Saturday and my DH had a news program on; I heard something about a professor in Georgia killing three people and I turned and walked out. I am old enough to remember when the news was a function of society rather than a self-contained industry. I try not to bury my head in the sand, but I can't take 'news' in very large doses.
Later that day my son was watching another of my favorite new trends, the Hundred Stupidest Stunts Ever, or something like that. A guy was riding a bicycle down a ski slope trying to reach 100 mph. I'm not sure if he set any records though he broke a number of bones, popped a lung and sustained other injuries. But he lived. Unlike Natasha Richardson, whose death I still mourn, (she fell and hit her head while taking a lesson on a beginner slope); I shudder to think of the untold resources - the medical costs and the camera crews, production teams, air time - consumed as he captured his flight of fancy.
Within 2 days of Natasha Richardson's accident, newsstands were papered with photos of the deceased actress and her grief-stricken loved ones, one of the rare, enduring relationships in a world that doesn't boast a high marriage success rate. I suppose people who live a public life have come to grips with the loss of privacy at some point. And in recent years shootings on campuses and in schools across the country bring lives, and deaths, of people into our living rooms.
Well, it turns out that I knew one of the three people killed by that whacked professor at a community theater in Athens. He was Ben Teague, and I only met him once; he was the brother of my close writing buddy, Tom. I met him at my first advanced fiction workshop in San Francisco several years ago. The couple that publish Narrative Magazine cram the contents of an MFA into a series of 2 - 3 weeks, and it is a strenuous, grueling process. And when you spend 24-7 with a group of folks that share that kind of passion, it's amazing how deep - and fast - the bonds are formed. A group of us has kept in touch in the years since and these friendships have blessed my life. When Tom emailed us about his brother, it was as though it had been minutes - rather than months - since we last spoke.

Me (standing) with Deb and Tom, at Fort Mason, San Francisco in 2004. Tom and I were the token southerners, in a room full of writers from California, the Northeast... One of the funnest things about workshop was keeping up with Tom's love life, fodder for countless conversations and more than a little sarcasm. These days most of us have single friends and Kent, Deb and I - all long-married - were happy to dispense wisdom and advice.
Needless to say, when he met and married Stephanie a couple of years later, we were thrilled. Jim and I made the trip up to Ann Arbor for a fabulous weekend, interesting, warm people, the wedding - a traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony in one of the most beautiful sanctuaries I've ever seen - painted ceiling and all.

Tom, Stephanie and my DH after the ceremony

Tom, me and Elmore Leonard - I had to put this one in, how often do you get to say, "yeah, me and Elmore Leonard... and talk about his newest novel.
Here Tom and his late brother, Ben, inspected the bag pipes played during the ceremony, customary at European weddings.  
Much of life, and death, is beyond our understanding and like it or not, bad, horrible things happen to good people every day. Tom was working in San Diego at the time of his brother's death. The very tool I despise for shoving the world in my face also allows us to share blogs and art, make new friendships and maintain existing ones bonds for years, regardless of physical distance. So, for that I am grateful. Knowing that, in his grief, Tom is comforted by an outpouring of support from his friends and relatives wherever they might be across the globe. 


Karin said...

Hi Patti, I am so sorry for your friend's tragic loss. You've found a moving way to weave life, joyful moments, every day annoyances, blessings and some great photos into a very moving post. Thanks for taking us on the journey of your memory as well as your thoughtful process that helps make some sense of a bit of our human nonsense. xoxo Karin

Karen Mireau, Founder of Bio.Graphia said...

Incredible . . .

Ian said...

Your writing is full of warmth and humanity.

Susan Tuttle said...

the bleeding heart is lovely:) something about that plant is so tragically beautiful.

a very moving post:)

Elizabeth Golden said...

Thank you for putting such a personal face to such a tragedy. It seems like the past few months have seen several instances of this type of insanity. Always there are the innocent victims. No one speaking up or putting a face to them.
They leave behind multitudes of hurt. Like a stone thrown in the pond. Your post was heart a wrenching example of this.


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