Wendie passed away Tuesday evening, November 14th before she could approve and have her article published. I’ve posted it here as a tribute to her.
6:13 am: crawling out of bed a few minutes ago, I couldn’t help but think that it seems like getting out of bed keeps getting a little harder each morning. I am now sitting at my desktop with my first cup of coffee. I have been feeling a sense of urgency to get some memories typed out. Wrapped up in my pink bathrobe, mint green knee-length nightgown, and of course, pink fuzzy slippers, I throw my brain into gear. The first thought that pops into my head is a baby blue, over-the-head, house dress…
When I came into this world, crying and screaming, demanding attention, I had no idea what the journey ahead would be. As an infant I was innocent. Any affection was my best friend. I have faint memories of a feminine curiosity. My mom’s full slips were a deep curious desire. I wore my first dress when I was 14. At a young age, I knew I had a femme side but growing up with no sisters made it hard to express my girly feelings. So, I gave my mother’s clothes quite a workout. My mom had very stylish clothes and she loved sexy silks and satins. I would stand in front of the full-length mirror when I was home alone and admire myself wearing her clothes and nighties.
One day she caught me. She stood in her bedroom doorway and looked at me wearing her, over-the-head, knee-length, baby blue house dress. I was frozen, I couldn’t speak. She walked in, sat on the foot of her bed, and motioned me to sit next to her, by patting the bed beside her. She started the conversation by asking me, “How does wearing my clothes make you feel?” I looked at her, and told her the truth, “Fantastic, girlie, sexy, like the real me.” She looked at me and said, “I can accept this.”
I think Mom was so accepting because she had no daughters. Mom kept my secret till the day she died. Thanks, Mom, for keeping our secret all those years and never telling dad.
10:07 am: My days don’t usually amount to much anymore. I spend a lot of time at home. I have managed to get dressed. Lately, I’ve had to stop and catch my breath while getting dressed in the mornings, but the end product has been worth it. I’m wearing a very simple outfit this morning, cutoff jeans, a red, white, and blue top, with my flip-flops. As I stood in front of the mirror, brushing my hair, it made me smile as I noticed how long my hair had gotten. I wondered what it would be like to not be able to brush my own hair in the morning. A quick feeling of sadness passed through me. I set my hairbrush on the countertop, clicked off the light switch, and walked away. When I sat down at my desk with the computer in front of me, memories of my childhood and growing up came to me…
As an adult, my life took huge swings. A daring and dangerous person took over my being. My childhood curiosity turned into guilt. I tried many self-destruction attempts and cheated death three times. I grew up on a carnival midway, convincing people that they could win the game on their next try, but they never did. I wore a mini skirt in a disco club dancing with drunk sailors. I once rode an Illinois Central freight train from Mobile, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois just for the thrill. As the captain of an offshore shrimping vessel, I did some wild stuff.
Three times in my life, I found myself praying to survive an event that should have killed me. Falling overboard, 100 miles from land was very scary. Finding myself on the business end of a handgun during an armed robbery should have killed me, but it didn’t. The most scared for my life was riding out Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Ms.
I’ve often wondered why I survived as long as I have. In my retirement years, I spent my time playing Hold-em poker in casino poker rooms as Wendie (and my other persona.) I have to admit, I’m pretty darn good.
12:20 pm: It definitely takes me longer in the mornings to get ready for the day, get dressed, make the bed, and clean the kitchen from the night before. Often stopping to rest and sit down to catch my breath. My oxygen hose is my best friend, and with me while I’m at home alone. I have no plans for today, so I continue to move about the house remembering how confusing my journey has been…
The emotional roller coaster rides my journey has taken me on has been a learning experience. A good friend of mine, Michelle Lawson said it very well, “Our life experiences seem to teach us, as those experiences pile on, that life is fleeting, and it seems to me that each day becomes that ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.”
Some of the friends I have made on my journey seem to be able to explain it better. For example, another friend of mine, DeeAnn Hoppings, had this to say, “Perhaps, the most significant thing about humans is that we can learn. Then, based on what we have learned, we can change not only our behaviors, but also how we think. To me, that is an amazing gift that tends to fly under the radar for far too many of us. When used appropriately, and exercised frequently, a mind will always be an extraordinary tool!”
So, have I figured it all out? The simple answer is a resounding “No!” Being born as the human I was and wanting deep in my heart to be something else has always been in conflict.
4:47 pm: I felt like wearing pink today. My favorite calf-length, pink pleated skirt, a pink & yellow patterned cotton button-up shirt, and of course my trademark pink fuzzy slippers. Even after all these years, I still look at myself, when passing a mirror, and think to myself, cute. Sitting here in my oversized recliner, in front of the TV, looking at the screen, but not hearing what is being said, I try to imagine what is next in my life. Trying to see beyond this life is a feat that has perplexed humans forever. Some claim to have seen it, and even some have claimed to have been there and come back. Trying to imagine it gives me a headache. So instead, I will ask myself this “Am I happy with what my life has been like? ” The answer is that I hope I have given everyone whom I have met on my journey a happy memory. Something that they can remember and smile about. If I have cheated anyone out of such a happy thought, I am truly sorry. Are there things I regret about my life? Yes! I believe that each of us has a desire to go back and change the way we did something. But we can’t. So… can I live with what I have done? You know, we don’t really have a choice. We should always think about what we are about to do before doing it. Like many nights of my life, when I crawl into bed, exhausted from living another day, I always remember to say, ” Thank you” and wonder if anyone actually heard me. I suppose the truth of it all will eventually be revealed to me. The little things in life give pleasure. Especially the blessing of another day to be who I am.
So now that it all has come full circle, am I worried? No. Am I confused? No. Am I curious? No. Am I scared? Absolutely. The thing we fear the most is what we might become. Only our imagination, not death, can create us into something to be afraid of.
If I leave anything behind it is this thought. Be kind to each other. Care about and respect what other people feel in their hearts. Falling in love is easy, staying in love is a lifetime mission.