Monday, January 05, 2009

Losing a friend

Rubi, in her office at home

I turned 61 last month. You'd think by this time, I'd gotten used to death. Both of my parents have died. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and dear friends have gone. But this latest loss has left a hole in my heart that keeps filling up with tears.

I met Carol online. We were both part of a magical online community called The WeLL (for "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link"). I joined the WeLL in 1992; Carol, in 1994. We 'met' and connected in an all-women's conference on the WeLL, and became friends - real friends - after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995. Her log-n ID on the WeLL was "Rubicon" , and we all learned to call her "Rubi", a name she loved.

We were very different people in many ways, but similar in ways that truly mattered. She was a tiny, petite woman, with a head of thick, beautiful, silver-white hair, and the most beautiful, big, blue eyes I've ever seen. Ever. You could lose yourself in those eyes, listening to her talk about her beloved family (her partner-now-wife, Kay Ryan, her daughter Peggy, and her three wonderful grandchildren) or her work teaching at the College of Marin. She loved fiercely, deeply and passionately, and everyone who was lucky enough to be loved by Rubi had a warrior at his or her side.

The first time I saw her 'in real life' was at a party of women on the WeLL at a beautiful home in Marin County. My eyes kept being drawn to this gorgeous woman across the room, wearing a skin-tight, black turtleneck and a floor-length red-and-black skirt, and I swore the room glowed wherever she walked. That was when we were introduced for the first time, and when our friendship really began.

But the image I'll hold in my mind and my heart is a more simple one. She'd driven over to meet me for lunch, and we met at a wonderful little Indian restaurant in Berkeley, a mile from my house. We sat at a small table, and I listened, fascinated, as she talked about her latest work project. Her face glowed with energy. She talked with her hands, energetically and passionately. And those gorgeous blue eyes shone with excitement as she shared her thoughts and ideas. I can see her face in my mind's eye (where tears can't blur the image).

Rubi and Kay were married (the first time) in San Francisco City Hall. That was one of the reasons David and I chose to be married there, even though the same-sex marriages had been declared invalid several months later. They were married again in July 2008, on the same day Kay found out she'd been named Poet Laureate of the United States.

In the midst of these wonderful events, Rubi was locked in battle, for the third time, with cancer. She'd managed to fight it off two earlier times, but this one looked a lot worse. All of us who loved her kept hoping against hope that she'd be able to win another battle with cancer, but this time the cancer was too damned aggressive. Despite radiation treatments that burned her skin, despite chemotherapy treatments that so sickened her she wasn't able to find any release from the nausea and pain, and despite her fierce determination and love of life, the goddamned cancer won. Rubi lost this last battle two days ago, and a light has gone out for all of us who loved her. I know I'll never see her again, at least not in the lovely body she inhabited for over sixty years, but so much of her will always be with me. I need to be grateful for that.

But right now, all I am is sad. I miss you, Rubi-cue. And I love you.


Revalani said...

Thank you, Lib, for this tribute to Rubi. You're much better than I at putting emotions into words. You capture her beautiful intensity perfectly.

ellen said...

thank you, Libbi. as our friend Marge said, the world is definitely grayer without Rubi in it.

...deb said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Lib, and the rest of her friends and family, too.

Cam said...

I am saddened for this loss...and will keep those dear to her, both family and friends in my thoughts. May the memories only be good ones.