Thursday, May 11, 2017

Yesterday Was Four Years. Not A Day Goes By Without You On My Mind

My arrival to Fairfield University came with a lot of fanfare and freshness to begin anew. My first year, 2011-2012, I spent many nights in my office finalizing my dissertation and trying to get my head around directing the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield and learning my ways around lots of policies, grants, requirements and the new "normal" of earmarks for funding removed and state support dwindling. With the position, of course, came the greatest sunshine: Lois Minto.

In a very short time, Lois and I began to dream about ways we could continue the traditions of the National Writing Project in southern Connecticut. She was passionate about helping the animal shelter of Stratford and I loved accompanying her to fundraisers and galas. I didn't know anyone, so she'd invite me over for a hamburger on a Friday night or pizza at the Green. When I was looking for a place to rent, I found a house around the corner and up the street. This resulted in a growing friendship where she helped me out and I helped her.

In May of 2013, I was implementing a Writing Our Lives - Bridgeport conference for 125 high school students. Lois was my behind the scenes coordinator for the May 21st event. It was the end of the semester, the stress was high and the exhaustion was plentiful. I went to Lois's house on the 9th for dinner and to help Lois with her nephew. She felt as exhausted as I did, and I remember spending the night trying to make the two of them laugh.

The next morning is when Pam called. Lois had a hear attack and was found on her bedroom floor. "It's not good," she said. "It's not good." She was going to the hospital and she asked if I would go over to Lois's and look after her nephew. I did, until I was called to pick up Kaitlyn and bring her to the hospital to be with family. It was a tense couple of hours and the optimism ebbed and flowed. Then we were asked to enter the medical room. Lois had another heart attack in her room and her body was shutting down. We all stood around her saying final words, praying, and sharing love for a woman we all adored. The Saads, the Kellys, and me. It was an intense, emotional moment, but then she passed...all unexpectedly.

The rhythm and flow of the years have moved more quickly than I expected they would and I hold the words I read at the funeral dear to my hear. RIP & ILY. ILY, indeed.

I am remembering taking Lois around town in a pink bag to have a beer next to a cousin's auto shop and a steak at a Bridgeport Diner where her sisters and I reminisced and listened to Lois's favorite song, Michael Jackson's Rock with Me. At my house, I have some of her plants, a few angels, and the giant "Ducks on a Picnic" painting that she and her nephew made for me on my birthday. They painted over the ugly ducks, picnic baskets, and bonnets with red paint and a lot of crazy lines and circles. The modern art hangs over my bed and I love it.

I moved into my own house, coincidentally on the other side of where she lived, and each day I wake up saying hello in that direction and each night I say goodnight. Each summer, too, a red cardinal lives in my backyard and I've come to call it Lois (although a northern flicker has been competing for the territory and chases the cardinal away).

Last night, we went out for a burger and a glass of wine to toast Lois. Our time as colleagues and friends was short-lived, but special.

I miss her laugh, her humor, her videos and the camaraderie. Phew. This is that life thing that none of us are prepared for. She was so loved and enjoyed by all. Thinking of you, Lowey! Wish you could meet Glamis, as I'm sure you'd love her and something tells me that you and Chitunga would become great friends, too - in fact, I imagine he'd be at your house helping you out whenever he is home.
Look over us. When the sun shines, we know you're up there.

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