Goodbye, Love, Goodbye
This past weekend I had to say goodbye to a dear friend, Linda Perrenoud. I found out about her failing health a week before, so I had a little bit of time to prepare myself for the actual visitation and funeral. I thought I would be prepared. I was not.
I loved this woman with all of my heart. She is the reason I went to college for Theater and Acting. She gave me a voice in high school when I had none. She saw me in the back of the classroom hiding from view of everyone and pulled me to the front and taught me how to entertain people. I was still pretty shy and secretive in high school but she showed me how to let people in and how to trust people. Because of her confidence in my abilities, I auditioned for a touring company during the summer between my junior and senior years. I got the tour and I spent over half of my summer in Phoenix, AZ and then touring the eastern coast of the United States and Canada. She pushed me even further and I became a finalist for a full-scholarship at the college of my choice.
After I left college in 1997, I came back to Iowa and she saw that I needed an outlet for my pain and she invited me to start helping her teach her speech and theater students at my old high school. I did this for almost three years before trying my hand at being a professional actor in LA. After a failed year of that, I retreated back home to Iowa again and was welcomed with open arms by Linda once more. This time, I took the time to really learn from her tutelage. I found a passion for directing kids in acting scenes, musical scenes and helping them come out of their protective shells--just like she had done to me.
During this time, she softened my hard edges and helped me to see the joy in even the littlest of things. For that, I can never thank her enough. For years I had been frustrated with my lack of accomplishing anything of meaning to me. Here I was, over $60,000 in debt from college, no degree, no job worth talking about and she still showed me all the kindness and goodness in the world. She saw my frustration at how my life was turning out and still forced me to look at it in a positive light. She told me to take that negative energy and make it positive. She taught me how to slow down and enjoy the small victories. Victories like seeing a shy high school kid get praise for doing something that frightened them down to their core. Linda help to show me that the journey is the important part of everything; not the destination. The journey is what shapes you, molds you and lets you know what kind of person you can become.
I know that because of all the love Linda Perrenoud showed me during 1997-2003, I was able to move back to LA and meet my husband. He is such a beacon of light and positivity. Only because I had those 7 years with Linda and so many experiences and laughs was I able to be the person who could turn Alfelino's head on a blind date. Linda even knew I was truly leaving before I did. She saw the end of our time together coming and didn't deter me from it. She could have acted selfishly and said she needed me and I most certainly would have stayed; but she didn't. She let me try to spread my wings again and move back to California. Of course, I didn't get the dream acting job I had dreamt about. Instead I got the man of my dreams.
Over the past 16 years, I have come back to Iowa and visited with Linda every chance I have gotten. When I started writing professionally, Linda became my proofreader and someone to bounce ideas off of. She became an important and integral part of the process that I needed. She was that extra voice to tell me that something didn't work in the story or that it didn't make sense to her or whatever. Her contribution may not be directly seen in my novels but her handprint is on every page. For most of my adult life, Linda has been steadily shaping me into the man I need to be. Unfortunately, it's been too long since I've been able to meet up with Linda. Life got in the way. After her health issues in November, I just couldn't get the time together to go see her. I regret that. Once she had the issue last Thursday, I couldn't bring myself to see her in the hospital. That's not how I wanted to remember her. To me, Linda was always full of life. To see her trapped in a hospital bed, unconscious was not the way I wanted to remember her. In my head, I will always hear her laughter lighting up a room. Linda, I hope I did right by you since I know exactly what you did for me. I only hope I was able to repay the favor.
Now, as Al and I were driving home from her funeral, I was reminded of her comments when she was proofreading my football love story. In the end of the book, the main character (Alex) his holding a baby--part of his extended family and the baby is always relaxed in his arms. Everyone else in the story has a hard time getting the baby to quit fussing but Alex was always able to calm the baby. The baby would look up at Alex and just start cooing. Linda told me at the time that the imagery of the baby was something she dreamed about happening when she had grandkids. I never really thought about the fact that, at the time she was reading this novel, that she hadn't experienced that for herself. These last two years, she's been able to experience that with her little grandson. The thought of baby Jax staring up at Linda warms my heart.
I always knew it was a possibility that I would have to say goodbye to Linda at some point but I just never thought it would be this early in my life. To me, Linda was always bigger than life. Her heart was so full of love for her family, friends and students that I thought she would live on for years. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I know Linda knew she was loved by her current and former students; but I don't think she knew just how much. I will always wish I could have had one more conversation with her but at least the last thing I told her was that I loved her.