Wednesday, August 9, 2017

In Memory of My Skip, RIP Beautiful Spirit!


It was on August 10, 1997, twenty years ago today, when my beloved partner and soulmate, Skip Wood, departed this world. How can I describe him? I know from day one, we could not get enough of each other, and we would talk into the wee hours. He had been a teacher, mostly in the Catholic School systems but also for a time with Spring ISD in Houston. He was brilliant, with a classical type education that included German, Latin, Classical Greek, English, Theology, Philosophy, and Music. He was well grounded in Classical Music and had befriended Sir John Barbirolli when he conducted the Houston Symphony. I had not begun transition yet, and when we met, it was electric. We simply could not stop chattering, I said then, like two school girls, telling our stories, and it was in short time after that, he moved in with me.

We shared so much together, and it was Skip who showed me a love I could not have imagined. For the coming years, our lives were so completely entwined. Skip lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and even after he could no longer work, he would greet me as the car drove up, and we would plan the evening’s adventures. I had never before known such happiness as I did when we were together. Even when I began transition, he did not run away. I will always remember the moment I sat down and talked with him about it. He paused a bit, said there was much he did not understand, but we could talk about it as we went along. Then he said, he loved me, and if this was what I needed to be happy, then he would support me. “Love is like that,” he smiled.

So many memories. Nights at EJ’s or later dinner at Charlies. We watched classic movies or gay theatrical films, or listen to music. We often entertained friends and our apartment became a bit of an open house for neighbors in our complex. I'm smiling even as I write this, remembering the non-stop drama in our small complex, akin to the fictional Barbary Lane so delightfully offered in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series. Or we would slip off for a romantic get away to the Hill Country or to Galveston, sometimes on a moment's notice.

Then in July of '97, he began to get visibly weaker and we didn't know why. His voice lowered to a whisper. The doctor put him on a regime of iv fluids to rebuild his immune systems. One night I heard a crash. I ran into the bathroom where he had collapsed to the floor. I ran to the neighbors to have them call the ambulance. I sat there beside him, checking his breathing and vitals and holding him and…

We arrived at the hospital, and after a violent seizure and a spinal tap, he slowly slipped into a coma. I sat with him in the hospital. Days became weeks, and we learned he had contracted viral encephalitis, a direct result of his compromised immunities, and those being compromised by the meds he took for his Rheumatoid Arthritis. Day after day, a watch in i.c.u. and no change. The nurses were so good, and I remember one day a doctor stopped by, asked about him and me, then quietly showed me his Lobo card, code that he was gay. We learned he was not getting better and to expect the worse. Oh I held him so close and even if in a coma, I would tell him the events of the day, and of course, so many times, sharing the love I felt for him. I recall then one night, Jimmy Carper at KPFT had me on the program and he and I did a tribute to Skip. The nurses at the hospital had turned on the radio for him to hear, even if in a coma. I got back to my apartment in the wee hours, only to get a call from the hospital. He’d taken a turn for the worse. I rushed back to the hospital, where I held him, told him how much I loved him, and told him if it was time to go, it was alright and I’d be okay. Okay I lied, but it needed to be done. Slowly he slipped away. August 10th 1997. It was 20 years ago now. The nurse came in, gave me ten more minutes with him, asking if anyone was there for me, then I left and the family and the priest walked in. I headed for the coffee shop where our favorite waiter asked about Skip and when I told him Skip was gone, he held me and we both cried. Then he played "I Will Survive" on the Jukebox.

With time and lots of love from my friends, it did get better. Each year at this time, I hold up his memory. I got a lovely letter after he passed from Lady Evelyn Barbirolli. He would have been so pleased she had done that. Months and years passed and life does go on, and I learned to appreciate all he had been in new and different ways and with new perspectives. After all, he gave me the greatest gift anyone could. He gave us our time together. More importantly, he taught me how to truly love. What a profoundly beautiful gift! I choose no longer to try and get over it, but rather honor it for the gift we had. Thank you Skip. Yes, I found love again. Yes, I love you. Love is like that after all, immortal even if we are not…

Dedicated to my True Renaissance Man...

2 comments:

  1. Emily Morris DavlinAugust 10, 2017 at 5:15 PM

    Beautiful story, Jessica. I have always been in awe of people who were able to take the worst and turn it around for the best...May you continue to be blessed by love and the presence of your own higher power every day.

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  2. I will reread this every year that you post it Jessica! It is a beautiful tribute to a deep and abiding love. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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