We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.
When I was young, elementary school age, I had an aunt whom I admired and looked up to! She lived in California! West Hollywood!! She always had funky hair: choppy cuts, fun colors! She was a hair stylist and makeup artist! Even did work on a couple movies: Reanimator, that cult classic, for one!
I had a paper route in 5th grade and I saved up for a spring break trip to California (to see this aunt and another in Twenty Nine Palms). It was pure magic! She lived on a hill in this tiny apartment. Just up the road was a house with unicorn statues (I was totally into unicorns! Some things never change!!)
She took us to Melrose Avenue where I shopped in my first thrift store!
She took us to Santa Monica, where I waded into the super cold waters of the Pacific (for the first, and only, time).
She took us to Joshua Tree Park, where I experienced a desert for the first time, too. We had a picnic lunch on a cliff, surrounded by nature as far as the eye could see.
Her boyfriend was in a band, The Reason! They had a 45! I memorized all the words to their song Don’t Give Up, which even got air time on a station in Chicago (XRT, if I am correct)!
I was going to be just like my Aunt Sharon when I grew up!
My plan: graduate high school and head out to California to attend the Sassoon Academy of Hair, then work in movies!
No kidding! There was nothing else I wanted to do!
I began changing my hair color in 6th grade! The summer before that school year started, I had the unfortunate run-in with Sun-In! My hair was a golden blonde for about, oh, two days! And then it went completely orange! My dad made me grow it out!
For my “Gifted & Talented” project in 7th grade, I spent a day with a local hair stylist (she had a salon in her home) and I wrote out interview questions which I mailed to my Aunt Sharon. (Yeah…this was worlds before the internet!!)
I am certain that my G/T teachers and, later, many of my high school teachers were beside themselves that I hadn’t given thought to college, med school, law school!
Every high school yearbook photo, my hair is a different color and style.
I haven’t stopped since.
I never did head out to California, nor did I attend cosmetology school. But I have remained true to my “calling” and changed up my hair frequently. A running joke in my family is that no one knows what I will look like the next time they see me! I have had family members not even know I was in attendance at a function because they simply couldn’t recognize me!!!
I am also, by sheer coincidence, childless, like my Aunt Sharon. We give our motherly attention and affection to the feline variety! Also like her, I love up on my nieces & nephews! I also hope that I inspire them.
Aunt Sharon had such a unique style & personality …for many years. Tho, I would see this change when she turned 40, found herself not yet married, turning to religion and extinguishing certain characteristics to better suit a potential husband.
It made me both sad and angry (okay, mostly angry) to see her pushing down parts of herself. Stuffing them far far down. She had this awesome dragon tattoo (and was the first person I knew who had a tattoo!!) that she would hide from her boyfriend (who later became her husband) and his family. She became ashamed of it. It was a part of her life! A full life she had lived for 40 years before! Damnit!
I watched her lose herself. I watched her go from a strong, feisty, funky chick to, well, none of those things.
Unfortunately, she would never again embody all the fabulous that she had once been. That fabulous-ness that once inspired young me.
The torch, her torch, was passed to me many moons ago. I took it up willingly. I have taken it up with fierceness. I am more me than ever in my life! It is my destiny. One that I will not be denied for all of my days.
I change my hair style and color! I dress in costumes whenever I can get away with it! I am crafting “my look” that I know is not like others (Just yesterday Chris and I were in a town about 15 miles south and were asked if we were visiting! My guess is that our attire made us stick out and appear as if we could not be from around here!).
At 44, around the age of Aunt Sharon’s “change”, I am not snuffing out the awesome that is uniquely me! I will carry the torch higher & higher still. Always checking to see that my nieces and nephews recognize the greatness in themselves and let it shine for all (and forever).
Aunt Sharon had other “gifts”, such as sending cards for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries … even to “adopted” nieces like my two younger sisters and to my brother’s sons, whom she never met. Often being a willing ear for family and friends. Allowing family and friends to have a place to land for a few months (some longer). She became a stalwart of her faith, which carried her through many illnesses over more than a decade.
I send the holiday cards and spend time with our nieces & nephews when we can, especially since we moved to be closer to my immediate family earlier this year (as Aunt Sharon did when moving back to Indiana, after many many years in California). She often said her biggest regret was missing out on us, the cousins, being kids. I can definitely appreciate that sentiment.
The last five years (maybe more) Aunt Sharon battled health issue after health issue. A liver transplant, which led to a fungal infection, which led to heart surgery. Neuropathy. Setbacks. Anti-rejection meds. (This followed decades of steroids for non-hepatitis liver disease.) Cancer. Another cancer. With her faith, Western medicine and a ridiculous amount of pharmaceuticals, she kept winning each assault on her body. However, all of these things made her fragile, weak, physically unable to do many mundane things.
It is these last years where I feel she was existing …not living. Not thriving. She was physically changed in many ways and that affects one emotionally and mentally, as well.
Life can be a real bitch sometimes!
Circumstances, choices, bad health (especially that demon, Cancer!) can whittle away at a person. What was once vibrant can become dulled.
This week, I have been visited by a cardinal outside my desk window. It was my dad, coming to let me know he was near. At first, I just thought he was popping in to let me know that he is proud of me, sees me, checks in on me. However, within a day it became clear to me that he was there to let me know he was at the ready, he was on guard, the wagons had been circled.
When my dad was ravaged with Cancer in 2002, it was Aunt Sharon who flew to Florida with me. We both learned of his dire state when we arrived at the hospital and my mother tried to prepare me. (I was not prepared for what I would see when I entered his room.) She and I spent a week caring for my dad, along with family who descended on my brother’s home. As above with my dad’s parents and other family members, we were circling the wagons below.
My Aunt Sharon passed from this life at 8:05 (CST) last nite. She, too, was surrounded by many family members (perhaps all of her remaining siblings), her husband, nieces & nephews. My dad, their parents and the other family members were gathered above, waiting with open arms and hearts.
The remaining light in her torch to flicker no longer. The passing of the torch is complete.
RIP Sharon Ann Long Kacmar
5-1-50 to 11-20-16