Growing up around my Dad was interesting. He had a bad habit. When he'd get drunk, he'd give stuff away. It didn't matter if it were yours or not, he'd give it to people. He'd also have clean-ups while drunk, and just chuck out anything that he couldn't see the point of. He wasn't nasty about it, but he was unstoppable in his own way. His stuff used to go, but so did anybody else's.
I'm not sure which was worse. There were the times I'd come home from something to find that a favourite toy or thing had been given to someone or their kids. I'd usually find this out by Dad saying "Oh I gave that thingamajig of yours to such-and-such. You didn't want that any more, did you?" Of course, it was kind of too late if a bloody did! His delivery of the 'You didn't want...' line was always the same. Said in matter of fact, non-nasty way that carried with it the tone that said 'Why would you want it?'
It wasn't so much a question as a statement.
The other variation was when someone was there and expressed an interest or a like for something of yours. He'd offer it to them, then turn and say the 'You didn't want...' line. And it was really hard to go against that. You didn't want to say 'Yes actually, I do' in front of people. You were placed squarely on the spot. I don't think I ever went against that, much as I hated it.
The worst though, was his clean-ups. Anything that caught his eye was fair game. Accompanied with "You don't want that any more, do you?" This I used to fight, some of the time. And it was a battle, because then you were called upon to justify keeping it. "What do you wanna keep that for?" "Come on, you've outgrown that." You get the idea. There was often nothing you could do but stand helplessly by as he chucked things. And there was nothing like coming home to find he'd had a major clean-up, that could be really horrible.
This may give a bad impression of my Dad. He was a very loving man, but like everyone, he had his faults.
One of my faults is that I don't tend to throw things out. Hard to say if I was always like that or became that way because of growing up around Dad. Makes you want to hold onto things tighter. One of the side effects is that when people are tidying up around me and moving my stuff, I get stressed. Really, really stressed.
Sharon is neat. Sharon likes tidy. I like neat and tidy too, but I'm utterly crap at it.
So one of the issues we have is that Sharon can't straighten up easily when I'm around. I'm a helpless, stressed, powerless ten-year-old again, waiting for something to be thrown out or broken without my knowledge or permission.
I've gotten better, but progress was seriously hurt very early on, when I'd given Shaz the go-ahead to go nuts, clean up, throw out old papers and such. 'Just don't throw out anything that I may want to keep. Put it aside and we'll go through it together and we can chuck what I don't want.'
I come home and the place looks great. Sharon is an amazing woman in so many areas, and one of those is the ability to clean a space. It's mind-boggling and something I great admire and wish I could do half as well.
So, I'm walking past the rubbish bag on the back door and with my eagle eye spot, in amongst all the scrap paper and stuff, a flash of colour. And I know exactly what it is, just from that little hint. It's the Asterix pictures (colour photocopies of rare stuff) given to me by Ian Gunn. I didn't get angry, but I did get really upset. And poor Sharon, she had no idea how they had gotten in there, because she wouldn't have thrown out something like that without checking with me. No doubt it had been caught up in some other paper and she had missed it. Very easily done. And she still feels bad about it, poor thing.
But you can imagine how much that one incident did to bugger my ability to cope with people tidying up and moving my stuff. It was no-one's fault. And when I get in one of my cleaning moods we both go nuts and clean. Or I head out and let Shaz go nuts, I know she'll be careful, I know it was just a mistake, but I fear and dread the mistakes!
And now you've got some backstory, we come to the whole point of this post.
On Monday, a whole bunch of men I don't know will be coming here to pack all my stuff. We aren't allowed to pack most it, they have to do it for insurance reasons.
And I have to be here.
While they move and pack my stuff.
While they look at it and think "Why would you want to keep that?"
I don't think I can adequately convey just how much this concept fills me with dread and terror.
Monday will be like living in one of my worst nightmares.
I first met hespa at ConVergence 2002. I remember seeing her around the con, but my first proper memory of talking to her is after the closing ceremony, where she asked me to sign the poster I had done for the con. It had a dragon on it, and she liked dragons.
Hespa is one of those people that I didn't merely take an immediate liking to, she's one of those people I felt an immediate love for. Not the least because she wanted me to sign the poster and the dragon was, by any standards, kind of crap. But as I got talking to her, I realised why she had caught my eye a couple of times over the weekend, apart from the fact that she was adorable.
She sparkled and shone quietly.
As we chatted, I realised she was someone I wanted a lot more of in my life. As with so many people, that never really happened. I'm chronically bad at the whole 'contact' thing for a start.
And over four years later, she's changed. Consciously. She's moved herself in new directions and started taking an active interest in her life, rather than just being a passenger along for the ride. She's building and changing herself.
She used to be shiny, but now she's radiant.
The changes she makes, the things she pursues... they just seem to build on what went before so very well. Part of this is making good choices, but a much bigger part is allowing herself to make those choices at all, to try things. Most people let stuff to get in the way, things that don't need to be problems but become so because people convince themselves that there's no choice. There's almost always a choice, it's whether you are brave enough to take that leap.
Hespa has rearranged her life so that she can do the things that are important to her, that will make her happy, will help her grow. She's not ignoring life's realities, but she's smart enough to know that when life's realities stop you from growing in the ways you want/wish/need to, you can do something about it.
In the last year or so we've seen a bit more of each other and realised that we both wanted even more time to hang. We haven't managed much more, but we've managed a bit. And every time we get to hang, she enriches my life enormously. At times she makes me feel like a proud older brother, things are pointed out, enjoyed and shared together, there's lots of love and support and enthusiasm. Except, of course, I'm not always sure who's teaching who. It seems to run both ways a lot, and maybe my brotherly feelings simply come from me being an older guy.
And of course there's times when I look at her and think 'Phwoar!' which, apart from giving the whole 'brotherly' thing a slightly suspect spin, is kind of normal for me when presented with a sexy big brain. I would be attracted to her if she 66 years old and bald. The fact that she's not is a wonderful bonus.
I love hanging with her, and while we're about to be living in different states, was able to point out that, oh dear, this would mean if she came to Canberra she'd just have to crash with us. What a shame. And there's forests near Canberra, we may be forced to go camping. How terrible. And we've talked about the idea of driving to Swancon together, or if I'm not up to that, sharing the train journey in each other's company. All that time together, how would we cope? *grin*
I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds Hespa an inspiration. She has enriched my life enormously just by being my friend, and even if we never saw each other again, I'd be grateful for having had such a wonderful person in my life. I've been blessed to have many wonderful women in my life. If I ever have a daughter and she grows up to be half the person Hespa is, I would be a very proud dad indeed.