For Bonnie

February 14, 2009

Freddie’s sister Bonnie passed away sometime late this week.  We’re not sure exactly when.  She had had leukemia.  Although she had been in remission a few years, she got sick again in December and had to start chemotherapy again at the end of last year.  Her daughter found Bonnie yesterday evening at her apartment when she stopped by to take her grocery shopping.  There was nothing to be done.

Hers was a difficult life and troubled.  I don’t know too many details, but I remember Bonnie well.  She left a strong impression wherever she went.

Bonnie lived with us for several months in San Diego shortly after her initial leukemia diagnosis.  When she had gotten out of the hospital, she had no place to live and little money, so we offered to bring her out to California from Florida, her home at the time.  After a few rocky months she took a trip back to the family home in Indiana for her son’s graduation, and she decided not to come back.

Bonnie had a complicated relationship with faith.  Her ex-husband was a fundamentalist minister, but he treated her very poorly and with cruelty.  She left him, and left her children, too.  Later she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, later still with borderline personality disorder.  She believed in God; she was angry at churches, angrier still at church people.  I can still hear asking about the leukemia, about the emotional disorders — “Why?  Why?  I’ll never be normal!  Why?”

There could be no answer, except reassuring noises and the help to help her do as well as she could.  Sometimes “as well as she could” was very well:  Bonnie dearly loved her children and never stopped trying to make up for leaving them.  Sometimes, however, it was very poorly, with a string of angrily broken relationships, bounced checks, abrupt life changes, and more.

I wanted to dedicate a song for Bonnie.  I don’t know if she would like it or not, but it’s from her tradition.  She would either love it or hate it, strongly.

I searched for the Happy Goodmans, specifically looking for Vestal.  She’s always been a favorite for both Freddie and me.  Perhaps Vestal satisfies that atavistic diva-love that many gay men have, even though she’s in a gospel miliue.  Wave those white hankies…  The higher the hair, the closer to God…  I can imagine Bonnie laughing at that.  Anyhow, Vestal Goodman and George Jones, Angel Band:

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