...and then it's gone.
I think anyone who knows me, even from here, knows that I tend to stick to a routine. It simply works out better since I'm responsible for B's care. If I do certain things every day then what really needs to be done gets done.
For the last eight-and-a-half years one of my daily routines has been to participate on an Internet bulletin board. It's through the website for the author, Rebecca Wells, and it's called Gumbo Ya-Ya, or just Gumbo for short. I joined it just over two weeks after B and I were married and with the exception of when I was traveling or when I was hospitalized I was there virtually every single day.
When I joined I never intended to stay around for this long. I figured that once the novelty wore off I'd move along to the next thing to catch my interest. I never imagined that I would find there some of the most wonderful friends I've ever had.
Back when I joined it was a fairly small board. It moved rather slowly and a day's worth of new threads could be contained on one page. New members joined with regularity and I loved that people from all over the US joined as well as people from Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and one lone American lady living in Germany. Pretty soon I went from being a newbie to a long-timer and over the years our ranks grew, especially after the premiere of film The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
The Gumbo board, over the years, became a big part of my social structure. I live a life that can be isolating - I have to stay home most of the time and I live in a foreign country - so socializing with the other members of the board became important to me. They became my social connection and people I could share my life with. It didn't matter that most of them lived nearly halfway around the world - they're my friends. They know me and I know them. I don't feel lonesome knowing that my Gumbo friends are out there. Most are women but we have a few fellas there that put up with us and add something special to our ranks.
I wish I could describe to y'all how strong and true the friendships that are made on Gumbo really are. I know they've been there for me when I needed them. When I was sick and needed surgery, they never forgot me and knowing they were praying for me eased my heart. When I needed advice they were glad to tell me what I needed to know. And three times when I came to America to visit, my friends from Gumbo traveled hundreds, in some cases thousands, of miles to see me because it was important for them to give me a real hug after years of cyber ones.
Over the years real life happened on Gumbo. Some of us married, some divorced. Babies were born and family died. We graduated from high school and college and our kids did the same. We moved, we got fired from jobs and we got new ones. We got sick, we got well, and many times our spirits healed as well as our bodies. We talked about what we loved, what we hated, what we were afraid of and what we couldn't wait to do. We talked about movies, books, music, hot-looking actors, what's for dinner, what's a good diet, our hobbies, our favorite pie, politics, and current events. We supported one another when one was feeling lost and we prayed when we needed some guidance. We laughed at the goofy pranks we'd play and if some troll would show up and harass us and tell us to get a life we'd answer that we did have a life. This was life. Everything that could be found in a life was right there on Gumbo.
Unfortunately living also means eventually dying and it happened on Gumbo too. We lost some members over the years - some through illness, some through accident - and our hearts broke every time. We'd feel the loss to our core and we'd do our best to keep the memories of those we lost alive.
Gumbo is dying as well. We were told by Harper Collins publishing that it would no longer be included on Rebecca's website as of April 21, 2008 and now there are a lot of heartbroken women and men. Now everything is changing. No longer will my comfortable Gumbo home will be there. The place where everyone knew me and I could count on these people to be a part of my world. It's going to be gone.
We're trying to set up other bulletin boards so we don't lose touch with one another but it's not going to be the same. The same structure, the same dynamics, the same niches we had will be gone. It's like high school. You spend years and years with the same people and then suddenly it's graduation day. You promise to keep in touch but you know that you won't in every single case. You'll see some again at your new stop in life but there are others you'll never see again and you'll regret not having spent more time with them.
I won't have trouble keeping in touch with those who I'm already close with and I'll admit that there are some I won't miss seeing but what makes me sad is the loss of what was possible. I'm losing the possibility to get closer to some and I'm losing the possibility of meeting new folks. Folks that I could grow to love as much as those I already do. There will be stories left unfinished for me. How's her pregnancy going to go? Is she going to find a new job? And her - will she find love again? Is she going to graduate from college and start her dream career? Will her illness be cured? I want to know the next chapter of the story but now it seems that it won't be written - or what does get written will always somehow be incomplete.
I wish somehow someone would find the magic wand that could be waved to stop all this. We just want to go on with the Gumbo life we've created. And it hurts to think that corporate decisions made by those who don't know about us is going to end a life that was real and vibrant and good.