A Tenuous Time (Two Unexpected Losses)

Seems like a weird time we’re in right now. The delta variant is upon us, and even in San Francisco, cases are rising robustly. I continue to wear my mask and am relieved that so many of my fellow SFers are doing the same. I haven’t the slightest desire to go to a restaurant or bar, so I’m not tempted. It helps to be an introvert at times like these.

When I came to the city in 1988, the first person who befriended me in the Memoir class I was taking at SF State was a slender dark-haired young woman called Denise Minor, who had grown up in Idaho, and who was then a journalist writing mostly for the Noe Valley Voice. It turned out she lived nearby to me in the Inner Richmond. Denise was a dynamic woman who was majoring in Spanish. I never quite understood why she took a Creative Writing class—though I suppose it was her minor—but I’m lucky she did, because the next summer she started up a writing group and I was included. That writing group lasted through the ’90s and sustained me when I was working day jobs that dulled my creativity and sapped my energy.

But Denise left the city a few years later with her husband and two young sons. She headed off to UC Davis and then Chico, where she was an associate professor of Spanish linguistics. She died at the beginning of July of breast cancer, far too soon. Seeing a friend’s obituary on Facebook without being prepared for it has become a phenomenon that happens all too often. It’s hard to believe that this vibrant woman is gone, but my memories of the first year of our acquaintance, when we were closest, are with me still. How boring and unproductive my grad school years would have been without Denise and the circle of people around her. I’m grateful.

Here is her obit. She would have been proud of the way she is listed in the headline, though one word isn’t included anywhere in there that I would have used for her: feminist. However, it doesn’t surprise me to read that she was adored by her Latinx students, and mentored them. She was a natural mentor, always in movement, comfortable with change, spreading her energies far and wide into different communities. I still remember her zipping up 19th Avenue to S.F. State as she gave me a ride to class the first semester we knew each other, veering onto the median and laughing it off. I was shocked, but there was a confidence in her wildness.

And Denise’s 2017 book No Screaming Jelly Beans: Trying to Pursue a Career While Raising a Son with Autism, which I’ve just discovered, shows that she did write a memoir after all.

Another unexpected death hits home: an old friend of my ex’s whom I liked so much also, a man my own age who I met in my thirties and felt immediately accepted by. I could never say before that a friend my own age had died; I had that luxury. Patrick More was an athlete, an ardent cyclist, an Aries. He was a devoted husband and father to twins, who are now nineteen. How long was he ill? What type of cancer did he die of? We don’t know yet, and in this strange new world where deaths are not given the public weight that they used to be, we may never know. Much loved, gone far too soon. He worked at both Hewlett-Packard and Stanford for many years. He and his wife loved to travel and took long, adventurous trips to Europe.

I know these two feisty fire signs are both at peace now.

 

About Gabriella West

Author of LGBT historical fiction and contemporary queer romance.
This entry was posted in Personal, San Francisco, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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