The Song I Was Writing Is Left Undone / by Beth Winegarner


The world lost a special lady yesterday. I met Kathy when I was in high school, and dating her son. She was so unlike my own mom, I'm not sure I knew what to make of her at first. But I quickly became fond of her plainspokenness, sense of humor, and tendency to tell stories about her boy. Where my mom was fairly middle-of-the-road, Kathy was "cool." She'd been part of the hippie generation and never gave it up. She was a devoted Deadhead, a quiet pagan and had ridden a motorcycle when she was younger. Until I met her, I didn't know moms could be like that. It embarrassed my boyfriend some, but I was impressed. 

She always made me feel welcome in their home, where my boyfriend and I spent many hours hanging out, making out, listening to music and lazing among the redwoods. I'd just come out of a traumatic relationship, and in some ways their house was a sanctuary for me. There were crystals and goddess figurines here and there, and little pots of fragrant amber, the smell of which still reminds me of her. Although I was often a wreck then, I felt safe there. 

Where my mom was protective, Kathy was permissive. She kindly drove us to many, many concerts in Sonoma County and even San Francisco, where my mother wouldn't take me and was too afraid to let me go with friends. She let us listen to Metallica and other metal bands on the car's cassette player; I remember her responding with curiosity (and some amusement) the day she took us to Berkeley and I bought a copy of Soundgarden's Louder Than Love on tape, which we listened to on the way home. The whole family had worked at the Northern California Renaissance Faire since my boyfriend was a little boy, and I joined them for two seasons, learning to make ribbon rosettes for her feather fans, hanging out in their gypsy wagon and wandering the paths through the woods. 

There are so many things I learned from her, small and large. After a few years of trying in vain to understand how to drive a stick-shift car, I figured it out one day while watching her lift her foot slowly off the clutch pedal in her battered hatchback. I learned it was okay to shrug off beauty norms, to be a plainfaced and round woman and still be in love with life. She showed me that it's okay to become a grownup and still adore rock and roll. 

We lost touch when her son and I broke up but, as often happens in the age of Facebook, we reconnected a few years back. She knew my mom had died when I was in my early 20s. I don't know if that's what motivated it, but she often left kind, loving remarks on my posts, when I wrote about my mom or shared my daughter's latest antics. I was so grateful for those comments and the motherly warmth that came with them. I'm glad she got to become a grandma to two beautiful boys, to see her son transform into a kind and loving dad. I just wish she'd gotten more time with them, and they with her.