Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Love Letter

Even though I consider myself a skilled word-user, I'm not entirely certain I can express just how much you mean to me. Hopefully, I can get some of it across without sounding like some crazed lunatic who believes we are destined to be together or some ridiculous crap. Ugh. It'll probably ramble a bit more than I'd like, but hopefully it'll make sense in the end.

There's a lot of backstory, which may or may not be interesting to you, but perhaps will help set the stage for why exactly you had such an impact on my life.

When you came into my life, in September of 2012, I was forty-seven. Alone. Sad. Searching for meaning.

I'd been a single mom for about fifteen years, and I'd taken my job seriously. I did everything I could conceive of to make my daughter's life a good one. I wanted her to grow up healthy and happy, someone I could be proud of, someone who could be proud of me, someone who would consider me a friend when the time came.

Though I didn't date, or have any other kind of "dating" relationships (read sexual, lol) during that time, it was more because I wanted to model healthy relationships for my daughter than for any other reason. I didn't go out of my way to find a romantic relationship - I considered finding a new partner pretty low on the priority list - and she had a life full of people who loved me and who loved her. Those were good relationships, ones I wanted her to learn from, to emulate.

My daughter and I had our hardships - money was always tight, I was lonely, I struggled constantly with depression, she was stubborn as hell, something she clearly got from my side of the family. We lost loved ones - a beloved dog, a special cat, a favorite cousin, my mother, and my daughter's best friend. That one was especially tough. Twelve year old girls shouldn't die.

I raised my daughter to think, to stand up for herself, to stand up for other people, to be independent. I also sometimes made things too easy. I went too far the wrong way to ensure she didn't have to suffer the same childhood issues I'd had, and she grew up more than a wee bit spoiled.

I was raised an Air Force brat, and I periodically get itchy feet, figuratively speaking. My solution when she was in school was to move from one apartment to another, always staying in the same school zone. I wanted her to have friends from kindergarten all the way through high school, something I'd never had. It didn't work quite the way I wanted, but it worked.

When she was still a teenager, we moved one more time. She'd just finished her freshman year of high school, gotten involved in dance, which she LOVED, had a gay boyfriend who was a marvelous dance partner and friend, and though she'd never loved school, that year was as close as she came to it. She didn't want to move. I didn't, either, this time, but there were mitigating circumstances.

Though we moved into a situation which was much better for us, that next year was the most difficult she and I had ever had - emotionally, behaviorally, financially - and I thought we weren't going to survive it intact, still loving each other. It was the first time I seriously considered giving up, believed I was a bad mom.

Though she hated the new school, and frankly, I did too, she slowly over the course of that year made friends. She got involved in drama, something she'd enjoyed in middle school, and while she was never truly happy that year, she got better. I got her into counseling again, an on and off thing since she was about four, and we worked at being honest with each other, communicating openly, being loving.

During her junior year, she met a boy. Actually, she'd met him during the prior year, but she'd had a mad crush on someone else, and this guy had only been a friend. That changed. He was charming and goofy and smart, loved my daughter, and was respectful to me, didn't ridicule my brand of weird. His life wasn't perfect, either, but he had a good family, a support system of friends, both peers and mentors, and he and my daughter became serious.

My daughter finally used her "sneak-out" rule - she could ask if she could go out after dark, and I could say no. If she felt like it was important enough to override me, she could, but only if she came and told me she was sneaking out of the house, so I could keep my phone on and come get her if I needed to, no questions asked. She didn't use it often, but she did use it.

She also had sex for the first time. I'd always told her that when it was right for her, she would know better than I would, and I only asked that she use condoms, and tell me when it happened, so that we could talk about it afterward if she wanted. She did wake me up one night, and I asked her if it had been enjoyable, and she said yes, and I said good and asked her if she wanted to talk about it and she said no, and I went back to sleep.

I don't know what kind of parent that makes me sound like, but our system worked for us. She knew there was absolutely NOTHING on Earth she couldn't talk to me about. Nothing was going to turn into judgement or a big screaming match.

Anyway, she and this young man continued to get more serious. He spent a lot of time at our house, and she spent a lot of time with his family, and they got pregnant. On purpose. And I have to tell you, I was livid. Not because she was too young to have a baby, which was true, but because she'd done this when I was already stretching our food stamps to feed one adult and two teenagers, because yes, I was feeding him too. I expressed my anger, and got it all out of the way, then I decided if I was going to be a gramma, I was going to buckle down and be happy about it. Carpe diem, because grandbabies!

My grandson is a wonderful boy - charming and supersmart and caring and strong and a handful and a half. I wouldn't trade him for anything. I absolutely adore babies of all kinds, but the love I have for him is something fiercer, deeper.

So, a year into their relationship, they had my grandson. My son-in-law's family were moving back to Florida from Texas, and he wanted to stay here in Texas for his senior year, after which he planned to go into the Air Force, to do something with his life, to provide for his new family, for many reasons. Mr. Potatohead (son-in-law) stayed behind, with one of his family's close friends, and due to financial circumstances beyond my control, we moved one more time.

Before Mr. Potatohead could enlist, he had to either sign away his parental rights or marry my daughter (AF rules). They got married. It was a beautiful day in a local park, and the story of how it happened is boring and entailed a lot of intense discussions with the man who provided it for them. Suffice it to say I did not get to plan any part of my only daughter's wedding, with the exception of her godmother walking her across the bridge aka down the aisle. I might still be a little miffed about that.

This time when we moved, my parents were footing the bill for a year. We moved into an apartment they chose, and we got the bare minimum - no cable, no phone, no extras of any kind. I even had to stop my meds because I could no longer pay for quarterly visits to the doctor. Things got really tight. But worse, Mr and Mrs Potatohead were separated by more than just a couple of miles of walking. It was difficult for all of us, but especially for them - being newly married and not able to live together and experience the pregnancy together sucked.

In the new school system, there was a separate special school for pregnant girls (and other high-dropout-risk kids), where they could work at their own pace and complete their education in a more relaxed environment. This was the first time my daughter actually surprised me in a good way. She finished her entire senior year by the end of October. This woman, my daughter who had always all but hated school, applied herself and managed to finish everything so that when she walked down the halls of that school with their every Friday graduation, in her purple cap and gown, she was accompanied by her newborn son, in his own purple cap and gown. It was an amazing moment for her, and I couldn't have been prouder if she'd been strolling the stage at MIT.

Mr Potatohead got through Basic Training. We went to his graduation at Lackland AFB. He finished Tech School and got his first duty station, in Italy. I didn't know the Air Force sent people OCONUS on their first duty station. Mr Potatohead went first, when Baby Potatohead was ten months old, and several months later, my daughter followed him to Italy, her first move as an Air Force wife.

Once Mr Potatohead had finished high school, he'd moved to our apartment, and after Baby Potatohead was born, he was there, too. So when they all left, I was alone, for the first time in nearly fifteen years, missing my daughter, missing my grandson, missing my son-in-love.

I had no idea what to do with myself. What I'd always considered my life's purpose, raising Mrs Potatohead to happy, healthy adulthood, was accomplished, and I was completely undone by the hole she'd left behind.

I have always struggled with severe depression, and that first year without my daughter left me lower than I could remember ever being. At the same time, I was dealing with packing up that apartment, finding a new place to live, reaching out to people when I could, and hibernating the rest of the time - I'm not good at asking for help. Things got bad; I knew they were bad, though I didn't really understand the extent of my emotional state until I was climbing out of it.

Fast forward (too late, I know) about two years, and I was watching Dollhouse, with Eliza Dushku and Tahmoh Penikett. I adored Tahmoh's character in Dollhouse and wanted more of whatever he'd been in. When I looked him up, there was Battlestar Galactica, and I had vague memories of more than one friend telling me I would enjoy it. I think I'd resisted because what I remembered of the original series was pretty campy and cheesy, and not really to my taste.

I watched it anyway, and before the mini-series was over, I was in love. Absolutely head over heels in love with Kara Thrace. I love Karl Agathon, too, don't get me wrong, but Kara Thrace is a once in a lifetime character, and I can never thank you enough for taking that part.

I was on a serious downward spiral, flailing about without the least notion why the hell I was still here on this planet, and not really caring much if I left, so when you came into my life, I was broken and hurting and aimless and lost.

Thanks to BSG, I got out of my head, cared about something so much I went to the internet to find other people who liked BSG, to find fanfiction, to commune with other BSG lovers. I started writing. I've never written fiction in my entire life, unless it was related to school, and had in fact always felt a little envious that everyone else in my family wrote, and my thing was polishing words instead of producing them. Suddenly I was writing stories, sad and funny and sexy and heartbreaking and wonderful stories. And not only were they helping me cope, people sometimes told me they'd needed that reminder at that precise moment. People liked my stories. My mind was blown.

I am never going to ask you to read any of my stuff (oh my fucking gods, no, Katee), though if you ever accidentally do, I hope you find a deep love and respect for Kara Thrace in it.

Like I said, I started writing. It was my shiny new boyfriend, and writing got me through another really rough year without my kid, and I was still alive at the other end. I met some fantastic women, made friends, learned I had something to offer others, something they needed, got better at writing, and in among all that, I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Took me long enough.

I'm an editor, aka a beta reader. I take people's words and make them better. I especially help writers whose first language isn't English to become more comfortable with their words. I seem to have created a niche for German writers. That's fandom, anyway.

I'm also an editor in real life - YA fiction, murder mysteries, LBGT works. I have a small but growing stable of writers who have trusted me with their work, and I'm slowly getting my name out there. I'm not with a big name publishing house. I'm the girl the indie authors can come to, the one they can afford. I LOVE my work, so much that if I could afford to do it for nothing, I truly would.

My first word-love is still writing, though, and Kara Thrace plays a huge part in that. Through her, I've explored birth and death and loss and depression and love and hate and so many other facets of human emotion. She's a fascinating and complex woman, and exploring her, I explore myself. Loving her, I love myself. All those ugly bits from my past found a mirror in Kara Thrace, and if she's lovable despite those "flaws," then so am I. Those old tapes have lost their power over me. I like myself, and that's something I haven't always been able to say.

Kara Thrace had a hard life, and she was one messed up woman, but no matter what, she never stopped loving. Sure, she hid behind sarcasm and cigars and sex and alcohol, but she loved, deeply, even if she pretended she didn't.

I've heard you say in interviews that if you played Kara now, you probably wouldn't be so fearless, that you were young and didn't know any better.

All I can say is, thank you for being fearless, for going ninety to nothing, for putting so much work into Kara Thrace. Because the bottom line is, Kara Thrace saved my life. You saved my life. And I am so fucking grateful for it.

I fell in love with Kara Thrace. And through Kara, I fell in love with you.

Even if you never impacted anyone else's life (which isn't true, anyway), you crashed into mine and pulled me out of some dark place that had almost succeeded in swallowing me whole. I can't truly put into words what you did for me.

But you weren't done.

Last year, my dad and his wife split up. They'd been married nearly forty-two years, since I was eight. They were doing the divorce dance of dividing assets and selling houses and keeping lawyers in expensive cars. My dad and I had been estranged, but he called me, invited me to meet him for lunch, and we had a good talk. He talked about how things had been for him, about falling in love with someone new, about the hold my stepmother had had on all our lives, and we continued to get close again.

He asked me to be his emergency contact at his apartment, asked me to manage the movers, asked me to come take care of him after he had his eye surgery, asked me to be his next-of-kin for medical stuff. We connected again, and had some quality clear-the-air conversations, learned new and surprising things about each other.

Then he started having heart attacks. I was cadging rides in the middle of the night to get to a hospital forty minutes away, terrified every time that he'd die before I could get there, and spending weeks at a time at his place to take care of him when he got out, and even though it was scary as hell, we kept talking. We kept saying the words. We made sure we didn't waste a moment on impatience or negativity.

His final heart attack was on August fifth, a year ago, when he was seventy-two, and though I miss him desperately, I'm beyond thrilled that I got seven fantastic months with him before he went.

Kara Thrace stayed in my head, helping me heal by sharing her many lives with me, and Victoria Moretti showed up, and reminded me family appears in the strangest places, and through those two magnificent women, you helped me through the loss of someone I had just found again, and gave me strength not to break this time.

I have absolutely adored watching you over the last three years. Battlestar Galactica, Longmire, Oculus, even The Last Sentinel (which we will mostly pretend never happened), Haunting in Connecticut, Riddick, cons and interviews and Ask Katee and motorcycle rides with Tricia. Your zest for life, and your unflinchingly raunchy sense of humor, and the obvious love you shower on your friends and family, both two- and four-legged, are not just encouraging, they're life-affirming.

I won't say never change, because hell, we all change. But keep being you, Katee, keep being the woman who makes lives better without really thinking about it. Keep. Being. You. Keep loving hard and living out loud and making the world a better place with your sparkle and shine and your infectious laugh (I LOVE your laugh).

And know, deep inside, there is at least one person on this planet, someone you've never met, who is grateful beyond words for all of who you are, one person who would pick up the phone, day or night, if you ever needed a listening ear yourself. One person who might be the reason you got out of swimming and into acting. The universe works in mysterious ways, right?

Because of my dad falling in love in his sixties, I know that fifty is not too late to find the kind of love I've wanted all of my life.

Because of Victoria Moretti, I'm open to possibilities. My image of who might be out there for me is much more flexible now.

Because of Kara Thrace, I'm ready to fall in love again. Really ready.

Because of you, I have friends I would never have met any other way than through fandom, women who helped keep me afloat during those long months at the hospital and the agonizing weeks after my dad's death.

I don't know what's in store for my next fifty years, but I'm ready for whatever it is, and I have you to thank for it.

I love you.

Thank you.

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