The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to connect with people who would not otherwise come into your life, whether it is a customer contact at work who, over time, becomes a friend, a special someone met on a dating site, or a friend made due to a common interest.
In the spring of 2001, I was a fan of the "General Hospital" spin-off "Port Charles." Not many of my friends are soap fans, and those who are watch different ones than I. There was a storyline on "PC" that I really wanted to discuss with other fans of the show. ("PC" made vampires sexy way before Stefenie Meyer-and yes, I'm a "Twilight" fan). So I went online and found an ABC message board site. I started posting there regularly with other fans of PC, but it wasn't long before my focused shifted to the "General Hospital" boards.
Over time, I started to develop a network of friends with these other women (and one guy). When the show sucked, we would post about other things and we got to know each other beyond who our favorite characters were and what we thought of the current storylines. There was a long stretch of suckiness so we got to know each other quite well. Our online friendships progressed to the point we were comfortable exchanging Christmas cards.
One of the women I "met" on the site was a lady named Janis, aka "Indyjan" due to her love of Indiana Jones. She was older than I-old enough to be my mom as I was one of the youngest members on the board-but I enjoyed posting with her. She had quite the sense of humor! And quite the thing for Harrison Ford!
And then one day, someone mentioned that we had all been posting for years and several members of the group had been able to meet in person. Wouldn't it be great if we could agree on a central location and all meet for a weekend? I wasn't sure how I felt about that-I mean, really, how geeky is meeting up with a bunch of women from a soap board?! But James talked me into going, so off to Vegas I went. (I'm not really sure how it was determined Vegas is a "central" location, since it clearly isn't in the middle of the country). And I had a blast!
There were six of us who went. Four girls and two very brave husbands. One of the women was Janis, or Indy, as we called her. Her husband was one of the two very brave husbands. It only took a few minutes to see how much in love they still were after about 30 years of marriage. He was so protective of her. Although, he was a bit of a reluctant co-conspirator when we decided to track down the RV of the other couple that was with us so T's favorite character could leave her a love note and I decided it had to be in a guy's handwriting to be more authentic. He was a trooper, however, and luckily, we had found the right RV. We were envisioning the end of a marriage had we been wrong!
We reverted to childhood playing the boardwalk games at Circus Circus. We had tickets to see "Avenue Q" at the Wynn (talk about one extreme to the other!) and Janis said it best when she said that place was champagne and caviar and she was beer and pretzels. My response to that was "I like pretzels." We caught the eye of the security guard as we gazed at the really big and really expensive jewelry and I held up my hand to the window to see how a ring would look on my hand. Why is really expensive jewelry always so ugly? We joked that we could see the playboy of "General Hospital" at the high rollers table. We saw the Strip shut down so the Mexicans could do their first annual protest walk. We had a great weekend in which online friends became real life friends as well.
We continued to post together on the boards. I have fallen very far behind on "GH" (I'm on last summer still. I stopped watching after James died and a young character on the show had just lost the "love of his life"-although on soaps that changes often-and I couldn't handle the storyline, although they did a great job with it). As a result, I have become an infrequent poster, but I think about my girls often and miss posting with them. But with the advances in social networking, I have become friends with most of them on Facebook-there are a couple who still haven't taken that plunge. I kept up with Janis that way.
Yesterday morning, I received an e-mail through Facebook from another member of our little group letting me know she was thinking of me because she was sure Janis's death by sudden heart attack had to be bringing up painful memories for me. I hadn't been online much Sunday so this was a shock to me. And my heart just breaks for her husband and their daughters. I know the road ahead having lost James and my dad and it isn't an easy one-and it is especially hard when you have no warning.
I can't believe she's gone. That there will never be another post on the boards or on Facebook from her. She and her husband kept a community theater going in their hometown; there will never be another status update letting her friends know it is their last chance to buy tickets. There will never another status update letting everyone know what a wonderful job the cast did and how proud she is of them. I wonder if she will meet James in Heaven? (The other angels are in trouble if that's the case-they'd wreak havoc, I'm sure!).
Our group has seen loss before, but this is the first time that it has been one of us and we are all just in shock over it. I keep thinking that I can't have anymore of my family members die because I don't have many left. But I was wrong. I lost a sister-not a biological one, but one I chose to have in my life.
Good-bye, my friend. You are already missed.