BR was the easiest person I knew to disagree with. Not because she was particularly disagreeable or that we disagreed often. It’s just that she was so willing to accept that other people disagreed with her on many topics. It wasn’t a horrible thing, and she didn’t take it personally. She was so convinced of her beliefs that it simply didn’t matter. She could understand your side, but you weren’t going to convince her she was wrong. And she wasn’t trying to convince you she was right. She was just being honest with you.
Her honesty was absolute, and some people found it off-putting. But she was honest about who she was, what she believed, what she liked, and what she hated. BR believed the world could be a better place for everyone, and the world was a better place for those who knew her.
She and I may have disagreed about many things, but not about the big stuff.
We both loved music, and went to many shows together. But she admired virtuosity and insightful lyrics, whereas I prefer expressiveness and have an admittedly unusual definition of musical interestingness. Her fascination with boy bands befuddled me, but her passion for the all musicians she loved was infectious, even if you didn’t really like their music. And sometimes, unexpected good things came of it.
BR wanted to see Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas for her birthday one year. Gary bought the tickets and I went along for the ride (my birthday was a couple weeks after BR’s, so we often celebrated together). I wasn’t familiar with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and it turns out I was quite bored by her show, but if I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have discovered Gillian Welch, who opened the show for Carpenter, and whose music I adore.
I mostly saw BR when we went to the movies together. There were always plenty of films that we both wanted to see, though she preferred lighter fare than I, so they were sometimes guilty pleasures for me. BR figured the world was a difficult and depressing enough place that she didn’t need to sit through depressing films.
She liked what she liked, and if she liked you, she was the most generous, considerate, giving person in the world, and never asked for anything in return (but was always grateful for what she got).
Because of her honesty, BR lacked a social filter. She would often share things that most people would rather keep quiet. I knew things about her “shrink” (her term) that were probably best kept to the privacy of their sessions. And she had no qualms telling me when things bothered her or when she was being neurotic. She was aware of it, so why shouldn’t everyone else?
She once pulled up her sweatshirt to show off her mastectomy scars while waiting for a movie in the Cinerama Dome because she was impressed with how they looked. There was no concern about other theatergoers seeing – she just didn’t care.
She had the same care-free attitude towards her cancer, although it clearly was a burden on her. She was not a victim, she just got sick. Even when she knew that it would kill her sooner rather than later, she was not bitter. I think she was more concerned with the impact it would have on the lives of those around her than herself.
Because of her brave face, I tried not to let it bother me. This was, of course, impossible. It was most difficult seeing her the first time after her radiation treatment when her hair was just starting to grow back. It reminded me of Raleigh’s unfortunate hairstyling accident. She didn’t let on, but it must have reminded her as well. BR talked about guilt, but the only time I saw it really bother her was Raleigh’s accident. It was one thing she had no possibility of fixing. It didn’t make her love him any less, and she appreciated that it made him unique. But it bothered her.
Raleigh was one of the things about BR that other people found… odd. Raleigh was a Plush Guy (her term – she hated the name “stuffed animal”) who was BR’s best friend, confidant, and constant companion. Well, Raleigh stayed home most of the time, but he was a fixture of BR’s life, even when he wasn’t present.
There were other Plush Guys, but Raleigh was the Alpha Plush Guy. And Moosey was his right-hand moose. I initially thought that the stories about their adventures were just a fantastical way to make BR’s life a little more colorful. A little fantasy is never a bad thing, so I played along. I think that was BR’s way of figuring out who was worth calling a friend. The nicest compliment she ever paid me was to calling me a Plush Guy.
I quickly figured out that Raleigh and Moosey were more than fantastical imaginary friends. They were the Jekyll and Hyde faces of BR, whether she knew it or not (though I think she did). Confident, outgoing Raleigh was all the parts of BR that she found good and admirable. And Moosey was his timid, neurotic, but charmingly (and often naively) optimistic foil.
The suave, charming Raleigh was the hit of my wedding (he received an invite). Even if people who were there don’t remember BR, they remember Raleigh, because Raleigh is the star of his own life. Because of him, BR strove to be the star of her own life, too – and I think she did a pretty good job of it.