Loss for me is not singular, though each one has a corresponding weight.
I have lost teeth and hair and my ability to bear children. I'm losing my vision and memory and my facility with numbers and names. I have lost so many things; pieces of jewelry that I ached for, feeling I'd lost some part of love and my history abandoned in a hotel room, an airport, in the grime of a city street. The first Halloween I wasn't forced to parade as Saint Teresa, I dressed up like a "fancy lady," aka prepubescent whore. My mother let me wear lipstick, rouge and a rhinestone diamond bracelet; my introduction to the trappings of my future woman's world. But by night's end, tottering home in plastic heels, lugging my bulging pillowcase I realized my diamond bracelet was no longer on my skinny wrist. I cried out, searching, heels relinquished to my pillowcase with the Mars bars and M&Ms while I ran barefoot through the streets, dodging smashed pumpkins, retracing my steps, searching the gutters, walkways and front lawns, convinced of my mother's anger and sorrow to lose such a treasure. Later, she told me it was only costume jewelry; but the heart has a memory and there's still a small ache from that night, in the glinting of those lost "diamonds."
I have lost so many loves. I have lost friends to misunderstanding and geography. Lost my dogs: Lady and Rufus, my Nana Ford and my Grandma and Grandpa Burns. I've lost aunts and uncles I barely knew and dear strangers who touched my life, like old Mr. Charles the waving man of Berkeley who made a difference every morning on his rush hour street corner, in his suit, smiling and waving his big yellow gloves at passersby, making the world smile, shouting "have a good day!" The hardest losses have been my first baby born without vision, the death of my niece Eva at the budding age of 12, and recently watching my dear friend Heidi lose her fight with the breast cancer that spread to her lungs and brain on the eve of her 50th birthday. It is the people and the lost moments I miss most, wishing I had had more time, longing to have known and loved them all better. All these losses have taken up residence as rents in my heart's muscle memory.
I've lost my confidence innumberable times, lost my breath, I've lost my way. I lose ideas every day, like the story ideas, little gifts in the dark of night that I didn't jump out of bed to capture before they evaporated in the light of day. But those are nothing compared to the loss of big defining ideas like my America The Beautiful, My Country 'Tis Of Thee, lost in an erosion of belief by bits and pieces that began as a child seeing little John John beside his father's casket or watching Robert and so many good men shot down. When they killed Martin Luther King, Jr. I lost the voice that schooled me in the belief that we shall overcome and that mine was a righteous nation. I lost my Church when, wanting to be a priest, my Church didn't want me. I lost my faith when made to cover my head and arms before their misogynist god, when asked to pledge my life and my future children to a church and to kiss a Bishop's ring and when I was told again and again, "Teresa, we do not ask those questions.
I do not know how to think of loss in the singular, but rather as a constellation; loss is the rebar in my foundation and all the rents in my heart. I have lost so much and so many I could never name one as the "Worst thing" nor understand the lesson of a single loss in isolation from all the loss that preceded it, all the loss that followed, the losses still to come. Perhaps this is why I lose my temper easily, rail loudest at the little things like car keys gone missing, losing my words, my place, my parking spot, my date book--yes the Luddite in me is alive and well, evidence that I am already losing the techonological race to the future, hints of inevitable losses to come.
Causes Teresa Burns Gunther Supports
Alameda County Meals on Wheels, Union of Concerned Scientists; Planned Parenthood; ACLU, Women for Women, International; La Clinica; Kasimu Education Fund...