This blog must be big in scope– so perhaps a few posts separated by opportunities to remember and meditate on what to say, thus please forgive errors in organization and its potential length and sentimentality. It has to be able to share just a fraction of a great big personality that you may have had the opportunity to meet or that you were unfortunate enough to miss. I want to document parts of my years with this sisterfriend of mine who is no longer with us; Eileen Cecilia Griesemer Petters.
This photo was taken on the day of the blessingway for her second and last baby, Marley. She was cherished as she should have been that day; her mother friends surrounded her with loving attention, her favorite foods, a long time friend, Rachel, read a beautiful prayer and blessing for her and the upcoming birth. Her belly was painted with henna, her feet bathed in beautiful smells and flower petals. Her jokes were heard and a blessing in and of themselves for the rest of us– she could be masterful at keeping up her spirits, which flew higher than most folks’, in trying times. We didn’t know if the wee babe growing inside was a boy or girl or what the conditions would be for his birth. We only knew Eileen adored being a mother. And she was good at it. Really, really good.
The tattoo of a “Sailor Jerry” girl on her left hip/side is one that she shared with me and four others. We shared almost everything in and about our lives in those days (2001) when we got “her”(the sailor). We lived as family when we left our biological families (including other “family” members that were more than roommates) at 18 and shared many houses, jobs, dreams, and naughty and/or silly adventures. There was tremendous loyalty and understanding of one another. I came up with the idea for us all (roommates and closest companions) to share the tattoo for the celebration of my 21st birthday. In my mind, it was a beautiful scar to remind us of that time in our lives. Where we were and what we had…. each other. The tattoo is simply classical American style and not symbolic in this instance, but the ritual of doing it together, healing the wound together, and wearing it for the rest of our days was symbolic of the lasting power of our connections. No matter how far away from that day we might ever travel I wanted us to remember that we were once tied tight in a family that could not be untied.
Through the years our connection was tight at times and loose at others. She lived far away during some years and sometimes closeby. Sometimes we fought like cats and couldn’t speak for periods. But we always came back. Always. I have never had a sister, but I hope that if I did that the relationship would resemble the one shared with Eileen. Finishing one another’s sentences doesn’t cover it– we finished and knew each other’s thoughts much of the time. We could motion and make half words and the meaning be crystal clear to us. She defended my honor more times than I can count, and had more pride in my work than almost anyone. She was the first call I made when I got a new client. Always. She was the sort of friend who left the criticism in the back seat, or out all together. There are enough people out there waiting to tell someone what they’re doing wrong. Eileen minimized my flaws and reminded me of what I did right. She scooped me off the floor (my heart and my body) many times and helped put me back together. I could rely on her to appear in a flash if I ever uttered the words, “I need you.”
I called her “Come Through in a Crisis Eileen.” She was a gymnast in body and spirit, both as a youngster, teen, and adult instructor. She was trusted with the physical safety and emotional buoyancy of her students– to keep them from being hurt, discouraged, or uninspired. Among her many other skills, she could pull herself together and run full speed towards the vault with profound power and an absence of fear. We used this mental image a lot when she struggled. This trait carried over into her personal life much of the time, though in the past year her power was running lower. Still, the enthusiasm she could muster was astounding. She reminded me of a motivational speaker I listened to at a high school field trip function long ago who kept repeating, “I am SUPERCHARGED!!!! with ENTHUSIASM!!!!”
I try to keep that voice fresh in my memory; to laugh heartily when I hear it instead of bemoan that I cannot hear it aloud now.
Eileen died this April in a car wreck, leaving behind Autumn, Marley, and her husband Ryan– who is battling leukemia. This family is in need of love, prayers, and support. www.pettersfamily.com
I have a few funny stories I would like to share here, to preserve in history– maybe for her babies to glimpse someday and smile at the silly and wonderful mommy they had. To tantalize: the origin of “stinky hands griesemer” , fine dining eileen, Jamaica on my face, panhandling in the atlanta airport for parking garage fees, and a gleeful list of gathered quotations. Coming soon…
In the meantime, hug your friends tightly… bury hatchets quickly, appreciate the more plentiful and wonderful times with all your senses. Remember those who are struggling and send your love or physical support to them.