Saturday, September 20, 2008
Today my Dad called. I missed it. Like most every other Saturday, I was at Fayes Video and Espresso, on the bench, post breakfast delivery. I didn't answer his call, because I know I can always return it. On the message he left, his tone was inquisitive, optimistic and loving as usual. The only unique aspect of this vocal note was evident at the end, where he was speaking to someone else, presumably my Mom, when he said "no." His voice serious. I thought nothing of it, as Pammy can ask about dirty dishes, scheduling dilemmas and request other mundane information while Pop is mid conversation. I called him back at 1:00 after missing his second attempt at getting a hold of me. We spoke. He asked me about the SF weather conditions, a run of the mill comparative conversation we often have, before he told me he had bad news. I already knew what it was, but it wasn't until he said "Roy died," that I started bawling profusely.
Roy Johnson was a movie buff, a lover of silver screen cinema, a philanthropist, an art enthusiast, a foodie, a divine partner, a scolar, and the best damn date I've ever had. Roy owned and operated Limelight Books on Market Street for roughly 30 years. The black and white 8x10 photo collection he had would make any movie maven weep. He appreciated the art of film so intensely that he could tell you any fact, from script verbage to personal actor profile fun facts. In my life, however, he was a gentleman who consistently proved and reminded me that chivalry is alive and well. Roy would often invite me to art openings where they serve gratis champagne and give you VIP tours of newly unveiled exhibitions. He escorted me to lavish dinners, a genius at wining and dining a lady, and always made sure I got home safely, like my Dad would. Nevertheless, this fine suitor of mine could never be my one and only, as he'd been with Harlen, (lucky s.o.b!) for over 40 years.
Roy and Harlen are two of my brood of gay uncles. Men I've had the honor and pleasure of growing up around. I learned early on in life that love comes to us in many forms, and wherever we find it, can get it, we should - because it's rare. This was the simple explanation my Mom gave me, after someone questioned me with a negative undetone, about the male/male couples in my life. I never had the chance to be embarassed, ashamed or uncomfortable with their love. A lesson, I think, that has gifted me with the deep compassion I have in my day to day life. For people who don't experience love in all it's incarnations, it seems simple to disregard it. That, thankfully, was never an option for me. I only pray that I will someday have a relationship like Roy and Harlen had; one full of laughter, of respect, travel, adventure and kindness. Without their example, I just might have thought settling was alright. Not blood related, they are nevertheless, my family.
The very first time I was introduced to San Francisco, and all its majesty, was from their home in Twin Peaks. Ever since, they have been my safe haven, their house, the place I find my folks when they visit, where I can sip the ever ready cup of coffee and ever full glass of wine. Their house was, and is my home. It's where I've shared my evolution as a San Francisco local, where I've grown up from a bratty 13 year old girl, to a hopefully successful woman in her late, late 20s. Their love was, and is what reminds me that I am loved and lovable . . . considering how they stuck by my side to watch and nurture my growth.
Roy had cancer, and Glaucoma. He had more ailments these last few years than I can name, because ultimately, he never uttered a word about them to anyone but Harlen. A trooper, and a kind warrior he was, up until the very end; last night. To tell you anything about Roy, is to tell you that he loved and lived life to the fullest, truly. He cherished people, and reminded them that they matter, that they are loved and that they complete his life daily. He put others before himself, all the while taking immaculate care of himself. His sunglasses reminded me of stardom, and with his hair always styled, he presented himself to others like he was meeting royalty. What manners.
One night we attended a benefit at City Hall. He called me hours earlier to ask what color dress I would be wearing that night. "Red," I told him. When we met, he wore a tuxedo and a bow tie to match my dress.
I love you Roy, I miss you already. Thank you for your words, your embraces, your unwavering support and your sass. I'll see you on the other shore or side, I don't yet know. I plan, however, to wear a canary yellow dress . . . but if you prefer a blue tie, that works too.