Sad news. Just days after speaking with her at length at the Chicago Pen Show, Susan Wirth died.
I had first met Susan over a decade ago when I was working at Kinko’s as the person who ordered out business cards. Her cards had an elaborate hand lettered logo that I admired. She explained that there’s a pen for every hand. That was her thing.
She invited me to get in touch with her about finding the right pen for my hand. I was working long hours while caring for an infant in my off hours. I didn’t have the money or the time.
Again, when I spoke with her at the pen show, I didn’t want to trouble her with too lengthy aconsultation because I knew I couldn’t afford that tier of pen. Again, I regret not taking her up on the offer.
Nevertheless, she spoke with us in depth about the functionality of various nib types. Dah had several questions that she answered with patience, expertise, and charm.
Her voice was rough. That’s the only indication that maybe she was under the weather. Speaking to her Sunday, we never would have guessed that by Tuesday she’d be gone.
I admired this woman. I took it hard.
Dah invited me to come spend time with him, and I thought that would be a great idea, even though – or, especially because – I was shook. Taking it hard.
I could have just hid in his bed, but the weather was too nice, and I didn’t want to waste a bit of the time we had together (not that a nap would be a waste of time) so I suggested an adventure.
We drove out about a half hour west in search of different thrift stores. Got a great lunch at a local dive. (Dah had Italian beef, I had a hamburger and buffalo wings.) Saw someone there that Dit knows through Ham radio clubs. Didn’t buy much, but had a great time.
It’s been sunny and unseasonably hot, and we were exploring a town known as a mecca for chocolate production. The air smelled like baking brownies.
On the way back, we got to talking about my daughter and that led to my sharing my own experience with family troubles and experiences with counseling during my high school years. Dah’s a great listener.
Better than I’ve ever had.
I got another invitation to join him for a Hmong storyteller/hip hop artist appearing at an Asian Appreication event at a college the following day. I accepted.
The presentation was energetic and powerful. Afterwards, we explored the interconnect tunnels of the campus, finding the bookstore with some help.
Then we took a chance on a Chinese restaurant we’d never tried before, sitting side by side in the window counter. I got spicy garlic chicken with pork friend rice. Dah had vegetable mei fun. Excellent food,and even better company.
We exchanged our own families’ immigration stories, mostly Dah talking about his parents. Through forged passports, foraged food, bribery, seasickness, hurdles with language and bureaucracy, and detours that took them throughout the world, they ended up together.
I knew less about my mom’s journey, so didn’t say much. Loved listening to Dah’s stories, even though some of he’d told me earlier. I feel bad that he’s shared with me and some of it I’ve forgotten. That’s why it’s good to write things down.
I found a Totoro mug for sale on the way out of the restaurant and bought it on a whim. I tend to have bad luck with buying things new, but thought I’d take a chance.
I feel so much better after spending time with Dah. I feel like in the past couple days we’ve grown a deeper intimacy too, without really trying.
With every affective, we still grow closer. I’m very lucky to have him in my life.
Feeling lucky is a good feeling.