I Am Who I Am Because of Her

Today at Bonnie’s memorial service I overheard a few of her high school classmates talking about Bonnie having the first computer of the bunch, a Commodore 64. I smiled gave them a brief summary of the following. This is part of my speech I gave at my ITT graduation in 2003:

When I was about 10 years old, my sister Bonnie purchased her first computer – a Commodore 64. I can still remember sitting at the corner desk in the back bedroom of our house playing Montezuma’s Revenge and feeling so fortunate that she trusted me enough to play on her computer. However, when she went away to college she decided that she didn’t want me to use it so she hid the power cable.

Well, one afternoon I was bored and decided I wanted to be sneaky and use the computer anyway. I found a power cable that fit & plugged it in. What a great plan! There was no way in the world she would find out I used it! I was so proud of myself… until I turned it on and it didn’t work. I sat back in the chair trying to figure out what was wrong, when I smelled an odd stench. All of a sudden, I heard “BZZZZZZT” and saw a little puff of smoke coming from the back of the keyboard where the power cable plugged in. In a panic, I quickly jumped up, turned off the computer and unplugged it from the wall. I then inspected the keyboard to see if there was any damage. There was. Black soot partially covered the back of what use to be a white keyboard. I made several attempts over the next couple of hours to resuscitate the computer. Defeated, I walked into the bathroom, grabbed the rubbing alcohol, and scrubbed the soot off the computer. Days later, when Bonnie came home from college and asked what was wrong with the computer, I was the first to volunteer information, “I don’t know what happened! I didn’t touch it!”

For 18 years, until my graduation speech confession, Bonnie thought the computer was damaged in a lightening storm.

I credit my career path to two people. One is now my co-worker; he called me a chicken when I was nervous to install RAM myself while I still worked in Marketing. The other is Bonnie; because of her love of computers and it rubbed off on me. When I gave my graduation speech I knew I needed to tell that story.

It’s not well known but I wouldn’t had graduated if it hadn’t been for Bonnie. I was a full-time student and worked a full-time job an hour away. I was exhausted and wanted to quit just before my last semester. She gave me a pep talk, ensuring me that the next few months of hell would be worth it. If anyone knew how hard it was, it was her. She received her degree from NMU 5 years prior. She also worked and went to school full-time, plus she completed her bachelor degree in 3 1/2 years with a dual major. I sucked it up, graduated 3 months later, and my quiet introvert self got up in front of a large group of people so I could give her credit. She was so proud as she sat along with the rest family and friends of my graduating class that I could nearly feel it radiating off her while I was on stage. I had to look away because I saw her get choked up.

That very brief moment overhearing her classmates conversation at the service as we looked at photos from Bonnie’s life triggered a flood of memories. What an incredible person she was. Bonnie is the sister I am closest to in age. She influenced my life in more ways than I can possibly imagine. And far more than I ever gave her credit. She was brilliant, beautiful, funny, artistic and always looked for new ways to enjoy life.

I wanted so badly to get up and say all of this at her memorial but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it together. That’s why I’m sharing it now.

My heart is so heavy. I missed her so much when she moved to NMU after high school that I got sick and Mom had to ask her to come home to visit me. After she graduated in 1999, she considered going to North Carolina for her Masters so she went on a campus visit… I got sick again. That said, even though we’re not nearly as close and have gone years without speaking at times, I guess it’s really not a huge surprise I haven’t been sleeping since she was flown down to Ann Arbor.

While holding her hand on Thursday evening, not wanting to let her go, I heard the chorus of Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift cut through the air.

Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams

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