Pictures show beautiful places and adventure, they don't hint at hours spent plotting details checking maps. They don't show letters and follow up on the bearocratic side of things. There's no easy way to check a box that says itinerant entertainer trading good company and help with everything from technology to yard work and cooking. There's no easy way to say "I have no fixed address, no actual home. My income goes to meeting survival needs and occasionally towards appreciating the breathtaking sights of the country. I value life more than money."
This year my community has been torn by unexpected deaths of young vibrant souls. Brave youth who lived and gave us amazing memories. Yesterday we got word that our friend Stephen Ommerle passed away. Word came hesitant, slowly reaching us all. We visited with him in Taos earlier this year. I drank in the sparkle in his eyes, so young despite his age and failing health. His spirit was noble and bold. He was genuine and genuinely incredible. Omms, as he went by, was the original bad guy to Taso's hero. Omms was the villain you loved or loved to hate. He was never the sort to ask for anything. We got there to find his fridge empty, his cupboards sparse. His tire went flat but he couldn't afford a patch. Even though I only had enough money to make it to my next gig and Danny had no excess either we filled his fridge, cooked him real food and listened to a lifetime of captivating stories. We called friends, but when they offered to assist, Omms, proud as ever, played down his need.
He spent his time watching news, shows, socializing with his beloved cat and smoking cigarettes while he waited for death. His sense of humor was profound. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer ten years ago, yet for that time death was distracted and left him waiting. He mentioned in jousting and stunts he'd broken over 60 bones in his body.
I picture him now, on the porch smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee waiting pensively for Death. I picture the relief on his face, he'd come to terms with death and dying in the years he lived in between. Waiting in a little apartment in Taos, noble and brave. Distancing himself to face his next journey alone.
As we left he gave me one of his shirts. A knight with little left, yet he still gave. It's beautiful and now it's priceless. It's the gift of a friend we were heading to visit next. A friend we were plotting to help financially this fall. A friend we embraced this past May, wondering if we'd see him alive again.
As these thoughts and feelings play through my head I type letters and organize medical bills from Danny's treatment this summer so the beaurocrats in his county address them. An ocean of numbers, itemized everything stacks up and folds into a priority tracked envelope with signature confirmation to prevent another claimed loss of paperwork. I redid forms four times with him for his medical coverage between May and August.
Work travel plans tug at me, I'm reminded I need to reserve hotels, rental cars and forward receipts to my boss. I've got to show where the travel money goes legitimately.
Outside the sun shines, somewhere lions dream and I see Omms bright eyes and smile. He was a lion, a lover, a fighter and a friend.