The Women’s Forum wasn’t the only CompuServe forum I joined. I also signed on to the California Forum and from there, due to friends I made, the Travel Forum. Gretchen was a leader in both, and I really liked her style. She was kind, funny, well-traveled, knowledgable, and could stand up for herself and others. Even in the early days of the Internet, there were those who seemed to be spoiling for a fight.
The California Forum was great fun because most of the members lived in the state, but we got lots of questions from those who wanted to visit. California is a really big state, and that seemed a hard concept to grasp for many who were planning a trip. Especially those from Europe where one can travel to numerous countries within a few hours. They wanted to fly into Los Angeles, see Disneyland, and for some unfathomable reason, Death Valley, all in one day. Then they planned to take in Yosemite and San Francisco in the next day. Those of us who live in this wide-spread state, could only chuckle. It takes hours and hours of travel time to go from place to place. Even with a whole week in California, one would have trouble seeing everything.
Gretchen was a moderator for California Forum and she always had good advice as she lived in San Francisco. Bernal Heights to be exact. She wrote of attractions and restaurants there and in India where she also traveled during her vacations. As a tax consultant, she had summer and fall off to do many things. Many times she would put together meet-ups when those traveling from other places arrived in the Bay Area. I was able to join a few of these and get to meet many forum members in person.
In 2002, when I mentioned I had never had dim sum, Gretchen invited me to meet her and another Bay Area resident in Oakland for the “best of the best dim sum.” I stayed at my daughter’s apartment in Berkeley, took BART to Oakland, and met the two for a fun-filled and delicious afternoon. Another time, when staying at my daughter’s apartment, I took BART to the Mission District in San Francisco to meet Gretchen for lunch at a favorite spot of hers.
After our tax preparer of 30 years disappeared (that’s a whole ‘nother story), Gretchen offered to do our taxes, long distance. I would mail the paperwork to her and she would turn it around in a few days. A couple of times when we were in San Francisco, we actually went to her apartment to sign the paperwork. She lived in Bernal Heights, on the third floor of a small apartment building.
In 2012 Gretchen wanted to travel to India again but she didn’t have a housesitter which she needed for a 6-week trip. She had a cat who couldn’t be left for that length of time. I offered to do it but wanted to do a trial run first. It worked well as she had a week’s conference in Las Vegas. Terry dropped me off at the apartment and took Gretchen to the airport as he was headed back to Fresno for the week.
Gretchen never made that last trip to India. Her health was failing even as she made the trip to Las Vegas. Living on a third floor walkup was getting harder for her. She had diabetes and other health issues. Within a year she had given up the apartment and moved to assisted living. Last week, as we were leaving for San Mateo, I received the message that Gretchen was in hospice. Thursday evening, as we were taking our grandchildren to a concert in the park, Gretchen slipped the bounds of earth and died. My heart broke. Writing these words brings me to tears.
Just think, I would have experienced none of this if I had not taken the plunge and joined CompuServe all those many years ago thinking I would be helping my students. There were many who thought I was crazy back then as the Internet was the wild frontier. Those connections have made my life so much better, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for a safe, cozy existence. Take risks.