I’ve always been fascinated with the interconnectivity of our lives. You know, if _____ didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have ever met. Or the way we’re all just six degrees of separation (or less) from everyone else.
Alison Piepmeier is that kind of person for me. She’s a “blog-friend,” as she once said to me. (And I probably should say right now that I’m not the person to talk to if you believe people you know “on the Internet” and have never met aren’t the equivalent of real-life friends. Because after blogging for almost eight years now, I know firsthand how someone you’ve never met can make a difference on your life. I’ve seen it. Up close and personal, time and time again.)
Back in 2010, I read a post on Girl w/ Pen about an intriguing book by Alison Piepmeier called Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. I knew about zines, but I didn’t know their history and significance to feminism. Awhile later, I spotted Girl Zines on the shelves of the Newark Free Library in Delaware, read it, and wrote this review. Sometime afterwards Alison discovered it, and we became connected through our blogs.
We almost met once. Back in April 2011, Alison visited Pittsburgh for a celebration of feminism and zines, at an event that was hosted at my current place of employment. We weren’t living in Pittsburgh yet, but had just been there a week earlier to get acquainted with the area.
Connections and missed connections.
I continued to follow Alison’s blog and her writing, still remaining her “blog friend.”
Then, in 2013, a yearly checkup at the pediatrician for my boy prompted a simple question from the doctor.
“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”
As I wrote in that post, published here almost exactly three years ago on July 23, 2013, my boy’s eyes went to the floor.
There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.
His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.
His blue eyes said it all.
I don’t know how to ride a bike.
My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing.
What do you mean, a friend?
“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician.
I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much my boy would benefit from a program like that.
I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.
I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.
I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.
And there it was. Registration ended six weeks [prior].
I emailed the camp director anyway. Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …
There was one spot left.
Who knows if I would have learned about the bike camp for people with disabilities, a national program of iCanShine, if it wasn’t for Alison’s involvement with them as a volunteer and her deciding to write a blog post about the experience? Maybe I would have, but maybe not. Regardless, it’s an example — albeit simple and small — of how one person directly influences the life of another.
Because even though my boy doesn’t ride his bike much these days, I will never forget watching him and experiencing the sheer pride in his accomplishing something that so many parents take for granted. This was a gift, a glorious momentous milestone of celebration on what has not always been an easy road.
And it was because of Alison. My blog-friend.
I’m remembering and reflecting on all this tonight because Alison’s time here on Earth is, unfortunately, very short. She is nearing the end of a long battle with cancer, a fight she fought with the utmost grace, dignity and honesty imaginable and one that she shared in heartbreaking blog and Facebook posts with those of us who care about her. Her words, here in what may be her last column for the Charleston City Paper, are as moving and poignant as ever.
Through her books, her scholarly contributions to the field of feminism and disability studies, and her work as a professor of English and Director of the Women & Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston, Alison Piepmeier has touched many, many lives — especially those of her husband and her young daughter Maybelle.
We may have never met, but I will forever be grateful to Alison for that blog post that led to my boy being able to ride a bike and thankful that her life connected with mine, albeit for a short time.
Much love, peace, and comfort to you on this journey, my blog-friend. You will be forever missed, until we connect again.
This is post #52 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.