If you were/are a late-bloomer like I was than you know what I’m talking about, those frustrating moments when your mind was bigger than your body and you wanted to unzip out of it like some cartoon to reveal something older, more mature, yet fresh.
On the flip side, my older brother, Steven, was the opposite; he began shaving as a fetus.
Looking like an 8-year-old in junior high was cool when I wanted a free kids meal, but for Steven, looking like a father of five netted him one of the coolest jobs in the history of my universe when he was only 14: Crew member, Fillmore Fingers, Inc. That was the official title, at least. In reality, he and my cousin Michael got to work concerts at venues throughout the Bay Area, doing everything from picking up major rock stars from the airport to making sure Eddie Van Halen’s milk was the right temperature.
It was a coming of age summer for Steven, littered with girls, under-aged drinking, sex (although to this day I think he was bullshitting me) – all of these cool exploits unfolding to a soundtrack consisting of music from every genre. And while I sat back home in the West Texas desert sweating like a cheese, the highlight of my summer was listening to every story he had to tell during our weekly phone conversations.
“Ever heard of some singer named Sting?” the fucker asked me one day. “Yeah, I got to meet him before his show yesterday at Shoreline Amphitheater.”
This is where my cousin Bonnie comes into play. Bonnie, Bon Bon to all her friends, was the magic fairy that yielded the golden wand, making this incredible summer happen for my brother. She was the one that made all things happen, it seemed, as she had all the connections and access to all the right people. And when I tell you that she knew everybody, I’m talking everybody. She needed a place to stay for a few months and one of her friends, a member of Pearl Jam, told her she could stay at one of his pads for as long as she needed. No shit.
Needless to say, by the end of Steve’s Summer of Magic Tour, Bonnie had been elevated to rock star status to us back in El Paso. And I think that part of the reason that made Bonnie so cool, and ultimately such a good friend to many people, was that she wasn’t consumed with trying to be cool at all. She was just Bonnie, Bon Bon, a girl that was short in stature but humungous in heart. Maybe had I known her secret as a late-blooming punk ass, junior high wouldn’t have been such a bullshit time?
It would be an epic understatement to say that Bonnie was a survivor. As a kid she was stricken with polio and several years later, was shot while working a counter during a robbery attempt in Oakland. I still remember my brothers and I huddling around the phone every time my parents received a call from my aunt and uncle updating us on her condition.
At a time when Oakland was becoming the birthplace of gangsta rap and living up to its reputation of murder and violence, the fact that my rock star cousin got shot and SURVIVED simply made her that much more of a badass to me, elevating Bonnie to mythical status.
And I think what made Bonnie such a badass was that she had the audacity to march to her very own beat no matter how out of tune the rest of the world could be at times. Polio? No sweat. A bullet? Screw it.
My emotional challenge as I write this, is using the past tense. The thing is, at this very moment, Bonnie’s family and her husband Dan are watching over her as she prepares to enter the next world. Despite having that humungous heart, other failing organs will take her away from us. And she could leave us at any time. Of all the cool stories my brother told, of all the incredible experiences and people that Bonnie knew, there’s one conversation that I had with her recently, like a month or two ago, that I will remember the most.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer a few months back, Bonnie made it a regular habit to call and check in on me for updates. We’d talk for hours – if you spoke with Bonnie you now that she got her money’s worth from a conversation – and it was during one of those long talks that I asked her the inevitable question.
“Have you forgiven the young man that killed my uncle in the DWI accident?”
She told me that forgiveness was a process and that although she was slower than some, including my aunt, she had forgiven the kid, knowing that putting him in prison could equal two lost lives instead of just one.
And that’s the thought that gives me the most solace right now, knowing that she could truly rest in peace.
And here I thought Bonnie’s magic only rubbed off on Steve all those years ago. Today, at this time of reflection, I realize now that it looks like Bonnie waved her magic wand for me after all…
Phillip D. Cortez writes Monkey C Blog mostly every week and is the author of Night Rhythms, a children’s book for people of all ages. His next book, When I Close My Eyes, is due out in the Fall. Follow on Twitter @monkeycblog and LIKE at fb.com/monkeycblog