22 July 2009

Bruce/Scenter 1960-2009

Photo credit to XRX, Inc. from Tracy Petersen's 100 favorite images of STITCHES South 2009.

I know it is quickly getting out across Ravelry and the local knitting community that we have lost a shining star. Or as I described him -- Bruce was a stellated dodecahedron in a world populated mostly with circles and squares. I met him last year, probably in March or April when I first started teaching at The Whole Nine Yarns and attending the Tuesday knit nights. I don't recall clearly how we initially met. At some point, I noticed his car with bumper stickers about dragons and magic and fantasy. I must have said something at knit night about the Cuddly Hubby being busy or away on a trip or something. The next thing I knew, Bruce invited me to join him, his sister, and his niece on their outing to the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

At the time, Bruce had a dog named Lee who was fighting cancer. I had Copernicus, who was fighting extreme old age. Lee took a bad turn and had to be euthanized the morning of the Renaissance Festival. I remember observing Bruce and learning from him. I knew I would be facing a similar day soon myself. And Bruce and I appreciated that the other understood the lengths we went to for our pets.

Over the course of the year, we bonded over a variety of shared interests. Dragon*Con. Japanese culture. Extreme knitting. Math. Gaming. As many people have stated over on Ravelry -- his call sign was Scenter -- he was very knowledgeable about the topics that interested him. And he could tell you about them without making you feel inferior. He helped many knitters on many knit nights with socks or lace. And he taught several classes at the shop. I saw him some at Dragon*Con. He attended a couple game nights at my house.

I cheered him on when he decided to quite smoking. Work was stressful, and the temptation to smoke intense. But on 23 March, he had his last cigarette. I was glad because I wanted to keep him around.

We attended the spring garden show together -- Bruce, his sister, his niece, and I. That was a treat. Bruce not only knew about gardens, but as a fragrance chemist he knew about the scents of various shrubs. I knew very little, but thoroughly enjoyed the education. He bought an orange-barked maple, which was little more than a bright orange twig. We wondered what the leaves would look like in the spring.

And I saw him much at STITCHES South. For me, Bruce being discovered was a true highlight of the weekend. He was a kind and stable friend who helped me navigate the extreme emotions of that weekend. I remember walking into the ballroom in my Alice costume. I knew my assigned seat would be at one of the head tables. But I passed the table with Bruce and Betty Salpekar and some other local knitters. And I remember thinking that next year, that was the table where I wanted to sit.

I remember lunch together this spring -- after STITCHES but before June. We were both at the shop and needed to eat and we went over to Roly Poly. We talked math. And we talked about the nature of the Universe. Bruce said that as a mathematician, he could easily imagine multiple dimensions in which many things were possible. But of course, what happens after we die could not be proven.

Our last knit night together was 2 June. I don't remember if that was the one or not, but there was one where he gave me the run down on the classes he took at STITCHES and what he had learned. I told him what I learned. Also, the air conditioning in his car had just broken and he was trying to decide if he should fix it or drive it three more weeks and buy a new car. (Georgia ad valorem tax is due on your birthday. If you buy a car within 60 days of your birthday, you don't have to pay it twice in one year.) I was teasing that he would have to drive shirtless for three weeks. Then on Saturday, he joined the Cuddly Hubby and I for a gaming afternoon at our friends' home in Dacula. At one point in the afternoon, Bruce, the friend, and the Cuddly Hubby were all gathered around a computer so they could share sites with silly music. That was 11 days before his first heart attack and the last time I saw him outside of the ICU.

My last conversations with him were on the 16th and 17th. He called on the 16th to say he would miss knit night and that his sister was driving him to the hospital. On the afternoon of the 17th, he called to say he was bored. I believe he had just sent his sister out to get some knitting supplies. Why he didn't have knitting with him, I don't know. Between those two conversations, we talked about a variety of things. How diabetes and heart disease ran in his family and had taken both his father and his brother. But we also talked about fun things, like pickles. And knitting. And the chemistry of fragrances. And that his 50th birthday would be next summer.

When he woke up on June 20th and rallied, he asked for his sister to bring his glasses. And when she was there, he asked if I could visit. But I didn't get there before his next series of heart attacks, which happened only 20 minutes after his sister called me. Dang distances in metro Atlanta.

I'm not sure why he asked for me. I'm not even sure what he saw in me or why he wanted me as a friend. I could understand some of his math. Maybe it was that I wasn't afraid of the hard knitting or the hard thinking. Maybe it was because I laughed at his wonderful, terrible, clever puns. Maybe it was that part of the appeal of knit night was seeing what Bruce was doing next. If I had some extreme knitting, I was always curious what solution he might devise. He was my collaborator. He was also my muse.

During the five weeks he was in the hospital, most of it in the ICU, I visited three or four times a week. Some days I think he heard me. Some days not. A couple weeks in, his sister asked if I could foster his cats. So I'd go visit and give him the knitting news and the update on what everyone was doing. On Friday, he was having a very good day and I thought he had finally turned the corner after so much hardship. I told him about the video I'd just shot for the blog and how excited I was about the knitting. But on Sunday he was less good. Still, I had already seen him much worse. I told him to keep dreaming and healing. And to take his time and not rush. I reminded him this is like knitting lace. Sometimes the important thing is to do just one good row a day and no more.

When my cell phone rang on Tuesday, I knew it wasn't good. Right now, there are only eight contacts in my cell phone. I don't use it much and I don't like to be bothered when I am out and about. In other words, if I am willing to drop everything I am doing for you, you can have my cell phone number. Several people on the list are people for whom I've done extreme favors -- driven long distances or taken on long tasks. Right now, the list includes an aerospace friend, the friend who took my avatar photo, two friends whose blogs are linked on this site, the Cuddly Hubby, the Bard, Bruce, and recently Bruce's sister. At some point, I will have to erase the contact for Bruce. But not today.

I can still hear clearly his voice when I would arrive at knit night, "Bonjour, Jolie."

Au revoir, Bruce.

For those of you interested in attending his funeral service, the link is here. I believe the picture on that site is from a holiday party. The pretty lady is his sister.


Peanutga11ery1 said...

Thank you for your beautiful words, and sharing your Bruce with those of us who knew him only online. Truly he will be missed. I am teary knowing that I will not be able to see him at next year's stitches, as he had hoped. I feel grateful for having known him in any fashion, he really was an amazing person.

Kellie said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post. Bruce was a man I believed I could be very good friends with, but never had the opportunity to really get to know. He was brilliant and talented and I always admired his lace at TWNY when I lived in GA.