Kage Baker spent her last January 30th as the belle of a small but lively ball.
Most of her family and some friends came to see her, in her big wooden bed in Pismo Beach, in her pirate-themed bedroom. She was happy and eager to see them all – she’d come home to die, and she knew it; but she thought she had a few weeks, and was looking forward to a long party leading up to that time.
This weekend was the first Visiting Hours weekend. Kage was eagerly anticipating having people in and out, saying good bye, remembering good times, making a leisurely farewell. Her sister Anne was committed to coming up every single weekend, with her daughters as much as possible; various boon companions were making reservations to come and see Kage. Wayne Fisher, an old and much-beloved friend, showed up unexpectedly midday, having driven like a madman down from San Francisco, as was his habit. He took a room in the horrible hotel across the street from us – but he spent all the day with Kage, which delighted her.She was at peace, and even excited to see folks.
The tide was going out by about 4 PM that afternoon. Just as the sun set on that January 30th in 2010, Kage complained of new pain. She said she was tired, and asked for a little morphine, which I gave her; and then she settled into her pile of pillows and blankets. She told us she was much more comfortable, as Wayne and I tucked her in.
And that was pretty much that. People wandered in and out for hours afterward, all evening, all night and into the wee hours of the morning. Her sister Anne sat and talked to her, her nieces cuddled up to her on the big bed and told her all kinds of things. But by midnight, it was obvious that Kage was not going to wait. Most of what everyone was saying was, It’s all right, it’s okay, you can go now.
At this point – I can barely recall where I was most of that evening. In the kitchen, preparing plates and snacks; in the living room, moving bits of Kage’s juju around her desk. I watched the air pressure rise in her barometer, I remember; it would be fair the next day. I heard the tide come in through the night, and then begin to recede again after midnight. It was receding fast, aiming for its low at 3:30 that morning, when Kage finally stopped breathing. Naturally, she went with the ebb.
It’s the time to leave, after all.
By then, Anne and the girls were asleep, exhausted. Just Wayne and I were with Kage. I don’t even remember how I got there – when I came in, when the others left … just the three of us sitting together, as we had sat together in so many dark Inn Yards at so many, many midnight Faires.
Today, I drove home from Pacific Grove. I spent a wonderful weekend with the patient and generous Neassa Skold, writing and giggling and knitting and reading one another political jokes and horror stories off our computers. Those things are all a lot easier when shared. This morning we had breakfast in one of Kage’s favourite restaurants, and parted ways: Neassa drove North to her home and I drove South to mine.
Along the way … well, in Lost Hills, my phone bricked. I had it duly and lawfully in its hands-free holder when apparently the power cord blew its zap and began sucking the battery dead. The phone blinked several weird colours, then curled up into a metaphoric fetal position and died. My Kindle was unable to find a signal. And of course, my Buke is as dead as the fabled dodo, and just as much use … I had to drive the last 2 hours home with no maps, no instructions, no music – like a savage!
I also managed to catch a cold over the weekend, and was hacking up my lungs most of the way, Plus, my nose was running like a faucet, and all I had with me were 7 – count ’em, 7 – Starbucks napkins. I made them last all the way to Burbank, though I did give a little thought to stripping off my T-short and re-purposing it as a handkerchief … but I was desperate to get home and collapse in my own bed, so I kept going and dripping.
But I made it before dark! And Kimberly got me hot soup and peach sorbet and decongestants and green Ny-Quil and a box of Kleenex all for my very own. I still feel like a squashed egg, but at least I am being squashed at home.
Kage Baker died at 1:15 AM on January 31, 2010. I wrote that on her web page 7 years years ago or so. This weekend, I wrote several thousand words on new stories; tomorrow, I am going to talk to my agent (and Kage’s) about what is happening with “The Teddy Bear Squad” and Knight and Dei and the Hungarian offer for The Women of Nell Gwynne’s.
The tide turns, and turns again. You must keep your eye on it, or it will knock you flat on your face into cold salt water. And the midnight ocean tastes like tears.
I’ve had more than enough of tears.
Sleep well, kiddo.