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Remembering Carrie Dearborn

I learned today that my old friend Carrie Dearborn has died. I met Carrie in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston in the early eighties. I had put up a flyer to form a writers group, and Carrie was the one who both answered and stuck around. Because Carrie used a wheelchair and I lived in an upstairs apartment, we met at her apartment. Later, when I came back to Boston for readings and conferences, I often slept on her couch, until her beloved PCA, who cared for her for twenty-six years, moved in so they could both save money. Well, and because they were very good friends and got along so well. (I'm not naming the woman who did that work because I just read a book of Carrie's that thanks but doesn't name her. It's clearly deliberate, and it seems right to respect that.)

Carrie and I haven't been in touch much, except via facebook, for the past few years, but she has a strong presence in my heart. She was part of the inspiration for Peg, a wheelchair user who is a character in my first novel, which I started while I was in a writing group with Carrie. I got to have a short conversation with her on the phone when I heard she was in hospice. I asked if she knew she had inspired Peg, and she said, "I always assumed. The painted wheels." I'd forgotten that Peg had painted the wheels of her chair lavender, just as Carrie had.
Carrie was sarcastic, funny, full of stories of writing for GCN and Sojourner. She wrote and spoke about being a disabled activist, about brain damage, and about ambition, anger, joy, frustrations. It meant so much to me to get to hear her voice again the other day. I think of her often. I always did, but as I am negotiating a mobility disability these days, I think of her rowdy, rule-breaking, wheelchair flying around Jamaica Pond ways.

Money was tight, but I remember so clearly one night when Carrie wanted to take me out to dinner. I can't remember what the occasion was, but I know it was a big deal. We got to the restaurant, and learned that the front door was not wheelchair accessible. The guy there told us we could go in through the kitchen, but Carrie said, "Let's go. I don't do garbage ramps."

It was more typical for us to be just hanging out in her living room, but that moment keeps coming back to me. We wanted to go to that restaurant, but, more than that, we wanted Carrie's humanity to be fully recognized, welcomed, planned for. She taught me a lot.
I'm thinking with such tenderness of Carrie's spit and vinegar. I never made it to one of her comedy sets at the feminist bookstore Crone's Harvest (I had moved to Western Mass. before she started doing those), but there was no missing her wryness. I may not have known much when I was 24, but I knew enough to lean close and listen to her. I am sad to be in a world without her. And I am feeling so grateful to those who have been close with her in recent years, and who were kind enough to make sure I got to say goodbye.

Here is I've put a link to one of her e-books:
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