"Those who are dead are not dead
they're just living in my head"
You never know who is gonna change your life.
I was just 14 years old when I walked into this unassuming building in West LA on Wilshire and Bundy. Gene Brody was 63 and an educational psychologist. I was a trouble maker and couldn't stay in a school for longer than 2 years before I'd wear out my welcome. Gene and I instantly clicked. He became a great friend and eventually a mentor. He was so passionate about politics and since that fire had already been lit in me, he was happy to kindle it. He was so proud when in 1996 I was able to vote and I'm sure he was even more proud that I voted for Clinton. We always stayed connected, no matter what was going on in our lives. I was getting married, he was retiring. I was having a baby, he was having surgeries. Fourty-eight years is a big age difference! Whenever I'd call his house, I knew I had to set aside enough time to talk to Gene, then his wife Phyllis, then Gene again. He always grabbed the phone from her and said "I'm not done with Dani yet." He was always very proud of the fact that I'd started out as a troubled kid, but kinda came around and turned out to be a really good person... if I do say so myself! It was LA, and Gene had some high-profile students. We always teased that I was his only student who was NOT in the tabloids.
When I was pregnant with Little Bird, I just knew it was going to be a boy. I just knew it! I chose to name her after Gene. Gene was beyond touched when I told him. He was so thrilled. He sent her a "first words" book and wrote her a little note inside of it. So sweet.
Gene had been sick for a while. He began a pattern of hospital visits, convalescent home stays, and then another illness. Truth is, Gene was supposed to be using his walker and refused, so he'd fall. I know because Phyllis would complain to me all about it :)
During one of his hospital visits, we traveled out to California and I brought Little Bird to meet her namesake. Of course, at 2 she had no clue how special this was, but Gene didn't stop talking about it until the day he died. He was thrilled to see her, fell in love with her, and always kept a picture of her by him.
Gene had a grandson with Autism and was so concerned about Little Bird and her development. Of course, he was really concerned about me, too. On Sunday June 8, 2008 he called from the hospital to check in and it was a great day. We were feeling really good about Little Bird and her progress. Gene was so relieved and felt like I was in a really good place. I'm so grateful for that because that was the last time we spoke. We never hung up without saying I love you and that last call was no different. Friday morning June 13th 2008, Phyllis called me in tears and all she could get out was "Gene is gone. He just couldn't fight anymore."
I'm forever grateful for the difference he made in my life and for the difference I was able to make in his. You really never know who is going to come into your life and make a permanent change.
Gene's obituary put it best when it read that "Gene and the twinkle in his eye, will be profoundly missed."