Thursday, February 08, 2007

Alternate History

After almost ten years of marriage, three kids, and a couple of moves, Diane is coming into her own. She and her husband Chris (not to be confused with her sister Chris) have built a good life, and they’re finally buying a house. I still can’t understand how churches can exist without a parsonage, but I’m old-fashioned that way.

The wedding was beautiful, of course, and so was Diane when she announced her first pregnancy only a year later. We were all worried about the medical issues of pregnancy. The newer allergy and asthma meds helped a lot; Diane’s asthma is of the dangerous kind, but she has it pretty well under control most of the time now.

So is her depression. She is still in therapy, but with a decent antidepressant and good emotional support from her family and friends, she’s doing a lot better. She talks with honesty and passion about the importance of getting psychological help for Christians with mental illnesses—“none of this bullshit about how good Christians don’t get depressed.” She had one bad spell of post-partum depression, but Chris (her sister) talked her into getting help fast. That was right after 9/11, which hit Diane hard: she spent the last weeks of her second pregnancy glued to the TV watching the disaster. Several of her church members were in the Pentagon; one was badly injured. And Diane still worries about the effect of the stress hormones and her depression on Elizabeth, a dark, quiet girl who looks a lot like her father.

Once the kids were in school and her younger siblings fairly well launched, Diane started writing seriously. She always wrote—she has a trunkful of old romance manuscripts scribbled while she rode the bus to school or waited in doctors’ offices—but now she has more time to devote to her work. Until her mid-twenties she concentrated on historical romances, but now she is working on grand family sagas: not just brooding men and passionate women, but the ways that families influence each other over the generations. She’s good and getting better. The most recent project is one based on her own family history, since she’s gotten very interested in genealogy. She’s been putting a lot of her faith in her books, but she’s considerably closer to Susan Howatch than to Grace Livingston Hill.

Although she writes under a pseudonym, the people in her church know she’s an author. Luckily, her husband Chris’s congregation is well-educated and liberal. There have been some stresses there—being a minister’s wife is not easy—but Diane’s charm and her musical talent have helped in her ministry. (And I admit it, her dogmatism and stubbornness have sometimes been an issue there.)

Of course she’s still singing. There was some talk a few years ago about her church’s praise band cutting a record, but it would be only for local distribution. I haven’t heard anything about that in a while.

She bought season tickets to the Orioles when she got her first book published. We also gave her a huge party. Every year after the World Series, she and I get on the phone and review the whole baseball season. It takes a few hours, but it’s a great tradition. She and I are planning to meet up this year at Cooperstown for Cal Ripken’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. She bubbles with all the old enthusiasm when she talks about the Orioles.

At 32 she’s still as skinny as a teenager. During her pregnancies she looked like a straw that had swallowed an olive. She started teaching her kids baseball and basketball when they were tiny. Now they play with their cousin Jessica and with all the other cousins. Maybe next year they’ll come to visit me in California.

This is not about grief. This is about loss.

Diane Michelle Thompson
July 10, 1974 – February 8, 1997

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