Updated: Jun 23
It's John Robert Reposa's birthday. Some of you may have known him, and others may have been introduced to him through my memoir When Then Became Now. A place I've managed to keep him and several others I love alive on pages.
We met when I was a scared, lonely sixteen-year-old, and I learned so much from him. How to play Horse, and that the greatest rock band in history is Led Zeppelin (of course), but the most valued thing I learned from him was how to feel safe. A feeling I hadn't had much experience with growing up.
John exuded confidence even when he felt like hiding under a blanket and clutching a teddy bear. Very few people knew that because he hid it so well. The certainty he owned glided over to me when around him. His words got me through the front door at my first art gallery opening. Thirty-five years after I met him, he still cheered me on. After a lifetime of his own despair, he made me feel like I could achieve anything. Even while living in a tent and drunk, I saw his goodness under that bridge.
Yesterday I sent in a submission for a new art show called "Forgotten."
At the last minute, I was compelled to change one of my entries to include a photograph of a homeless man walking down a trail with his back towards me. I'd always thought there was beauty in this picture of a free bird who wandered civilization with a backpack hoisted to his shoulders. However, I wasn't sure what the impulse and drive were to make sure I entered that image until later in the evening when I had to title it.
Naming your work can be as daunting as your child. So much thought to come up with words that represent what you see. Finally, Lost Yet Loved popped out of my mouth, and the reasoning hit me.
It was important because it spoke for a voice no longer here, on the eve of his birth. A man who realized he forgot who he was until our conversations a few years ago.
To the passerby, John was just a homeless man with addictions. Someone who got there all on their own. They didn't see the circumstances he had to maneuver since he was a child that led to the streets. He would give you the shoes he was wearing if you needed them more than he did, despite it all.
People ignored his presence and never stopped to think about how many loved the man they saw or how many lives he actually saved with his own hands and spirited voice.
I never dreamed I had a book in me, but with encouragement from my son and the desire to show John's son a different man than he experienced, I began typing. My memories helped me grieve the loss, and I discovered I could write...each day I persevered on. Once again, John showed me what I refused to see in myself.
Strangers attempting to write a book have asked me, "How did you do it?"
My short answer is, I continued one page at a time, even when I thought I couldn't. I also wrote about something more manageable to me, something I knew. And it was a project I felt passionate about. It wasn't easy. Some days I couldn't sit in front of my computer. I'd be filled with sadness, my stomach churned, and I needed my son to give me a pep talk on trusting in myself and the beautiful thing I often struggled to accomplish. It's okay to require that at times, especially when you open yourself up to whoever looks or listens and your most prominent critic, yourself.
When John's son read the book, it was validation. Everything I went through to bring my story to fruition was worth it. Every tear, stomachache, or fighting with the chatterbox in my head saying I wasn't a writer was worth it!
I know if I can do it, so can you... Message me if you need a cheerleader to help you start to fill the blank screen or page. I will rah you on just like our friend Johnny would.
In honor of him since his passing, I play a Zeppelin song on the day he came into the world. I hope some of you will join in and "Appreciate" John and the others that too many find invisible.
Lost Yet Loved
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