Poppa Bear was the only person in the scene today that truly terrified me. When I first met her at BR98, I couldn't even look her in the eye. Her true butch bravado... more butch than any man could ever pray to be... her multiple piercings glimmering... and the tattoos... a tapestry of her life. She terrified me... and I was in awe.
We didn't talk very much... a little comment here and there... "Boy, light my cigarette." It wasn't until a private party during Mid-Atlantic Leather that my first real memory of Bear occurs.
I had just bought my first pair of chaps that afternoon at the vendor fair. We were at the party, and Lolita told me to put it on. Well, like a true babe... I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get it on me. When I had tried it on, my then girlfriend and the shop owner did it. Bear, laughing her head off at my failure (I think I might have fallen once trying), called me over, and taught me how. I now teach others her "technique," if you can call it that. But I always say... let me show you what my Poppa Bear taught me.
I'll never forget being in LA, in a restaurant right off the Strip... at a dinner that was entirely unpleasant for just about all parties involved... Bear looked at me and told me to come outside for a cigarette. It was then that she stopped me mid-sentence, looked me stern in the eyes, and said to me... "Boy... you can call me Poppa Bear." That was the day she became family... the day we told each other that we felt love for one another.
I feel so fucking guilty right now... despite people telling me not to. I didn't call her enough... didn't spend enough time with her. Bear was a tough person to love... never easy to swallow. Yet, I should have called... I should have spent more time... I should have... I just should have.
I never did get around to asking her where the name Bear Thunderfire came from. Or the meanings behind her myriad of tattoos. What her personal history was... who were her mentors, who made her. Our blood, while different, is also the same. And yet I know so fucking little.
A boy without his grandfather. A little cub without his Poppa Bear. Not many people got to call her that. The day she told me I could filled my head with pride. Now... my heart mourns. I'll never again get to feel those fingers on my cheeks... squeezing me just like a grandfather. Or threatening to put needles in me... then laughing while squeezing me into a bear hug. I'll never get to hear her tell me stories... kneel at her side while sharing that cigar that we always planned to smoke together.
You know what is frightening? Bear was the hardest to understand out of all 6 of us. Hardest to reach... the most frustrating... yet... I saw myself in her. We both sat... smoking a Cuban she brought for me. And we talked... and we saw how similar we were. How much I was truly her grandson. And how much she was my Poppa Bear.
I love you Bear. And I fucking miss you. You will always be my Poppa Bear.
Until I see you next...
Your little cub.