Because he came into my life fairly early on in his career as a researcher, I was fortunate enough to have been able to get a lot more of his time and attention than those who came after me. Budd was one of the most compassionate, generous, loving people I have ever known. He took me under his wing, brought me into his life, sometimes, I think, to the chagrin of his then wife, April. And yet, eventually, she too even accepted me as almost one of the family. They invited my little family up to the cape one year. My two little boys were forever changed by that absolutely wonderful experience. What a gift the Hopkins family gave us that summer.
Right after I graduated from Cosmetology school I took another bus to New York to see Budd and talk more about the experiences I had been having. He and April made me a special celebration dinner to commemorate my graduating and taking the next step in my life to single, independent mother. He made lobster and had wine! I had never eaten lobster in my life and had no idea how to even approach it. And I had never tasted such a fancy wine! Acting as the father figure he was,, he proceeded to crack open the shells for me and showed me how to eat the meat with those tiny forks. I got kind of queasy hearing the shell crack and I remember seeing him studying my face intently and getting a little bit of a chuckle out of watching me experience this for the first time. See, that's the thing most people don't realize. He didn't just help me cope with the strange experiences I had endured over the years of my then short life. He exposed me to the world in ways that I would have NEVER been privy to without him. He took me to big, fancy NYC art openings. He taught me how to eat lobster. He held my hand as I rode the subway for the very first time. He introduced me to culture and people that I would have never gotten to see or meet had it not been for him. He taught me to be confident in myself, to hold my head high and believe in myself. He took me with him all over the this country and more. Before I met him, I had only been to Florida and Kentucky. Whether he knew it or not, he had not only given me back control over my life, but he had a huge hand in molding the person who was going to live it.
I distinctly remember one trip to NYC to visit with him and talk about possibly writing a book about my experiences and that of my families. I recall the two of us sitting on the floor of the studio where he did his art. He had been showing me some of the stuff he had been working on. I was just amazed at his immense talent as an artist, and he had given me a small cardboard collage of one of his larger pieces, to take home as a gift from him. He looked at me for a moment and then told me he had something he wanted me to see. He left the room for a moment and came back with a medium sized cardboard box just jam packed full of letters. He dumped the letters out on the floor in front of me and then told me this was some of the response he had gotten from the book, Missing Time. I asked him if my letter had been in that box and he said yes, it had. I asked him why me, out of all these people, did he choose to answer MY letter? "That, kid", he said, "is the 64,000 dollar question." ""Fate?" I said. "Maybe so… maybe so" was his response. We just sat there looking at the letters and looking at each other for the longest time. I think we both knew, at that point, that we had some kind of a shared destiny in all this.
Budd spent more time at my parent's home in Indianapolis that I did in NYC during the three years he researched for Intruders. He was a master story-teller. He could mesmerize an entire room when he spoke. My parents were particularly fond of him and very much enjoyed his visits. Many a night was spent around the kitchen table, an endless pot of coffee brewing and standing room only as Budd told of his experience as a witness and as a researcher AND as an artist living in NYC and the Cape. ( My mother spent a lot of time on the east coast as a child and could relate to many of his stories. Incidentally, they were just a few days shy of being the same age.) He was also a superb listener. When you spoke, he locked eyes with you and the compassion just poured from him. I always thought it must have been so hard for him to listen to so many traumatic stories and not let them get to him, as he was so empathic.
As the years passed, our times together became fewer and farther between. He had a hundred different people pulling him in a thousand directions. At first I felt like a lost pup, but I quickly realized that there were a whole lot more people out there like me that needed him and I started using the tools for coping that he had taught me and was soon on my way to helping others in my shoes.
As I got older, I sometimes didn't always agree with every theory Budd had or every stance he chose to take, but I never stopped loving him or ever lost sight of just how important he was, and always would be, to me. So much of who I am today is because he chose to give of himself, his life, his time, even his own money. Thank you, Budd. I will always hold the memories of you close to my heart. I will always be grateful to you for everything I have and everything I am. I will always remember you. And hopefully, I can pay forward some of what you so generously gave to me. Go rest now. You've earned it.