One of many most treasured moments of my life was the time I met the then wonderful Warbler and the now hometown hero of both Central City and Hampton Roads: Grant Gustin.
My unsuspecting Saturday involved puttering around places partially piecing together prom plans. That was all I expected that misty must-be-March kind of day to involve. With much too much of the Caribbean blue fabric fluttering and shimmering its way across the rear view mirror on its way to be hemmed, my plans changed with a phone call from my dear friend, Yunji.
I picked up, and could hear a ton of excited commotion in the background that could only be from a group of girls, Yunji’s core crew that rowed crew. The regatta brought together all the local schools to their beautiful shared local lakeside garden, so I welcomed the out of the blue call.
“Amy … you’ll never believe it! Grant Gustin is here!“
Talk about out of the blue, right?!?!?! And I nearly started turning blue as the air went out of my lungs and my soul was tugged to a place between jealousy and excitement that’s apparently located near the belly button. Trying my hardest to let my excitement for my friends and classmates outweigh my jealousy over the fact that I wasn’t them (all while questioning the good Lord why soccer instead of crew), my mom glanced over from the driver’s seat and knocked some sense into messy me somewhere among all the emotions.
“Well why don’t we just go to the regatta, Ames?!”
And before I could let an ounce of self-doubt or introversion seep in, my mom promptly turned the car around and sailed towards the direction of the boats, making the executive decision to fully embrace the weirdness of showing up to a regatta thirty minutes before it was finished, and accept Yunji had called me for a reason.
The car and I were full of feels as I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I absolutely couldn’t. I blinked out of my already star-struck stupor (to think I hadn’t even caught sight of Grant yet!), only to find we had already parked the car, hopped out, and beelined across the road towards the lake. We crunched the gravel beneath our feet, super girls on a mission.
We interrupt this feeble attempt at blogging to bring you the following disclaimer: I did indeed end up meeting Grant, and can honestly affirm that he was and is as gracious and grounded and gentlemanly and gleeful (no pun intended) and tall as he appears in interviews. But it’s not going to very much sound like I did in the next few parts of my post, because try as I might, I can’t really remember a whole lot of the details of what has somehow still remained one of the most treasured moments of my life.
This may have to do with my absolute inability to form a coherent sentence once face-to-face with the cardigan clad cutie. But I’ll give my best try at trying to put some of my feels into words with as few “OMGs” and “likes” as possible.
Like how he was just about to head out but waited a bit for me. How he was there to celebrate his sister’s senior sail and probably hadn’t factored his first fan encounter into his few precious days at home but handled it all like the pro he was becoming. How he was wearing blue and red what I like to think of as on purpose (#AlwaysAWarbler). How his mom glanced on, proud and in awe of their new normal. How I was an entire foot too short, yet he didn’t hesitate to rest his hand on my shoulder. How he took time for each and any high schooler there, time he likely didn’t have but willingly chose to give.
And most importantly, how this moment became the flash of light that illuminated my life’s path with a glimmer of hope when it became darkest.
Flash forward nearly eight months later, and once again, my plans changed with a phone call. Once again, I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I absolutely couldn’t. This time it wasn’t as fun and dream like as meeting Grant but was rather like something out of a nightmare: senior year, graduation, college and the rest of my life without my dad.
Almost one full year from the first time I met Grant, I checked another first off the list: Dad’s first birthday since his death.
I’ve since made it through a lot more of those firsts, but a first that will never fade is the wave of grief I feel, as fresh and fierce as I did the day my world exploded like the particle accelerator. And though my faith trumps any science, I sometimes need a place where I don’t have to think about either. That place often tends to be Central City, and every awesome person, aspect, special effect and detail that goes into creating it. Frequently I can be found escaping back into Comic Con panels, behind the scenes, blooper reels and seasons over and over again as I forever wait for filming to start up and take much needed periodic breaks from working hard on honing and owning my three best-kept superpowers: laughing, crying & imagining.
Halfway into season one for what may or totally may be the third time, I began recognizing elements of my own in this new adaptation of an Silver Age-old, cherished story. Familiarity hit me with the force of The Flash’s inaugural super sonic punch when a hero was portrayed as tall, gangly, unassuming, caring and endearingly dorky as my dad … For the first time, I found him to be just that: a hero. Even cooler realizations revolved around the fact that Barry and I are on his hero’s quest together, working to find answers, healing, and ourselves.
And suddenly, I’m no longer grieving alone.
That singular day became much more meaningful to me than I could have fathomed at that time. The time Grant spent on me that day helped me learn the invaluable importance of doing the same for others, as you never quite know the meaning that moment may take on. And the time I spend with Barry has somehow helped me adapt to the new reality that I used to wish upon someone else’s timeline, but now use as the driving force that propels me through life.
We’ve all had those moments where fate strikes us with lightning, hits us with a wave of dark matter, and smacks us in the face, the ultimate “whammy” (as Barry so endearingly calls each of his tush whoopings that even happen to the strongest of heroes).
It is totally and completely up to us whether we get up and begin to hone and own the power of our past, or shrink back in fear from what we’ll inevitably have to face. Know that sometimes, it might take a whole nine months of chilling in S.T.A.R. Labs or your own place of rest to begin to feel a little okay again. If that’s what you need to get fully back on your feet, don’t feel at all ashamed to take all the time that you need.
Whatever has struck you unexpectedly, wherever your origin story began, we can both feel okay again with me as I write my first blog series, “Healing in A Flash”. I’ll be journeying back through the first seasons of The Flash as we wait for the ones to come, illustrating there’s hope to be had for all of us, even through the little things you love and the hardest things you encounter.