I love that I can protect my heart by just telling people, “My mother-in-law died.” They say the polite things, and I say the polite things and nobody needs to know that my mother-in-law was a lot more to me than that. The week my own mother died, Alison Damon became a mother to me—just exactly the kind I needed. She signed her emails to me “Mom/Al,” and that’s just who she was. Here’s more on her, from the obit we came up with. —DM
Alison Lea Damon, of Des Moines, Iowa, died July 2 at the age of 74 after a long battle with cancer, fought in the tough, good-humored way that she lived her whole life.
In that style, she will live on forever, in the best parts of the souls of every single person who knew her, and in our relationships with one another.
Alison’s nickname was “Big Al,” even though she was 5’2 in Dr. Scholl’s.
She was first-born in her family, and tough-lovingly led her six siblings along until they, too, were sufficiently strong. She was also probably the first feminist in rural Iowa. And she was the fiercest friend anybody ever had.
She was a great talker and a great listener. She could charm (the pants off of) anybody she wanted to, whether a prospective boss or a truculent bartender. She was easily and frequently angered (“piiiiissssssseeeeed!” was how she usually put it) and just as passionately and spontaneously loving. She laughed her ass off.
As a seventies-era feminist and lifelong proud working woman, she unfalteringly supported human rights and equality for all people. She effortlessly and instinctively identified anyone around her who she could help, and she opened her home, wallet or heart, all the way. She accepted help gracefully, too.
She knew her weaknesses and she accepted them lightly. “Time,” she used to say as she pushed the button to make the white zinfandel or chardonnay flow out of the box, “to milk the wine cow.”
She was a prodigious swearer. She would buy a newborn a onesie, for instance, because “it’s cuter’n shit.” And she had a special way of telling her friends and family they were number one in her heart.
She didn’t have to tell us she wanted her memorial service to be fun. She knew damned well it would be, because she knew she would be there, vivid as life, in the minds of all of us who knew her: Her sisters Susy Damon, Martha Damon, Trisha Damon and late sister Phyllis Meyer, and brothers Randall and Jon. Her daughters Cristie and Kirsten and their respective spouses David and Jeni. Her granddaughters Scout and Parker. Her first husband Sherdian, her late second husband Bud DeMoss and her longtime and beloved “significant other,” Matt Campbell—and all their families, too.
She’ll be just as clearly recalled by a cast of many dozens or hundreds of others who she worked with (most happily at her last job, at the Des Moines media company BCP), attended Central Presbyterian Church with, played euchre with, watched sports with (go Buckeyes!), drank wine with and had coffee and cigarettes with on her adventurous and unlikely journey from Tama, Iowa, to Chicago to Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, to Nevada, Iowa, to Columbus, Ohio to where she lived the last two productive, lively and loving decades of her life, in Des Moines, Iowa.
As for that memorial service—it’s in the works. And if you loved Al, you’ll be there. She will, too.