“Where else would I be?” I asked.
“You could have gone to the south of France,” he said. "You could have gone to a Bryn Mawr Reunion.”
That was the last place we had gone happily together, the May before he was diagnosed, too late for it to be any good, by the doctor who was his best friend but the worst doctor, and had missed it completely, treating him only for a backache. By the time a competent man took an x-ray, Don came home to me, white-skinned and terror-wide- eyed, and said “my right lung is completely gone.”
Our son was sixteen at the time, and is now forty-seven. It is still almost impossible for me to write about.
I read the book about losing her husband by Joan Didion, the much admired writer, for whom that piece of work added more powerfully and publicly to her bruited-about esteem. Honey, she didn’t go through anything.
I made a friend through a circle of Loss I joined at the time, whose name now I cannot even remember, as I cannot remember much of what my life was when it seemed and was celebrated as meaningful, by friends and family while they were still around. The widowed friend was young, beautiful and extremely wealthy, and had come directly home from the yachting outing where her young husband had gone down in a dive and come up with a heart attack, whose best friend/yacht owner never spoke to her again once they had taken the fallen man to the hospital, where he died.
All Don’s friends, and many were noted, as it was in Hollywood, the Beverly Hills branch, sadly celebrated his departure. But most of them dropped me almost directly after the funeral. He had been only forty-four.
I am now actually old, older than I ever considered I might become, as the brightness of youth had always been my most salient characteristic. I said the Gettysburg Address when I was two, and was the neighborhood star, which meant a great deal even though it was Pittsburgh. The places I have lived in my extended journey have been infinitely more colorful, but I feel connected to none of them, especially Beverly Hills where I am now, though on the wrong side of Wilshire, the elder equivalent of “the tracks.”
I go today to a celebration of Mike Nichols, the great director, but not that great human being, in my estimation, which doesn’t really count as I never became as important as Mike Nichols, and this is a community, which I am generous to call it since few are those who really pull together unless they can do each other some public good, where they mostly only care about each other if they can do that. Some good, that is.
But he was brilliant, and there was a moment when we almost became buddies. But I blew it, so I am going to his memorial in case there is an afterlife and his spirit is floating around above the important heads, as I’d like him to know I care. After all, Shakespeare was smarter than anybody, and certainly more gifted, and he seemed to believe in ghosts. Or maybe that was just because he thought they made for good poetry.
I wouldn’t really mind being hit with a little of that.