Strangely, I was in my drugstore in Beverly Hills when I received news of my daughter’s death. She was just turned fifty years old, and when last I saw her she was really pretty.
She’d had her nose fixed when she was still a student at Beverly High, which most of the girls who didn’t consider themselves pretty enough—almost all of them—did. Disappointed with the job her surgeon had done, cute but not chiseled enough—she nonetheless held her impression of herself high—or so it seemed. My husband was still alive, so she had her protector and maybe that helped keep her out of trouble. Or so I thought, but then… what did I know? I was so busy being a writer.
It seems I am still or again like that now. Waiting for my son to come pick me up outside the doctor’s office and pharmacy where I found myself, sort of providentially, when I got the sorrowful news, I have my Macbook in my lap, and, strangely less than emotional, am just writing. Weird that I should be back in Beverly Hills, in front of his office when I get the news. Walked here this morning after waking at four-thirty, seven thirty New York time, back yesterday, in time to be here for news of Madeleine’s death.
Madeleine. Born at the tippy-top, nearly, of our marriage. A show opening on Broadway at the same time as our daughter was being born, my husband associate producer as a way of salvaging his career, imploded from the beginning. Poor Don. Sweetest man in the world, not easy coming from the Bronx. Had the option of an easier life had he chosen being crooked.
But as he was honest, and not self-aggrandizing, he might have undersold himself. So in Hollywood he was doomed, from the beginning.
Maybe Madeleine was, too. When she was born, her Grandma Helen, which she wasn't to be called, lest she sound like she was old, said: "She has pretty eyes. The rest we can fix.”
And because it was Beverly Hills, we did. Not always by the right people. But she seemed satisfied, except for how gorgeous she wasn’t exactly, in spite of it all. And how easy it wasn’t.
I was just back from New York, sitting in the forecourt of my doctor’s office, when I got the terrible news. The phone rang. It was the banker who handles Madeleine’s inheritance from her grandfather, who’d been Mayor of Tucson. “I don’t know how
to do this,” the banker said, his throat audibly closing. “I’ve never had to do this before.”
I thought he was going to tell me she’d been arrested. My mind leapt to everything I would have to do to try and make the sentence less grave. Instead, he told me she was dead.
Somehow, it seemed a touch less terrible. That, apparently, is how it is in Southern California. Death is somehow a touch less horrible than a child’s being in terrible trouble. Or at least it appears that way until you get a chance to think about it, to sort it out. If death can be sorted out.