Commentary: Birth days, death days
My friend Kath would have turned 60 this week. I only know that because when she was in the hospital last spring, they kept asking for her date of birth before administering medicine, and the answer was 8-12-50. The 8-12 I knew. But to see her, she didn't even look 50, much less 59.
She had a perfect figure, a pert, pretty face, a beautiful smile and gorgeous hair. The last few times I saw her, she was beautiful, even bald. She had a great head.
She was only sick for a few months, but still, this soon after, it's hard not to think of her in those horrible hospital rooms, with the monitors bleeping, the hacking cough, the tubes everywhere. After my father died, so long ago, it took me years to think of him somewhere else -- not sick, not in the hospital bed, not dying. In Jewish tradition, we light a candle and say a prayer on the anniversary of a loved one's death. But I've always thought that the American tradition of celebrating birth days -- not death days -- has something to be said for it.
Today, I want to celebrate my friend Kath's life, the gorgeous girl who never turned 60, the fun-loving, flirtatious, sexy babe, the hottie in the little black dress who loved sexy lingerie, who went to Saks (even though she couldn't afford it) the day after her diagnosis to buy a new nightgown to wear after she had the cancer surgery she never had. "Are you OK?" I said to her that day, having Googled every version of cancer of the thymus and read the latest studies from Asia. I was trying to figure out how I was going to talk to her about all the awful numbers I was collecting. "Of course I'm OK," she said. "I went to Saks, had my hair blown out and got a manicure." I never saw the nightgown. Two weeks later she was in the hospital. She never came home.
She was buried in Connecticut, which is what she wanted ("Being buried in L.A. would be redundant," she told us.), so I can't go to the grave and bring flowers or leave stones. In many respects, and I think this happens with a lot of people, as she was dying, she got younger, reliving the memories of her childhood, holding fast to who she had been at a time when I didn't know her. But many years before, when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1986, she gave me a guide to the city that was her home for most of her life, the place where she found success (and frustration) and kissed many frogs before finding her love. She wrote a poem for me, an epic, that she read aloud at my "welcome to L.A." party.
To Susan on Her Arrival:
There is no there there,
that's what they say.
When it's 10 p.m. in New York,
it's 1946 in L.A.
Perhaps at first glance,
here's how it appears:
aerobicized bodies and
brains in arrears,
sprouts and germs (of the whole wheat kind),
One thinks -- six months here
I'll go out of my mind.
I bring all this up
cause that's what I thought,
that if I stayed here
I'd come to naught.
But eight years later
I tell this to you,
except for the sprouts
what 'they' say isn't true.
All that really matters is who you love
to share with your time.
After that, any burg is a dozen a dime.
She did not come to naught. I was privileged to love her and to share the time we had. Happy birthday, my friend.
Susan Estrich's e-mail address is email@example.com.