Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SWEET MEMORIES

I received a lovely phone call last night from an old friend. Hedy married David’s best friend, Erv, more than fifty years ago, and remained Erv’s and our good friend even after they were divorced and even after she moved some distance away from us. In our conversation Hedy talked about the memories she had of David over the years, and I asked her to share them. She talked about the time she dated him (before I had met him – and which I knew all about), and she talked about how much she appreciated our making the long drive to see her on two occasions – the sad one when Erv died and the happy one when their granddaughter was Bat Mitzvah’d. Hedy asked if it was too painful for me to hear these memories, but I relished them and appreciated hearing through her voice and her memories how much she too loved and admired my David.

These are the messages that mean the most to me – the conversations and the notes in which people share their memories of David, because through all these memories he lives on. There’s the junior high school teacher who wrote to me of a time when David came to speak to his class and had the students mesmerized by his talking about his career in radio. (I know what a tough audience junior high schoolers can be!) Or the young man who wrote about how David had welcomed him into our home at a crucial time in his life. Or the trainer at the gym who told me of the good conversations they used to have. Or the young woman who lived next door to us as a little girl and still remembers his smile and how he helped her single mother clear away the snow in her driveway.

Some of these memories are new to me, or forgotten, so they give me the gift of seeing still another aspect of who he was – and what his impact was on people outside our family. I’m grateful for this gift.

Friday, October 23, 2009

“HOW ARE YOU?”

I am deeply appreciative of my friends and family who phone or visit me after David’s death, but when they ask this question, I don’t know how to answer. I’m not “fine,” and I’m not “okay.” I could say that I am, but what a lie that would be. So I have tried out various answers, like these:

“I’m taking it one day at a time.”
“I have a lot of support from my family and good friends.”
“I’m putting one foot in front of the other.”
“I’m eating and sleeping.” (Actually, I’m doing a little too much of the one – people have been much too generous bringing tempting sweets – and too little of the other – I’m discovering TV shows I never watched before -- but I’m sure that will change.)
“I’m breathing.”
“I’m getting stuff done.” (And there’s a lot to do, I’m finding out.)
“Compared to what?” (This, only to a close friend who appreciates black humor.)

What I find most helpful for well-wishers to ask is, “What did you do today?” or “What are you going to do tomorrow?” Specific questions that I can give specific answers to.

Everyone in this situation is different, of course, and everyone experiences a major loss differently, so I’m not giving any advice – just saying what it’s like for me. I’d like to know how other bereaved people answer this question from kind people who really want to know.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MY LOVE STORY

On October 13, 1955 when I was in my last semester at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia I had a blind date with a radio announcer named Mark Olds. By the second date I knew I wanted to marry him. Four weeks later he proposed and I barely let him get the words out of his mouth. We were married a month later, December 18, 1955. I learned that his family called him David, his first name, which he didn’t use in the wider world because he hated to be called “Dave.” I called him David – the rest of the world knew him as Mark. (When our eldest daughter first went to kindergarten, she came home and asked me, “What’s Daddy’s name?”)

On Saturday, October 3, 2009 David and I attended the Bat Mitzvah of the granddaughter of a close friend. We danced the hora, and then a little later were the only couple on the floor dancing to a Frank Sinatra medley. He was a terrific dancer, much in demand as a dance partner. After we drove home in a heavy rainstorm, David took off his dress clothes, put on his high rubber boots and slicker, and cleared leaves that had been clogging the drain in our driveway. The next morning we took a little time for some pillow talk before he went out for bagels. When he didn’t come home in a reasonable time I went looking for him and found him in our car in the parking lot of the bagel store, seemingly asleep. The bagels were in the back seat.

When I couldn’t rouse him I called 911, and our local Port Washington police and rescue squad quickly came and took him by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital, where the doctors told me he had suffered a stroke. He received excellent and timely care, but he never regained consciousness, never felt any pain or discomfort, and died in the Palliative Care division of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York on October 8. I had slept in his hospital room the previous two nights, and so I was there when he left us. He was 88 years old, and we had often talked about the day when one of us would go first. We had promised each other we would not use heroic measures to sustain life when a meaningful life was no longer possible, and I fulfilled that promise when he needed me to.

David and I had been together for just a few days shy of 54 years. He was a wonderful man, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He was my best friend, my rock, my staunch supporter. I know that our daughters, our grandchildren, our close friends, and I will get through this terribly sad time although we will never get over his loss. We’re all grateful that we had him as long as we did.

Obituary notices were published in Newsday and the Port Washington (NY) News.