R.I.P. Joan Rivers

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I was out of town on vacation when I saw that Joan Rivers was in a coma.  I said a prayer for her and hoped that all would be okay.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  I received a text letting me know – since I was essentially off the grid for a week – that the Wisconsin ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional and Joan Rivers had passed away.  Joy and sorrow mixed.

I can hear her voice in my head.  I watched her on Johnny Carson – stayed up past my bedtime to watch her own show, saw her stand up routines, cried when her husband, Edgar, killed himself.

Her daughter, Melissa, isn’t much younger than I am.  I’m sorry for her loss.  I know what she’s feeling, having lost Mom just last year.  It sucks.

But, I smile, too.  I smile at the thought of what Joan Rivers meant to me.  How she would practically scream, “Can we talk?”  Her “Oh, oh, oh!”  Amazing!

In high school, I was given an assignment where I had to pick a living woman whom I admired and write a paper about them.  A mini biography, if you will.  I had wanted to write about Kate Hepburn, but someone had chosen her first, so I picked Joan Rivers.  I was told by my writing teacher that Joan Rivers was too vulgar and she wouldn’t accept a paper written about her.  I ended up writing about Lillian Gish.  But, I wished I had brought out my inner Joan and written about Mrs. Rivers.  What a paper that would have been.

Joan Rivers offered what Minnie Pearl and Phyillis Diller didn’t – she was relateable.  I understood her. I got her and she got me.  To me, she was amazing.  Growing up different and weird was just made easier by women like Joan Rivers, Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin.

But, Joan, more than any of them, stood out to me.  She spoke to me.

So, while I am saddened at her passing and wishing I had seen her live, I’m smiling as I remember the laughs she gave so freely and the confidence she showed me.

Thanks, Joan!  May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


In a Month

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In a month, the first anniversary of losing my mother will pass. Here I sit, a month away from May 14, and it feels like it was last week and not last year.
Mom and I had a contentious relationship. Over the last few years, we had grown much closer, which I think makes the pain of losing her worse.
When I took my grandsons to Memphis, there was a hundred things I wanted to tell Mom. The top of the list was Danny singing on Beale Street. Mom and I often sang Karaoke together.

I know Mom would have enjoyed hearing about Danny and watching his video.

Sometimes when out shopping or on vacation, I’d find a funny sign for Mom, such as “I gave him the skinniest years of my life” or “My house was clean last week, too bad you missed it.”Last week when Cheryl and I were in Cedarberg, I saw a bunch of signs for Mom and my heart tugged at every one of them.
At her wake and funeral – where 250+ people passed through to pay their respects – I was told time and again that it would get easier. They lied. I think it gets harder. You collect more stories to tell, have more questions to ask, need more time. Ironically, while I don’t doubt my brothers’ pain, I sometimes wonder if I hurt more because she and I talked more? Nearly every work day, I would call her on my way home and we would talk – sometimes, it was five minutes, sometimes my whole hour and a half drive home.
I’m pretty sure that my mom is very surprised right now to learn that her most independent child, the one that seemed to need her the least, really needed her the most. She was more than just my pain-in-the-ass mom, who drove me crazy and with whom I would fight. She was my closest friend with whom I could discuss things I don’t discuss with anyone else. And, I miss that. She left way too soon. We had so much more to say.

Nora Ephron and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

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Strange headline, right? I mean, what do they even have in common besides being deceased celebrities? What they have in common is my reaction.

Like most American women, I adored Nora Ephron. Her movies spoke to me in ways that no one else’s did. And, even though she was a generation ahead of me, I could relate to her. For example, when reading about her neck, I couldn’t relate right then because there’s nothing wrong with mine, but I could relate because I know the day is coming. 

Much like Julie Powell fantasized about becoming friends with Julia Child, I dreamed of meeting Nora and we would become best buds. Disappointingly, that’s no longer a possibility and that saddens me. No, not just for my loss of a pipe dream, but the world’s loss of her amazing talent.

Nora has been on my mind because I just finished listening to the Audible version of her sister, Delia’s, book – Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, etc. I have never read anything by Delia Ephron before and technically I still haven’t, because Meg Ryan read it to me. Well, me and whomever else purchased the book from Audible, but listening to it, in my car, driving to work in the dark it felt like it was just Meg Ryan and me.

But, I digress.

Delia’s book has Nora running through it, as you would expect because Delia lost a sibling, a best friend, a big sister. We lost a talented celebrity.

Still, the book brought Nora and loss back to my thoughts which is how I’ve linked her to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death on February 2nd.

With Nora, I feel sadness. With Phillip, I’m pissed.

Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t your typical movie star. He looked like the guy down the street. (Really, there’s a gut in my neighborhood who looks like him.) He was reachable and somehow normal and he did something most of us can only dream about – he won an Oscar. An Oscar! He embodied the very idea that we can all be successful in our chosen careers, because he made it in a land that values beauty over brains and he was the opposite.

I’m pissed for a lot of reasons, not in the least is that he caused his own death. How could he do that to his three children. He left a ten year old son fatherless. A son needs a dad and I know this is crazy, but when those little girls get married, he’s not going to be there to walk them down the aisle. How could he do that to them?

I get it, addiction is hard. I’m a smoker. I’ve quit smoking – even for years at a time and I always go back – I quit this last June. So, even though it isn’t heroin addiction, I get how hard quitting is.

But, he had been, according to news reports, clean for twenty years – Dude, why start again now? What the heck was so bad that you needed 50 bags of the stuff?

And, I’m mad because he should have known better – we’re the same age. Dude, we’re 46 – the days of reckless abandon are over. Life doesn’t have to be boring, but shooting up? That’s too much excitement. He should’ve known better. Seriously,  46 – never do heroin. It should be a rule.

And, I’m tired of drugs in general. Do them, don’t do them – I don’t care. But, if you choose the former and then you quit, I’m not throwing any medals your way. I certainly don’t deserve any for quitting smoking. People who make it through life without a crutch – they deserve medals. My mother grew up in a house with smokers and never once touched a cigarette. Not once. She deserved a medal.

But, the rest of us don’t.