Episode 243: Thy Eternal Summer


“But thy eternal summer shall not fade, nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st, nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade, when in eternal lines to time thou growest.” – WS

This episode is dedicated to Pat, who passed on November 16, 2001. 

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Hello, good morning friends. Good morning. I am trying out a whole new space today in terms of recording. I am in Italy again. I am in a very tiny town called Greve in Chianti, and it is high up in the mountains in Tuscany. I have a gorgeous view out over these little tiny medieval towns. There are a couple of them in this area: Greve is one, and then Montefiorale is the other one, and we’re in a valley. Every morning the clouds are gorgeous and shifting around and changing the lighting every few minutes, and it’s glorious. But I am in a very, very old building that has been renovated, and so it’s a little echoey. I have closed the windows because there’s a cage full of budgies outside that are incredibly vociferous. They do go on quite a bit in the morning and wake me up, but they’re cute. But I had to shut out that noise. And there are some old Italian ladies who live next door who chatter now and again. But it’s early in the morning, so hopefully we’re going to be missing some of that. But I wanted to get back to you guys and start getting into recording some of the stories that happened after 911 because I left you with that and, you know, rough time had by all. 

The aftermath of 911 was a sea of huge emotions. Everywhere, as individuals and as a country, we were awash with grief. But the universe finds ways to bring us back into balance. With every wail of sorrow, there came a prayer of gratitude. The thanks-giving of those who had not gone to New York City that morning for whatever reason, the gratitude of families whose loved ones returned to them after narrow escapes and near misses. Mothers held their children tighter, scolded them less kissed them more. Grandparents, fathers, siblings gathered together in stunned community to quietly celebrate survival. Perhaps it seemed selfish to laugh and love, when so many had lost so much, but that is the way that we go on. That is the resilience of this stubborn species. Every catastrophe teaches us a bit more about strength and perseverance. If we stay alive and open our hearts and minds we will carry on, love again, and one day perhaps even forgive. Whether I was entirely conscious of this feeling or not, for me the events of 911 created a new urgency to live life more fully with every facet of my being. When we are confronted with such a violent example of how life can be snatched away in an instant, we are reminded how precious every single day must be. And if the fog of disbelief threatened to surround me again, there were daily reminders to grab life by the horns and take that ride and not to sit on the sidelines pretending to be content with my lot. 

Pat was getting sicker and weaker all the time. She did not leave her house much at this point, and that specter of death was creeping closer for her. That fall I got the news that another friend had died completely unexpectedly. His name was Rob, and he was only 25 years old. He had been at the Shakespeare and Company intensive and had played a heartbreakingly beautiful Romeo in his final scene presentation. Shakespeare and Company had eagerly hired him for their fall season. One day, on a day off from rehearsals, he had gone for a hike and slipped on a wet rock on a waterfall and plunged to his death in front of his girlfriend. It was horrible and cruel and such a waste. As if we needed more to mourn. 

The balance I needed so desperately now was love. I had my sweet children and I cherished every precious moment with them, but I had been separated and divorced for more than two years now and I was ready for a partner, a new man in my life to fill that gap (as it were). Would I find him via match.com? Or would he show up somewhere else unexpectedly? 

When we returned home from the summertime, as I said, we came back to start rehearsing Macbeth. And I returned home to start really getting into the whole dating scene with Match.com. One evening when I dropped off the kids at Dave’s house, I had even asked him whether he knew about it or not. And he was like “What? What are you talking about?” And he got kind of irritated at me that I was even suggesting that he needed help with his dating life. Because that’s how it felt in the beginning of Match.com. It was strangely shameful in some way. Like you should be able to do this without weird computer help. But a few days after I suggested it to him, I was a little dismayed to open up my Match.com profile and see a message from Dave. He had forwarded me his profile and said, “Hey, look, Match.com says we’re an 87% match.” Oh, my God. Oh, no, that is very awkward. So, here’s one of my first entry is from my journal about this whole weird thing. 

Oh, the bizarre, fascinating deliciously painful world of dating. I’m back in it. How strange. Don’t I have better things to do than wait around by the computer for a, quote, instant message, unquote? After I jeered at Savannah for the very same thing not a few short weeks ago? It’s the sex. I’m so ready to have sex again. I’m tired of doing it alone. Kissing is what’s missing. I was supposed to have a lunch, or something, date today with a guy that I’ve been emailing for only a week. We clicked somehow, at least on paper, also on the phone. Oh, so wonderful. I talked to him on the phone for an hour on Friday. I feel the flush rise up my chest just thinking about it. The blood is pounding in my ears, and all I can do is shut my eyes for a moment and let the pleasure wash over me. 

We started on the computer, quote, instant messaging un-quote. And that was my first time and it was very odd. As the chatter went along, it got very tantalizing. I said I was getting warm and was taking off my socks and shoes, and naturally that led to talk of removing other things. He asked for my phone number, and he called immediately. Now that’s what I call an instant message! The sound of his voice was thrilling right away, perhaps just because it was someone that was interested in me. No, that’s not enough. Or the inflection of anticipation? Something like that. We kept up the sexy talk, and I started running my hand up and down my legs as he was talking. Even before any suggestion was made about arousal, my voice got very low, and eventually he asked if I was getting excited and did we want to take this further. I already had my left breast out of my bra. And when he started to describe to me what he was doing and touching, I got totally carried away. And I ended up exploding, and moaning over the phone. It was unbelievable. 

Afterwards, he said he hoped it wouldn’t make our first meeting too difficult. I said, “Well, you just get to see me blush in person, but it won’t stop me.” So we were supposed to meet in Piermont for lunch today, and I had it all figured out childcare-wise, but he can’t get a car. And if I go down there where he lives, I won’t have much time with the traveling. I have to be back for rehearsal at three o’clock. It’s just as well. I think I’d like to meet him when there are no time constraints, just to have all the options open. The waiting is going to be torture though. Maybe we can have more telephone conversations between now and then? 

So that was a little bit of my naive first attempt at quote, instant messaging, unquote. I crack myself up. Anyway, there was also another interesting development on the horizon with those Strange Bedfellows that I was talking about. Yeah, more coming up on that. But I do want to finish one particular chapter that needs closing so we can move on. 

Two months after September 11, the world was still reeling, and tragedy was getting ready to strike my family again. Well, in truth, we had not personally suffered a loss at the World Trade Center, but does that mean we were due for one? I don’t know, but the timing seemed cruel. 

By that second week of November, Patty was approaching the end of her long and painful struggle with ovarian cancer. We all knew that this was not one of those varieties that allowed the stricken to live for years with that benevolent word remission. It had been only a matter of time, and now time was up. 

On the morning of November 16, 2001, however, the kids and I were in a fever of anticipation. It was a Friday, and I had told the kids they could skip school because we had something more important to do. We were going to see the premiere showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Little did we know then what a long and wondrous world of delights was ahead of us as this series stretched out over the decade ahead. It would become a ritual for us in the years to come to see the very first showing, even when they started coming out at midnight. My kids were the envy of the whole Shakespeare Company when I let them stay home from school for every Harry Potter movie. The other kids were like, “Whoa, that is so not fair!” 

Noah and Aidan were big fans of Harry Potter also, so I had agreed to take all four of them together. I knew that in doing this I was appointed as the decoy. My mom had confided in me that she thought Pat might go any time and probably that day. I tried bravely not to weep when we came over to collect the boys. I knew that it might be the last time I saw her alive, but mom said I shouldn’t go up just then because Patty was very agitated. 

Off we went to the movies. And I have no memory of actually sitting in the theater because I was profoundly worried about what would happen when we left. The kids loved it, of course, and they chatted all the way home about the juxtaposition of their expectations versus the choices that the filmmakers had made. It was very fun. But when I parked the car in mom’s driveway, I noticed that my brother’s car was there too. And as soon as we opened the front door, we knew it was over, and that Patty was dead. My mom and my brother both took one look at the boys and burst into fresh tears, even though their faces looked ravaged with tears already. I think Noah screamed, and mom tried to hold him, but he broke free and went up to their bedroom. She followed, and the rest of us stayed weeping in the kitchen, looking at Aidan and trying to comfort him as best we could. When mom came down later, she was wiped out, but she told me a bit about the end. She told me it was violent and frightening to watch, with Patty gasping and struggling and sitting up suddenly to reach for the sky. Who can say what she saw that scared her so terribly. I only know that mom was so shaken and upset that she took to drinking again, after being sober for almost 20 years. It was a devastating loss in many ways. 

And since the boys had never had a father per se, they were basically orphaned, and they felt lost for a long time to come. Fortunately, mom had officially adopted them sometime before, so one of their moms had survived the ordeal, but she was 64 at this point, and they were 11. She had not wanted to be a parent the first time around, let alone this time, so the whole situation was less than ideal. It would take a village and that village had gathered around Pat from the beginning for better or for worse. We all resolve to circle the wagons and support the boys and mom in every way we could think of.

The first item on the agenda was Sunday evening dinners. My brother initiated this tradition and he steadfastly reminded, and organized, and kept it going for the next two decades, extending it to special occasions like pumpkin carving and Easter egg dyeing. It has been a haven for us all at various times, and I’m so grateful for this gentle expression of loving community that came out of such a devastating trauma. So I dedicate this episode to Patty and wherever she is I know she’s watching over her boys. They have turned out to be wonderful young men – loving and kind – and I’m grateful for them as brothers. 

All right. I’ll see you guys next time. Thanks for being here.

Published by dianathebard

Podcasting about growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 60s and 70s, falling in love, raising kids, getting divorced and being a free and creative world traveler!

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