It's raining, it's pouring,
The old man is snoring.
Bumped his head
Went to bed,
And didn't wake up in the morning.
I prefer to think the old man simply slept in til noon. Or I modify the lyrics from "didn't wake up IN the morning" to "didn't wake up UNTIL the morning," the translucent membrane between life and death separated by a mere preposition. I suppose I prefer my nursery rhymes rainbow colored, the cradle still swinging high in the treetop, the ring around the rosie referring not so much to the Black Plague as it is a wild English garden. Tra la la, life is good, and then you die. Yes, AND THEN YOU DIE. I am embarrassed by how much I am affected by the death of celebrities. Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Kanye West's mother, for Chrissakes. Up until yesterday I thought Natasha Richardson was in the Hotel New Hampshire, but no, that was Natassja Kinksi; and still, I feel an emptiness where somebody used to be. Did you hear? I wait a few minutes after I pick up Bryan from the ferry to tell him at the end of the day. After all, it can't be the first thing out of my mouth. Who is she? Bryan asks when I tell him. And I rattle off her stats having just looked her up on IMDB. You know, the mother in The Parent Trap? She was in Maid in Manhatten with JLo? Nell? And then when none of this rings a bell, she's the real life sister of that woman you hate on Nip/Tuck. Oh, Bryan says, okay. And then after a minute he says, I don't hate the actress, just her character. To be clear. 'Cause that's pretty sad. And we drive the rest of the way home in silence, me loving my husband who does not hate the sisters of dead women, the world tragic enough already. I do not know what is happening in Darfur. Sudan. Sierra Leone. I know it is bad and that there is not much I can do, although I also know better than that. If we all did something... The absurdity, though, of a culture that blasts the headlines of an actress' death while a genocide occurs far and away, off camera. Since 2003, 400,000 people have been murdered in Darfur and yet I do not feel an emptiness where they used to be. They are not on IMDB. Oh no, my mom says when I tell her on the phone that Natasha Richardson has died. That is just terrible. Who was her mother again? Vanessa Redgrave, I tell her. That's right, my mother says, and then she tells me the story of a man she knew growing up, a friend of her father's who would often come over for dinner because he was a widower. One night his wife bumped her head on their swinging door. Ouch, she said, and then went to bed that night never to wake up again. It's raining, it's pouring. And this is why I'm a fatalist, my mother says, the story now over. A subdural hematoma, the punchline of prognoses everywhere, seemingly the absence of sense and free will and fairness.I do everything I can to stay alive (short of eating well and exercise): I am a smug non-smoker, a bit of a teetotaler. I wear my seat belt, believing not so much in free will but in a fate that is determined simply because I want it. Which is stupid, I know. As if the people in Darfur don't want to live. As if Natasha Richardson didn't want to just learn how to ski. As if me wanting a long healthy life with my family is enough. My step-father most likely has cancer. Already he has progressive MS, is a quadraplegic in a wheelchair, sleeps with a machine pumping oxygen because his lungs are weak, but now his kidneys are failing rapidly and they have found masses. He is not ready to die, and that is the biggest tragedy of them all, that any of us should die before we have the courage and peace to let go. This is my modern day holocaust, this deep yawning sadness of a thousand deaths that are not my own, and so I think of Natasha Richardson. A woman who meant nothing to me. A death that means nothing to me except that I am able to think about it at all.
And now, for Beautiful Things (lest you commit hari kari after this happy happy joy joy of a post):