Thinking of you today and hoping you’re well on the other side. I’m still giving everybody hell over here and have actually gotten worse in my middle ages. Live loud, loud fierce, and suffer no fools continues to be my rallying cry. Michael told my old college roommate Anne that he was delighted she and I were friends again because and I quote “we lost her (me) to the proletariat.” I guess baby brother hopes my renewed friendship with Annie will magically transform me into the debutante I once was. Like that’s going to happen:) When you lay dying you looked at me and said, “ Kathy, your freedom is the most important thing to you,” and you were right. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly where all my freedom has/is taking me. I’d be lying just as much if I said I wanted to live another way.
I have a funny for you. You remember how you willed me the silver candelabras? When I went to Virginia to pick them up, Michael and Daddy told me they’d sold them at auction. I looked at Daddy and said, “it’s not enough that you killed my bird and threw my hair dryer away, now you’ve sold my candelabras at auction!” This was some twenty years ago right after you died and a year before Daddy married that Yankee menza bitch, Lee. Mommy, I’ve never met anyone who was menza who had the sense to come in out the rain. After daddy died Lee made off with your money, which was supposed to go to my son, your grandchild. She called me and she said, “Kathy I had no idea your father was changing the will, I feel just terrible.” She must have said she felt just terrible four or five times. Finally I said, “Well, if you feel so terrible you can just give the money back.” Boy she got off the phone fast.
Five years ago, on my annual summer pilgrimage to Delaware to see Michael (the house is wonderful, a veritable shrine to all things Minter) I went into the attic looking for my exercise ball and noticed your handwriting on a piece of paper taped to a box. I couldn’t read your writing, never could, opened the box and there were my candelabras. Michael was passed out in his room, he’s drinking entirely too much, it’s not pretty, and how he continues to be an effective attorney is beyond me, but the point is I could get the candelabras out and packed without him noticing, which I did, along with a few other select pieces of silver. My suitcase was so heavy the wheels pronated, and pulling it was close to impossible. I wished for someone to help me. To pick up the suitcase, groan, and say, “what did you do, steal the family silver?” To which I would answer, “Why yes, as a matter of fact I did.” That didn’t happen and trying to get across Port Authority from the Atlantic City bus to the Bloomfield bus was a nightmare. You were right; I should have never let my license expire. I should have come home from college and gotten it renewed. I still haven’t gotten another one because I have to start from the beginning and it’s always about money mom. I hate that a lot.
Three years ago Anne met me at Michael’s. I told her about stealing back the candelabras and I told there was a whole lot more in the attic I planned to take. That particular trip I planned on stealing the small, thick gold-framed mirror, the one you bought at the Paris flea market back in 1961. Anne, understanding that Michael and reason do not mix and intimate with the peculiarities of wasp culture, didn’t ask me why I was stealing the mirror, she just wanted to know what I was going to put it in. “I have a Whole Foods bag,” I said, “and I’ll just stick it in your car.” Anne kept Michael busy talking about the dairy lobby in D.C. and I got the mirror. Next time I’m taking a small oil painting of marshlands. Michael will never miss it.
Dear T-T-Tom is well and living in Toledo. He is an astounding photographer and did all the photos at Anne’s most recent wedding. I do think the third time’s the charm. Cric, Anne’s new husband, is the nicest man ever and absolutely devoted to her. By the way, you were wrong; the fact that Anne and I both slept with Tom did not turn him gay. He was already gay, he told us at the wedding. We had such a good time at that wedding, the Coomsberry is to die for, and I got to reconnect with Peggy, a friendship I wished I’d had back in the day, but am blessed to have now. Peggy slept with Tom too and Tom says if he was straight he would have married Peggy.
Dearest Rosanne, has met a wonderful man and bought herself a 49 acre farm in Maine. She and Chuck are moving in June and it is truly the weepy end of an era. Rosie and I still laugh over how you used to call her when you were looking for me. I don’t know if you know but when you were diagnosed it was Rosie I turned to. I called her from National Airport, collect. I was waiting for the Eastern shuttle, there was a bar right there. Phone to ear I said to the bartender, “Give me a double Canadian club, straight-up.” He handed me the drink, I heard the operator say, “will you accept the charges,” and started yelling in the middle of Rosanne’s yes, “That’s a double?! Are you fucking kidding me? How much are you charging me for this?!” “Where the fuck are you Katie Lou?!” Rosanne hollered.
Rosie picked me up at the airport. She didn’t say anything; she lit a joint and handed it to me. There were no seatbelts in the car. Rosanne had her mechanic cut them out because she felt they were a violation of her civil liberties. She turned up the radio and drove us off into the night. All through Manhattan she drove, wrapped in eloquent silence that said more than words, drifting without destination. East Side, West Side, Midtown, Downtown, Wall Street, we had blood on every corner, every block had a memory we shared, and it still feels like a movie to me. I couldn’t believe you were going to die. I wasn’t going to think about it. I lit another joint. Three joints later I said, “I can go home now.”
When I let myself into the apartment, Gordon was watching Mash, the blue light from the television played across his face. It never occurred to me to turn to my husband first. It’s awful to be in a marriage where’s there’s no comfort. What exactly is the point of marriage if there’s no comfort? If you can’t reach for each other in the dark and hold on? I don’t blame Gordon. It took the two of us to create that toxic tango. I know you told Nancy G. that I was miserably unhappy, Mom, and when she told me what you said I knew that was your round-a-bout way of letting me know that even though I had a child if I left my marriage you were ok with it. I did leave him, three years after you died, and I got sober. It would be five years before I quit reaching for the phone to call you at 7 a.m., in the morning. “I’m calling you early before you get your armor on,” I’d say and you’d laugh. I loved making you laugh; you were my best audience. It’s funny how when people die all of a sudden they become saints and the not-so-nice is wiped away like chalk on a chalk board. That’s not me though because it’s not honest. There were days I hated you as much as I loved you, and after you died it took years of therapy to work through the dysfunction that was our family, that was you and me. I learned the ins and outs of the dysfunction, what connects to what, but just as important I learned about the functional, the truly excellent. I was lucky; I could count on your love like I counted on gravity. There was never any question that you loved me beyond all reason, that you would fight for me, kill anyone who got in my way, and that no matter what I did would always love me. Because you gave me that I could give it to your grandson and he will give it to his children and so and so on. I know for fact dysfunction threads its way down but so does love and love given a sliver of a chance will always win.
I miss you Dee-Dee. I am so happy we were close as we were your last six months on the planet and I love you forever. Give Dad my best and know I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the Yankee menza bitch doesn’t get buried with the two of you at Arlington. Did you know she handed a Tiffany bag to your grandson at daddy’s internment and said, “here’s your grandfather.” She’d put a third of his ashes in a zip-lock bag inside a Tiffany bag. Brad, enormously hung over, in a wrinkled, skinny, navy blue suit, had flown in from college for the burial, looked at me as if this was yet another story for the unbelievable novel that was his life. Bradley is convinced that there has never been a story as far out there as the story that is his life. I’ve yet to tell him the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Rest in Peace Mommy, Kathy. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo
copyright Katherine Manaan 2013