Like many a cub journalist (though I was no longer actually much of a ‘cub’ since I was in my early 30s) when I began my career I was stuck at the ‘obit’ desk.
Not a bad idea on the part of countless editors since it demands the fledgling reporter not only be able put together a few words in a logical and compassionate manner but also that he/she can learn some of the nuances about obituary writing.
Obituaries were always freebies, which meant the newspaper reserved the right to edit that which had been submitted by a member of the public or a funeral home. And one of those nuances is that nobody in the crass eyes of a newspaper ever ‘passes away’, goes to the ‘great beyond’, is ‘at one with Jesus’ or other such polite pleasantries. In newspaper parlance the person has ‘died’, pure and simple. I’ve noticed in recent years there seems to have come about a softening of that style of reporting deaths. I make no judgment on that change, though death itself remains what it always was – pretty darn final.
Oh, and we also used to do that ‘thing’ that outsiders and laypersons tended to find lacking in compassion. For certain ‘notables’ we had prepared obits. The death notice would be written up well ahead of time – sometimes years before if the person in question was very old – and then when the day came the remaining pertinent facts only needed to be plugged in and then the paper was good to go. It was always essential in such cases to check with a funeral home just to make sure the ‘shuffling off the mortal coil’ had indeed actually taken place. Bad time to be in error.
I only bring this topic to the fore because I noticed in the weekend paper that the mother of the girl whom I promised (to myself) to love forever had died. All my yesteryears came flooding back in a flash when I saw the surname and even her first name (which I knew for some reason) in the notice. She had a good innings. She was 95. I am happy for that. I recall her as an awfully nice lady whom I somehow, mainly by being excessively polite and deferential around her (though not in an icky Eddie Haskell way) that she might feel compelled to tell her daughter that she should fall in love with me.
That didn’t happen, of course, and I do not resent the ‘;late’ lady for not having acted to boost my interests.
But, in reading the obit, I did check out her daughter to see what I could glean from the notice. Well, she is obviously alive and well and still sports the same first name that once caused me palpitations.
Of her, I regarded her as more than a mere crush (such a judgmental term for something that is so real) and the fact that her name can still conjure up feelings says something or other. I mean, we were never a ‘couple’ per se, albeit we were quite good friends (which was what she wanted us to be, and no more than that). We never made out, though I once kissed her on New Year’s Eve. And that was about the extent of our carnality. Oh, and I once saw her underpants when she hiked her skirt to dangle her feet in a friend’s swimming pool. I still remember the pattern (so, ha!) and I recall thinking at the time that God could strike me dead at that point and I’d have died happy.
So, in looking at the little bit about her it seems she became a Mom herself and, though it pains me a little to think it, also a grandmother. Sigh.
But, the most telling (albeit slightly painful) point came from the fact that she sported the last name of the guy she had just broken up with when I did my most frantic (not to mention lame) courting of her. Soooooooo, she obviously went back to him.
What on earth could he have had that I didn’t?
Well, I was 18 and didn’t have much, and I recall he had a pretty decent car. If such things were her criteria then who am I to quibble? And considering the fact they are still married may have made him a better candidate for matrimony than I’ve proved to be considering my matrimonial track record.