Two of the people I loved unconditionally passed away during the last month. Sure there are lots of people you may love, but not without boundaries. People who, no matter what they do or say, will always be in your life, even after they leave this earth and, as they say in “Hamilton,” — “go to the other side.” Going somewhere after you die is a concept that makes me happy. Ending relationships or even being separated from good friends make me sad. No one enjoys being sad so goodbyes are not what I do. Shalom is OK because it is not as permanent. It is more hello and goodbye, more “I’ll see you again.”
It seems like yesterday but the first time Sara came into my life was in 1972. The McGovern campaign. Everyone in the world claims to have worked in that campaign. But at the time we were a small number of people and so we knew names and often we had the chance to meet the actual person. Sara was never anything but an actual person. Over the years we kept meeting one another at airports, campaign headquarters, or events — some glitzy others absolutely ordinary. But when Sara was around nothing was ordinary. Nothing.
In 1976. after I moved to DC, which was where Sara lived, we saw one another all the time. But the time I always ask about was when we were at a fundraiser for someone or something. Politics then as not the same as it is today. When the “Carter” people (staff, media, and Secret Service) moved to DC, we didn’t need to make new friends because all our friends came with us. Fun was easy to find. even if was dangerous. In politics there were often situations that could be considered dangerous, but that’s another story. Anyway, Sara was a hoot. We were at a party for who knows what, and I was there with a campaign friend named Gabriel Guerra. Sara did not pause for a second, as soon as she saw us she yelled, “Does your mother know you go out with Puerto Ricans?” Gabriel and I dissolved into laughter. The mostly Hispanic crowd took a beat for a quck moment and then did the same. Sara did not have a bigoted bone in her body. She treated everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion and sexual presence with the same respect. The only thing she found intolerant were people who were bigots or who spewed bullshit. At 98 Sara was still working and I think she was still driving. Or at least pointing the car in the right direction and stepping on the gas.
The happiest I ever saw her was at her son’s wedding. The second happiest was on the podium with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her success. Many of her obits, and they were numerous, described her as the woman who drove Hillary to Arkansas and told her not to marry Bill. Hillary didn’t listen. Which was unusual because all of us always listened to Sara. She was so smart, savvy, and knowledgable. Excellent plain good instincts and common sense. But being Hillary’s friend was certainly not all of whom she was. She was not religious but she belonged to a Temple and went to Services. She was a advocate for women, children, peace and so much more. It was always terrific to see her at her apartment, a meal, an event or on an adventure. For example, we often went to some middle of nowhere IKEA for meatballs — and it truly was an adventure. Although there are lists of things she could teach you, or issues in which she was interested, the lists weren’t who she was. Saraloved her kids, big beautiful jewelry, my Mothers golden sneakers, and a great meal. You simply can’t describe Sara in a page, an essay, or even a book. The simple fact is, I loved her complexities and her simplicity.
There are people still in my life with whom I went to Nursery School and High School. Ronnie was someone with whom I went to high school and who has been in my life since we were thirteen. We met in some class and he made me laugh about who knows what. Making someone laugh is always a good start to an ever lasting relationship. As with most high schools, there was a clique, but ours was bigger than most and included boys. Joyce, the woman who he married, was also a close high school friend. My house was two blocks from the school and because we were all kind of the Principal’s pets, we went to my house for the study halls we had before and immediately after lunch. That gave us hours to go to my house, have lunch and watch soap operas. Ronnie taught me how to drive cars that had automatic and stick shifts. Once he was satisfied that I knew what I was doing, there was the Ronnie test. He took me in a car with a “stick” where? On a hill. We pulled up in front of a giant hole and told me I needed to pull forward or go in the hole. He confessed that he would not get me out. We both celebrated my victory with ice cream at a local hangout. He then took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my license, which I did. Once I had my license, he allowed me to drive his new Edsel, (a car which was a total disaster), all two blocks to my house for lunch. Something terrible always happened. In fact, one day the door fell off and we carried it into the lunchroom. Ronnie didn’t get angry. He never got angry. Maybe at the kids a few times, but it never lasted. Over the years we celebrated births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties and meals, together. His kids were a year older and a year younger than my son, so the kids became friends as did my much younger daughter.
There were times when we disagreed. During the Viet Nam war, he served while I protested. We knew if we had a conversation about it, we would have a fight, so we didn’t talk about it. Nothing was worth jeopardizing our friendship. We talked about everything but the war. He was always there — good times and trying times. There was never a time he said No. When I got arrested (another story) in the middle of the night. he came to get me out . He was always for me, as well as all his friends, the one call everyone made when you had only one call. He always had a smile on his face and a toothpick in his mouth. And though it appeared to be normal, he only liked one kind. After he went to the other side, my cellphone broke, and even in death he rescued me, when I used his “flip phone”. He didn’t need all the crap like they have on smart phones. He just used it to talk to people. He thought he was smart enough.
Ronnie and Joyce were married for a long, long time. They were always together because he did the cooking and all the shopping. Joyce got confused with too many choices. The other day, I got out of bed and turned around to see a still sleeping David. Wow, I thought, what would I do if the was no longer there — forever. And we don’t spend every day together. At this point in our lives, having invested so much time in our marriages, I cannot even come close to imagining what the loss must be for Joyce.
We try to talk everyday. But I am reluctant to tell her that as time passes it will get better. It will get farther away, and she might start to live her life without him, but the loss is so great, none of us, especially Joyce, will ever get over it.
And so goodbye my dear friends. I am confident I will see you on the other side. We’re just sayin’… Iris