A little less than one year ago, I performed for the last time. It was November 26, the day before Thanksgiving, and I knew part way through the gig that this would be the last time I performed on a stage. This as you can imagine was the unkindest cut of all. I don’t think anything has been harder, nor will anything be harder until I’m no longer able to talk, which if you know me is something that I do really well. If there were a competitive talking event in the Olympics I would get the judges’ highest scores for quantity of words, inexhaustibility, and a perfect 10 for creativity.
And so as we got closer and closer to Thanksgiving this year I wondered with dread if I could find a place of genuine gratitude. After all, I’ve lost so many things this last year. It gets harder to harder to do simple tasks and leave it to me to be the ALS anomaly with random symptoms like vomiting. You let me down internet. You didn’t mention vomiting as an ALS symptom. Every day it gets a little harder to be cheerful and look at ALS with that hazy, sepia lens they use on TV for flashbacks of happy childhoods and Kodak commercials.
Good new though: this time of year (today to be exact) marks the anniversary of the birth of Edith Muroga Morrow. I would tell you which anniversary but she would kill me. So in the interest of not angering her, let’s just leave it at she’s very old. (That crack is for Edith’s siblings in case they read this. By throwing the first punch I’ve saved her from a much crueler blow.)
Now those of you who are faithful readers of this blog know that next to talking, the most remarkable thing about me is my award-winning collection of friends. Each one is unique. Each one is gifted. Each one has his or her own peculiar quirk or anxiety that makes them not quite perfect so I’m less envious of them than I might otherwise be. Edith is perhaps the least neurotic and quirky of my friends which is a remarkable accomplishment since she grew up with a man who covered his office windows in tin foil.
Edith has an inscrutable look that takes years to figure out. Her doppelganger Kathy has this disapproving eyebrow cock and lurching forward of the forehead with the chin tucked in which would make most men’s scrotum’s recede and which chills the very heart of this poor cripple. Edith’s disapproving look however is far more subtle. It’s more of a complexion change than anything else. In another life she must have been one of those Gary Cooper type cowboys. I imagine her on the plains facing her down her foe, who, searching her face for the “tell,” never sees her hand reach for the Colt 45. Her eyes don’t even follow the poor slob as he drops to the ground. She just blows across the business end of her pistol, twirls it three and one quarter times on her index finger and it lands perfectly in her gold and oyster brocade holster. She doesn’t blink.
But that’s really only one side of her. Inside her calm cool-as-ice demeanor beats one of the warmest hearts this side of the Pecos. Edith is at my house a minimum of once a week. I’ve called her on her cell phone from another county, and said, “I’m at this party and I’ve locked myself in the bathroom because I’m freaking out.” And she has simply said, “ I’ll be right there.” And she’s always right there. She has listened to me complain bitterly and at great lengths about all kinds of things both serious and petty and she seems to have the misfortune of being the one that’s around during at least three quarters of my completely Vesuvian explosions. She is apparently incapable of spewing molten lava herself and tends to explode more like a bottle of seltzer water that someone had in their knapsack--mildly explosive, and a little soggy but nothing that can’t be quickly cleaned up.
I’ve seen Edith deal with things that nobody should ever have to deal with. I remember Kris, Wendy and myself sitting on the floor of Kris’s empty new house. We were supposed to be putting contact paper into the cupboards and unloading boxes and instead we were sobbing in each other’s arms because Edith’s son had been diagnosed with leukemia. I’ve never seen anyone deal with something so horrible with such grace as she did then. In the midst of cleaning stents, watching her baby get spinal taps and chemo, and discovering that if that wasn’t enough, he also had something wrong with his fucking heart, Edith dealt directly and bravely with the situation. She cried when she had to but she still went out for birthday dinners, indulged in retail therapy, and treated Nick like a regular kid whenever she could. She and her husband (who is very shy so I won’t mention him by name in this blog… let’s just call him…“Guy,”) did such a great job with Nick that he doesn’t remember being sick at all. A kid who had been sick at the same time as Nick recently died. Edith was extremely upset but when she went into Nick’s room to check on him and ask him if he was okay, he answered, “About what?” They have not raised him to be the kid who had leukemia and Edith never seemed to revel in the role of the tireless martyr mom of sick kid. She has always done what needs to be done. She has always had the common sense to take a break when she needs it.
She’s like that with me. I never get the sense from my inner circle of friends that any of them are trying to rack up friendship points in some weird ALS themed video game. Edith just kind of quietly takes care of things that need to get taken care of and some that don’t. For example: I can’t drink from a normal cup anymore so I need to use a straw. The other day Edith shows up at my house with a crate of 3,000 straws. I think I’m going to put it in my will that whatever straws are left should go to build a memorial straw sculpture made by Edith herself. I think a fitting tribute to me would be a giant straw man that people could knock down in my honor. Edith would probably give it a giant straw penis because she also has a very cruel and wicked sense of humor. I love watching her eyes when she says something hilarious yet mean to me because there’s this naughty twinkle that takes about 15 years off of her… which still means she’s very, very old.
By the way, she would blame the straw man’s penis on me. Don’t let her get away with that bullshit.
So as the days get shorter and nights get colder and we creep up toward Thanksgiving, the first blessing that I’m going to write about is my friend Edith. Glamorous, good, creative, and a real smart ass. I love you Edith. Happy Birthday.