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.
Friday, November 20, 2009
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Edith truly is a blessing in the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to know her. That was a lovely tribute Carla -- except for the part where you called her (and by implication, her similarly-aged friends)"very, very old". I may have to give you the look tomorrow.
Happy Birthday Spring Chicken!
Ah, Carla...I've not yet met you except for last night, along with hundreds of others at the film festival...and I LOVED singing Happy Birthday to Edith! Wonderful film, wonderful evening...thank you for all the amazing laughs. I am grateful today for my dear friend Kathleen, for through her, I have added you to my list of friends---someday I'll meet you for real.
blessing blessing blessing
one more time
I attended the event last night at College of Marin.
In fact, I can't stop thinking about it....not just because you are nasty funny but also because of what you deal with with every breath you take.
Wow...you are awesome.
Carla, you are indeed blessed to have a friend in Edith; and I'm sure, she in you! A lovely tribute to your dear friend. As always, thanks!
I am so grateful to Sandy Handsher for tipping me off--and pinning me down--about last night's show.
The movie was riveting (I wish that the Good Enug rough cut were totally acceptable and the $150k for refining were useful to you personally. Do films always have to be perfect?).
Slogged home to bed, wiped out, only to discover that YOU went home and posted a nice thoughtful (and hella funny) blog before going to sleep. Whew. U R awesome, and thank you for being vain, cocky, "miss craisy" etc...very inspiring to a fellow vain lady who wavers a bit...
Thanks for putting it into words, Carla.. Edith is a blessing in all our lives... and the fact that you could publicly humiliate her this way is perfect...
Genuine beauty comes from within
let it be known the world over
the man or woman in the mirror
cannot be perfected
for true beauty is deep routed
in character only
many are fooled and fall prey
much to one's dismay
I speak from experience
I too, foolish and young, gave too much credence
I have since learned
to not allow myself to be concerned
with outer appearance
for the true essence
of a man or woman can only be measured
by a compassionate, loving heart centered on giving and finding ways
to love unconditionally
and to always treat others
Edith = True Beauty
I think I reached the pinacle moment of my time at COM last night. In my 27 years there, I can't think of anything I've done that was more powerful, more moving, more fun and most of all, more meaningful than helping to organize the screening. This was IT, I should just retire now :-).
Looking out at that huge crowd of people in the FA Theater that came out for you was amazing. Practically every seat was full. Sandy and I were overjoyed and totally blown away. The love in that room was truly palpable.
You looked beautiful and positively radiant. And Mac --- OMG Carla what an exceptional young man you have raised! My friends can't stop talking about him --- or you, for that matter.
My personal goals were to honor you and show you how much we at COM care about you and to have you experience the film with a live audience. I think those were met and exceeded.
My only regret is at the last minute they wouldn't let Matt off so he couldn't fly up till late last night, but at least he was here to celebrate his 22nd birthday today.
Speaking of birthdays, Happy Birthday Edith!
As we all know, we are thankful to have you in our lives. We're grateful for your humor, your insight, your red hair, your Always Looking Sexy calendar and more. And thanks for clarifying yet again that large audiences make me want to crawl under the seats.
Carla, I'm lucky enough to know you primarily through my good friend, Edith. What a wonderful tribute to her -- both at the film & in your blog. There aren't many things more important in life than good friends, and you are clearly blessed both by having good friends -- and by being a good friend yourself.
Hi Sweet Girl,
What a wonderful tribute to an incredible friend.
I was in the theater with your Mom and two other Gladstone grads. The film is amazing, you are amazing, and your son is amazing.
Loved the screening, and the film's already on my list of favorite documentaries. I'm writing an article for the COM Echo Times about the event, and I know it's unorthodox, but I thought this might be the best way to reach you.
Would you be willing to reply to a few questions I had regarding the film? If so, let me know the best way to send them. You can get a hold of me at email@example.com
Thanks very much
PS. I'm so glad there is someone else in the world who's favorite movies include both Mystery Men and China Town.
Love Edith, love you...
I cannot imagine a better tribute to Edith--you sooo captured her. You are a master of words--whether it be written, spoken or sung!
Well its way too late but I am finally catching up on blogs from my parent's house.I cannot get a blogfeed no matter how I try, so random check-ins has to do it for me.
Edith is a treasure to me too. I agree about that look. It makes me never want to disappoint her no matter what.She is the source I go to when I haven't got a clue how to deal with life. And that happens often. Which explains why she, not Gary, was the first to know about Allie.
I love you, Carla, for pointing out the best in us all.
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