At long last, shortly before Labor Day we will be hosting a celebration of Lee’s life here at Deer Tick Manor, where Lola the pup and I currently are spending several relaxing days. The guest list mainly consists of the folks whose email addresses we had gathered last summer around this same time, as we were attempting to alert them, first, to the fact that Lee was deathly ill, and second, to the fact that she died. Like many others who have suffered a personal loss during this time of pandemic, I have felt this celebration of Lee’s life is long overdue.
At this late juncture it will be interesting to see how many people attend our event. From an original list of perhaps 225 potential invitees, my guess is that about 100 will attend. Not a bad total, certainly, especially given the long passage of time since early July in 2020, when Lee passed, the travel times and distances involved getting to and from Deer Tick, as well as the current summer vacation season, which traditionally closes right after Labor Day, made even more hectic this year due to pent up demand. I anticipate that we will be entertaining folks from several states and no fewer than three countries, including the United States, of course. We will do the best we can to be ready and then hope that the weather cooperates. When I use the word “we,” I mean myself and Lee’s brother, Paul, who is helping to host the event.
In the meantime, the Evites already have gone out, a follow-up message is in the works reminding folks to RSVP so we can estimate our food and beverage needs. We are in the process of reserving tables, chairs, canopies, even port-a-potties, including one fancy deluxe model replete with running water, a sink, and a flush toilet– for ladies’ use only. (Inside the house I plan to close off the downstairs bathroom lest too many uncomfortable users clog up my ancient plumbing system. However, if they are willing to trundle up and down the steep staircase leading to a second-floor washroom, well…).
Despite the use of high-tech electronic communications, we also are utilizing good, old fashioned word-of-mouth. In sum, I will plan to entertain more people than are likely to RSVP. Everyone is welcome, nobody gets turned away if they should just happen to show up unannounced. Lee never would tolerate such poor manners.
This past Monday Hoda simply told me that she will be attending Lee’s celebration. Hoda is my good friend, whom I long ago introduced to Lee, though you could never have guessed this watching Lee as she sat by Hoda’s bedside, hour after hour and day after day, following Hoda’s 19-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor. Fortunately, Hoda managed to recover. Unfortunately for me, Lee did not recover when she became sick.
I was meeting Hoda for breakfast at the Cozy Corner, a venerable neighborhood dive, which these days can get away with offering expensive breakfast fare as the hood has become gentrified in the five decades or so that I have been living here. Hoda had only just returned home to the United States in April of this year following an extended stay in her native Iran that began even before Lee had the colonoscopy in early 2020 which had revealed that she had colon cancer. Our breakfast this past week marked the first time we were seeing one another in more than 18 months. We were just starting to catch up when, at the first mention of Lee, my words caught in my throat, and I could not hold back the tears. This sudden tearful reaction caught me by surprise since, day to day, I do not cry very much. Through my tears I could see that Hoda was also crying.
The next day I had a similar experience while reminiscing on the phone with Alan, a lawyer who used to work with Lee. At one time Alan and his wife, Mead, Lee and I, and others from Alan and Lees’ office would gather to hear music, maybe see a play, or break bread while sharing more than a few bottles of wine. We even occasionally would visit each other’s country houses. However, unlike Deer Tick Manor, Alan and Mead had been able to monetize their getaway by leasing parts of the acreage to Michigan blueberry farmers.
One day Alan retired from his day job, and we did not see them much after that time. In fact, the last time that I saw Alan and Mead was on the day after the day Lee died, when a “caravan” of her former coworkers had unexpectedly shown up at my door with signs, seeking to lift her spirits.
Now, here was Alan calling to ask if it would be okay for him to extend invitations to the celebration to several former coworkers, who had informed him they had not seen or received the Evite. As we were discussing old times, in my mind’s eye I could see the faces of several of the people whose names he was mentioning to me. Once more, I felt my words catch in my throat before I could even utter them. I would pause mid-sentence to collect myself and felt self-conscious, wondering whether Alan had detected my halting speech pattern, when a repairman arrived at my back door for a scheduled appointment, allowing me gracefully to end our call. I felt relief.
Later in the day I was talking to Lee’s brother, Dave, who lives in Florida. Mainly, he wanted to discuss his plans to drive here with his wife the week prior to Lee’s celebration, but every now and then, he would throw in an aside expressing to me how much he still missed his sister.
If you have been following these posts, then you know that for me this past month had been rife with emotional trepidation because it encompassed several milestone events, which I previously have not had to face on my own. Thankfully, however, with the help of family and friends, the month was not nearly as fraught as I had imagined it might be. Nonetheless, I am glad it now has passed.
Yet, as I listened to Dave talk about Lee, suddenly it had dawned on me that the real emotional gauntlet still lies in front of me when, several weeks hence, we gather to celebrate Lee’s wonderful life. I plan to carefully monitor my feelings and reactions in the days and weeks leading up to our celebration. I might keep you posted here how things are going but make no promises that I will do so.