I dreamt all last night about writing a post about my friend Patrick, and then my mom. I can’t. I will.
Actually it began with how much I can relate to Grace of Will & Grace which I just began watching last year. First though I really did have a true glitter emergency when hot socks were popular, I was at a disco in Boston and some glitter got into a blister. Never thought I would be bragging about that.
But Grace, not only are we both very vain about her hair, live in a building that looks exactly alike from the outside, and nothing alike inside, and have given over some peak years to gay men, even when we were in relationships. When I was in college every time my boyfriend and I broke up which was often, I would see somebody else. I held my college’s record for turning them; actually I was the only girl known to turn them. Personally I have never felt offended; they were sweet which is so un-me, and the first year was pre-Stonewall, I think. They wanted to be straight for society. Despite all the horrible things that I say about myself, I was sweet.
My mother on gay men:
“They like beautiful women.
My father on gay men:
“They have great taste in furniture.”
Me on gay men:
“You know how many I nursed when they were sick? Why aren’t the sacrifices of straight women acknowledged? And why do gay men assume that straight women think it’s a turn on to go to a gay bar? Ocassionally, it’s fun, but every week?”
Actually I loved gay bars, and will probably do a post on the best and the worst of the 70’s and 80’s. Guys would beg me to come out with them as I was called “the east coast gay meter.” Apparently there was a woman in California who gay men would gravitate to in bars and often try to pick up. Then we would introduce them to our friends.
Patrick and I met in 1977; his lover was the Assistant Project Manager, Jay, at Summitt. At work, Jay was tyrannical with everybody but Lucia and I. He and Patrick were great hosts. They would have parties like mine with 100 or more people and somehow Patrick and I became good friends at once as he did with Lucia. Lucia and I would run into each other at their parties, but somehow didn’t meet at dinners. Very possibly because we were dating the same guys at different times. Lucia’s the one girl I have ever been able to do the comparison game with.
Patrick was the consumate snob. I once gave him a ceramic ashtry by a five year old because it was signed. He didn’t find it funny. Oh I have so many snobby Patrick stories but am not in the mood.
He loved Lucia and I incredibly. Patrick seemed to think that he was awarded custody of us in the divorce settlement. Really. I would have to tell him that I already had one father–or two as I hadn’t met my birth mother then and didn’t know that my birth father supposedly died when I was thirteen. Patrick and Zachary hated each other.
Lucia married his next lover, Hiram, who was a waiter at La Folie and later Sign of the Dove. She didn’t ask for anything of course, but ultimately ended up with the biggest prize in New York, a rent stabilized large, off the foyer, one bedroom in a beautiful prewar building.
We would go to both places often courtesy of some of Hiram’s customers who would give him their gift certificates to the restaurants. The gift certificates were lavish enough to get people very very drunk and Patrick would; so would I. Fortunately I lived three short blocks from La Folie, and not that many more from Sign of the Dove.
In 1982 Patrick began getting sick. He was diagonesed in 1984 and died on October 9, 1985. Patrick was 32. He was an executive at a shipping company who had been offered chorus roles and some minor supporting ones in Broadway shows but turned them down for a steady paycheck. After he died his father an office building super in Baltimore cried to me because he regretted having instilled such a work ethic in Patrick, and not encouraging him to go for his dream. Patrick was a manager in a shipping company. We once went on a company cruise; four guys, Lucia and I brought along to be the beards.
We drove Patrick crazy as we would pretend to be each guy’s girlfriend on different nights. While I understood that it was easy for Lucia and I to flaunt society’s rules as we are straight white women, and Patrick was gay at a time when some people still hadn’t come out, it was difficult for me to understand his retiticence as I had known gay males forever.
When he became sick I understood. People with AIDS were treated like lepers had been. Patrick was prejudiced; he lost a scholarship to a lesser qualified Black student and never stopped resenting that. My easy answer is that there should have been enough money for both; my heart says Patrick, my head and social conciensce believe that in early 1070’s Baltimore, a Black student deserved that scholarship.
He had been a Reagan Republican; by the end he was almost a Democrat.
Patrick was incredibly handsome and an incredible singer. For his 26th birthday party, in May 1979, the week before I met Zachary he hired a photographer. There’s one famous one of him and Lucia; Patrick looked great, Lucia looked drunker than drunk. Patrick had a thousand copies made, 10 by 12. After he and Hiram died, we would give the pictures out to whoever came over.
I was traveling from Munich to Rome with my parents. It had been very hot. We were on different floors on what would have been a shoddy hotel saved by feeling as if it were in a canal. There was a thunderstorm; incredible lightening into the canal. The hotel lost power, and I walked up to my parents room.
“Don’t have to light a candle for Patrick anymore.” I said as each time we went into a Catholic church I would light a candle for him. He was Catholic, and I figured that if there is a G-d, he wouldn’t care that I’m Jewish.
Patrick had always wanted to eat in the best apartments in New York; several months after his death we drove up the Hudson past the Palisades; and threw his ashes into the River so that he would at least make it into the best kitchens. But it was very windy and the ashes landed back on us.
It turned out he did die at the exact moment that the lights went out. His was the third and last death I either forsaw or knew happened at the moment it did. One ability I’m glad that I lost.
Tomorrow, 10/10 would have been a big birthday for my mom. Won’t say which one as she never gave her age until the last couple of years. She looked so good; she couldn’t help. She died on October 14, 2001 when she fell into her bathtub.
The day before is Yom Kippur where we mourn and honor the day, and the ten days between the new year and Yom Kippur are called the days of Awe where we honor our dead and think of them. It’s not difficult for me this week.
To talk about my mom would cheapen her; I can’t think of the right words. It does get easier with time.
If you have ever seen “Issac Stern in China,” my parents were at the same hotels, he was in 1979. Bob Hope was there also. My mom had never liked him but befriended him because “he looked like he needed to be recognized.” My mom looked so young and so Asian, Russian Slavic bones, that in pictures of her with a ten year old girl, people thought she was her daughter.
I was 28, adopted and my mom hadn’t been a young mother. But she always retained a youthful exuberance and beauty. Her voice never became old; she never wrinkled. The last couple of years she was frail in person; but on the phone she was 100 percent my mother.
Issac Stern died the same week as my mom and I remember hoping that if there is a heaven and they had to navigate anything they would together, and that my dad would be waiting at the other side. Well, I don’t know any of this, but it’s comforting; and since they’re dead, I can decide anything.
I might be overly prolifiec this week; I might not put in anything.