First off, a day does not go by that I don’t think of you and grandpa and my gratitude for everything you did for mommy and me.
Before I get to my main purpose of this note, I want you to know that I know you guys are watching me. When I have problems and worry, suddenly birds will appear outside my window. If it’s a big problem, it’s one of you. I assume it’s grandpa as he took care of the larger issues in the family. Two birds mean it’s both of you. It instantly calms me down, and I know you are watching out for me now as you always did when you were here on earth.
I also want you to know I wear your engagement ring on my wedding finger. I don’t care that it’s on the small side. I love that it’s yours and that despite the fact as the years went on you could have had a bigger one, you kept the first one grandpa could afford.
FYI- I had it reset. FYI in 2020 means for your information. It sounds more smart-aleck as you would say than it’s intended to.
I am writing to tell you that mommy died two days ago.
She was ninety- one years old. I’m not sure what she died of. She had diabetes like you did, only hers was worse, or she just lived longer.
She was really active until the end. You know mom, always on the move. She was writing columns and working on a book and doing collages and going out every night up until the pandemic
Oh, Grandma, there is a pandemic. You know how you always said the world was a filthy place? And you wore masks in public sometimes. You covered my face when someone sneezed saying it could kill me. Everything you always thought would happen is happening. We can’t go out. The world is shut down due to disease. This is everything you were waiting for.
I actually think the pandemic led to her death. Mommy was not cut out to be in quarantine. The other day when we were going through her things, Taylor found her agenda. Every Christmas I bought her a Smythson agenda (I know we both spent too much money). Taylor (you met her when she was six months old, then you died) said, “look… up until February every day of Maw’s life (she called mommy Maw, as unlike you she did not want to be called grandma) was filled with things to do, and then suddenly there was nothing for five months. We have not been able to go out for five months. Mommy could not live that way.
I actually moved back to LA from NYC to be closer to mom as I wanted to be nearby for her last years. Unfortunately, those years were only two months.
She still looked really good up until the last month or so. I know you always thought she was a bit vain. Remember when she had her facelift, you said she thought she was a Rockefeller. Well, anyway, it worked. She stayed pretty, even as an old lady.
She hated being called an old lady. She would be furious at for me saying it.
She actually lived the longest of any female in the family thus far. FYI I also had a facelift. I’m just as vain as mommy. Maybe more so as I won’t let my body go and she didn’t care so much about that.
I know you and mommy had your battles over the years and you used to call her a hothead. You always took my side when she and I fought. I missed that. I miss your support. But Mommy did love you a lot. Though I know she didn’t always show it very well.
Nine years ago, she was really sick. I took care of her and got her life back together.
When she was in severe pain, time and time again, she cried out for you. She kept a big photo of you on her desk and talked glowingly about your trips together. She remembered and loved you in ways that might not always have been the way she showed you during your life. I need you to know that.
Mommy had a hard time showing certain feelings. But I learned over the years that it didn’t mean she wasn’t feeling them.
When I asked her about it, she blamed grandpa and not you. She said he was cold and always absent and he loved me more than he loved her. And you loved me too much. And then sometimes she would say that you loved her more than you loved me. I am not sure any of this was too productive, I guess it helped her get some of her feelings out. I remember grandpa in a totally different way than she does. Did.
But I know she is coming to find you — the night she was dying, I kept saying you get to go see your mommy now.
Don’t you want to see grandma? She nodded yes.
Then I said do you want to see grandpa. She shook, no.
So, if you and grandpa are still together, which who knows how that stuff goes – maybe you’re with Perry Como or something. That would be cool. But, if you are with grandpa, I’m just warning you, you may have to intervene.
And FYI, shortly before she died, she converted to Catholicism. I know, I know. I think that’s why she’s afraid to see grandpa. She’s wearing a giant cross. I mean, giant. Like the Pope. I told her if she insisted on wearing it, to hide or run if she saw grandpa. So, I’m giving you a heads up on that one. If you all get to reunite, I don’t want it to start off on a bad note. She’s being buried in the Santa Barbara Mission. Not my idea either.
I’m spreading some of her ashes in the sea outside the condo you guys bought her to do something non-denominational and spiritual.
I know mommy did not live the life you had wanted for her. But she lived the one she wanted, and she lived it with gusto. She accomplished a lot, Grandma. She was a very impressive person. She was just of a different generation than you and really mom was always ahead of her time in so many ways. I loved that about her.
Just after you died, she stopped working at the News Press and started writing books on China and Chinese textiles. Remember when she went to China in 1975 and you and grandpa and I went to meet her in Hawaii on her way back? Well, she took that ball and she ran with it. And she was in her mid 60’s. She totally reinvented herself. She lectured all over the world. She won awards. It was really impressive.
She taught me you could reinvent yourself at any age. She did it several times. She just kept going and learning and writing and being creative in all sorts of ways.
She was making baskets and collages and paintings up until her death.
It’s hard for me to type, “her death”. Mommy seemed invincible. But none of us are.
She was a big figure in Santa Barbara. She really found her community there and the town is devastated at her passing. She left her mark, grandma. She really did. She stayed curious, which she got from you – FYI. And she stayed engaged – she did not get that from you.
She remained very focused on men.
You know mom – she had a boyfriend up until the end. A real – don’t get me started on that one. But the one place in her life where she really had questionable taste was men.
Which I never understood as she was pretty, and vivacious, and had a lot to offer. But she just picked assholes, if you don’t mind my language.
Anyway, that’s not important for this letter. Mom deserved better than she sought in the male department.
I think dad was a good choice. I have gotten closer to him now, too. And I have grown to understand him. I am very sad as he is not well either. He’s 92.
Not to make this about me, but I am married, not to the guy you met. Second husband. But a nice Jewish one. So, you can tell grandpa that. It might soften the blow with the whole conversion thing.
I have two amazing daughters and I have devoted myself to my career and my family. I think you would be happy with that. Lucy is my youngest and her middle name is Phillip, after grandpa. Tell him that, too. One Jewish husband and a kid named after him. I just want him to embrace Mommy. I know she loves you both and I do worry about her. I always have.
I never told you this story when you were here. I might have only remembered it in therapy. Yes, I’m in therapy and that no longer means you are crazy.
But when Mommy and Daddy got divorced, she and I were in Hawaii. We were at The Royal Hawaiian Remember how grandpa loved that hotel? And we were all dressed up in the main dining room. Those were the days when people dressed up. Now they just wear sweatpants everywhere, it’s gross. So, we were in the big dining room and all these couples were dancing and mommy was sitting there with me. Just the two of us all dressed up. I was five. And she looked sad, and I said don’t you wish you were dancing. And she said I have you. And I thought at that moment, it’s my job to make her happy for the rest of her life.
It was years before I accepted that that was not my job.
I wish I could tell you the last thirty years have been totally smooth sailing between mommy and me. We have had some really rough times.
I would often go sit on your grave and talk to you guys, maybe you saw me. Maybe, when you appear as birds you do hear me. I couldn’t figure certain things out on my own.
But you used to say something over and over “Beverley, everything for friends, nothing for family.”
And I don’t want to trash her, that means be mean, especially as this is kind of my ode to her, but in the big picture, you were right.
For some reason, she had a much easier time showing love to people she was not related to than to those she was
Her friends worship her, and she was a great friend to many.
She was good to me on and off. We had great times. Truly splendid trips and adventures. We were pals. When we were pals, we were fine.
I will not lie there were years I did not speak to her. I never stopped loving her. I just had to remove myself from time to time. I think like you, I was hurt more than anything. I just wanted her to love me as much as she seemed to love her friends.
There is this thing called Facebook now and people post everything about their lives and everything they eat. It’s huge and basically obnoxious. We all do it. Mom loved it. And she was always posting these families she joined. It was weird. She had like ten grandchildren that belonged to other people. Yet she did not like her own beautiful granddaughter Lucy; who you would adore.
I so wanted her to be a part of the family I made, but I honestly don’t think she knew how. I don’t know why. I think it was the big missing piece in a life that had so many wonderful parts to it. I’m not sure if that came from you, or grandpa, when I asked her why she refused to tell me. FYI – I am very close to Val and Bob’s daughter Lorraine. She is wonderful. And Eliot Jacobson, he looks just like grandpa.
Anyway, at one point, I just decided that I would love mommy for who she was, I would accept all the parts of her, even the ones I found hard to deal with. I made up with her ten years ago and vowed to myself I would never walk away from her again.
I even went out and bought a gold ring with little diamonds I wear next to your engagement ring that was my love ring to mommy.
That no matter what she did or what she said or how disappointed I may have been I would love her until the end. I would stand by her until she died.
I wanted her to know that someone on this earth loved her her whole life for all of who she was.
That I didn’t care who she knew, or where she’d been or any of the external things, she found so compelling about herself. Or that she thought the world would find compelling about her. That I knew her better than anyone, and I knew where all her skeletons were buried (and we all have them grandma) but I still loved her.
I couldn’t be responsible for her happiness, but I could love her unconditionally.
I think she got it. Last Sunday was her most cogent day before she started drifting away. I lay next to her in bed and she was crying. I asked her what was wrong.
She broke down and said, “I should have spent more time with you.”
Sometimes it takes a lifetime for people to learn certain things. Some people never learn. What I want you to know is it might have been late in the game, but mom eventually got that friends were not more important than family. That your family loved you no matter what. The way you always loved me. And that you carry that love with you for as long as you live, as I do with the love you gave to me.
In the end, it was me and my glorious daughter, Taylor, by her side as she drifted off to wherever you all are.
That her life was made easy and comfortable thanks to the largesse and love of you and grandpa.
She was like a Rubik’s cube – complicated until you figure out the secret.
Right before she died, I asked her if she would watch out for me from wherever she was. She said I will watch you forever, every day.
I don’t know when you will see her. You know mom, she’s always late. She may go find her dog Tina first. She may run into Phillipe de Rothchild and get sidetracked, but she will find you. Or knowing you, you may find her first.
She was one of a kind, grandma. A truly unique, special human. And despite the ups and downs, I’m glad she was my mom. None of us are perfect. We all have lessons to learn. And we all have dark spots in our souls.
But mommy did have a big heart and she did know how to live life. And I know in the end, she did love us both much more than either of us were aware.
That is the big lesson in life. Love those you love and tell them a lot while they are here. Because one day you can’t do that anymore and you end up turning people into birds.
One last thing: I was sitting outside in my garden this morning, thinking about mommy and trying to work out a problem I have with her dog. Yes, we both still have dogs. All of a sudden, a small bird came out of nowhere and literally flew onto the top of my head and flapped its wings three times in my hair before it flew up to a branch and stared down at me for at least four minutes.
I said, Mommy, you are going to watch out for me as you promised.
So, now I have the three of you looking out for me.
I’m a lucky girl.
PS – Grandma I was on Oprah. She’s like Dinah Shore times a million. You would have been so proud.