I went to a memorial service for a woman I knew for close to thirty years who wasn’t all that kind to me. You’re wondering, why then, for God’s sake, would you attend?
To heal, that’s why.
Years ago before it became the rage, I had a personal training business.
I was young, pursuing my modeling and in lieu of waitressing, privately worked out with people. I’d show up in tights and Keds making you exercise for fifty minutes right in your own living room, very novel at the time. Jean, I’ll call her, was a client.
When my modelling kicked in, I quit. How foolish I was not to sell my little business, but when you’re in your 20s, your financial acumen is a bit light…a nice way of saying you’re stupid. I ended up bestowing it onto another trainer who ended up making a fortune.
Jean didn’t like how I went from the help to what, I suppose she perceived, as her equal. In other words, Thingirl jumped her station.
Over the years, whenever I saw her she’d either call me by the wrong name or ignore me altogether, which one can imagine, was painful.
She was also a friend of my late friend Jackie, another thing she didn’t approve of. Jackie would often say to her, “What’s your problem with Susannah,” and she’d say, “Who?”
When I read in the New York Times Obituaries, what my father referred to as the Italian Racing Form, she had died, I was pulled to go to the service, a surprise even to me.
Why would you go pay your respects to such a bitch…she treated you like the maid,” said Camille.
Fair point, but I still felt the pull.
The fact is, when someone is cruel to you it’s more about them than you, a hard lesson to learn since it hurts like hell.
Her contempt of me came from extreme insecurity, like somehow I’d steal something from her status. I know a fellow who dated her who said, all she talked about was how much money she had, a turnoff to anyone, let alone a man trying to get to know her.
What made the decision for me to go despite Camille’s protests was Charlie, this woman’s Standard Poodle. It was mystifying how someone so unpleasant could have such a great dog who, after her series of strokes, could no longer walk him. This is how I got to know him, through his walker, Ned.
Charlie is the Cary Grant of poodles, elegant, well-mannered. The morning of the memorial I saw him and Ned coming back from the park. Without much thought I rushed over to ask if Charlie was attending the service. That may seem like an odd question, just not to me or Ned who said, “I really want to take him but I’m not sure how her kids are gonna feel.” I jumped right into nut mode, especially after catching a glimpse of Carmela out in the yard and said, “Of course he should be there, she loved him…he was her best friend?” And perhaps her only friend the rate she lost them with her pervading arrogance and snootiness.
That’s when I went upstairs, changed into my navy suit and headed over to All Souls. It’s a parish for all denominations known for its guest speakers who come from all over to preach on democracy and religious freedom. I signed the book sitting in the back watching as people came in.
But when Ned arrived with Charlie wearing a black arm band around his middle, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
I’m glad I went, for Charlie, Jean’s one true mourner sitting stoically beside the family who, though surprised, welcomed him minus any class distinction whatsoever.
And by the way, they welcomed me too.