It’s All Relative

Which do you want first — the good news or the bad?
I like to start with the bad. Not because I’m morbid (which I certainly can be), but because I like to think of good news as a “reward” for having heard the bad. So, having made that easy choice, here we go.
Bad News
This time, unlike the last, the bad news didn’t arrive courtesy of a self-powered internet search, but via the U.S. Postal Service. This time I didn’t view the words facing forward, staring mutely at an impersonal monitor. This time the words were in my hand, on a note card, and I read them with bowed head, a stance that became increasingly more appropriate as I continued to read.
The card was from Faun, the mother of a guy named Kerry (one of my all-time favorites). Several years ago, when her marriage ended, she moved to Tennessee from Pennsylvania. Kerry and his sister, Kim, stayed on the East Coast. I lost contact with them, but Faun kept me up to date through letters and phone calls. But it was my own mother who called me one day at the end of March, 1998, to tell me that Kerry’s father had called her with the news that Kerry had died. It was sudden (he died of “exposure”), and to say I was shocked, dumfounded, and devastated is perhaps one of the greatest understatements I’ll ever make. Of course, I immediately called Faun … and she and I have remained friends. The last time I spoke to her was sometime last year. I left her a phone message on September 11, to let her know that I was safe here in Manhattan, but didn’t hear back from her. Until today.
Today, via Faun’s perfect “cursive” script, I learned that this wonderful woman’s grief was revisited. Kim, who had moved to Nashville to be closer to her mom after her brother’s death, was killed this past May in a car accident near Nashville.
I stood in the vestibule of my building, staring mutely at the card. Gently touching the individual letters that linked together to form words that joined together to create sentences that I just did not want to exist. Holding the card as if it were Faun’s always warm hand. Imagining this funny, witty, generous, and loving woman sitting at a table in Tennessee, holding a pen in that warm hand, a hand that somehow managed to form script so perfect and unwavering. She praised me for being “strong” in the face of tragedies both national and personal. But as I stood in the vestibule this afternoon, I knew that my hand, the one holding the tragic news, and my heart, the one receiving it, could never be as strong as hers.
When I call her sometime tomorrow, I know I won’t be able to present or possess the strength she conferred on me. And I know that even if her handwriting was calm and stalwart, her voice will belie it. And my own voice won’t know what to say.
And now, for my “reward” —
Good News
It’s a girl! My Distinguished Older Gentleman (“DOG”) is a grandfather! Yay! Yay! Yay! Oh, and before I forget … YAY! (And here’s where I feel compelled to insert a little smiley-face emoticon … but I’ll resist.)
And suddenly, I know what I’m going to say to Faun.
Sorry. I just couldn’t resist.