It came across quickly, as I was cut up carrots for a salad for dinner. Inexplicable, tears welling up in my eyes, though the green onions on the chopping board don’t pack that kind of punch. By the time I got to the broccoli, I’d made three trips to the bathroom for Kleenex and then I just abandoned the salad and headed to my bed where I lay on my side and sobbed for about fifteen minutes. It was Easter Sunday.

I know, I’m thinking it too. Woman, get it together! It’s been a year and a half. But there’s some truth to the theory of compounded grief. This week was tough, with a lot of loss. Out of the blue (to me anyway, not having known about her illness) Diane Rodriguez passed away. I’d met Diane more than twenty thirty years ago, when I stage managed a show at LATC called Latins Anonymous. Diane was one of the creators of the sketch style comedy show and one of the cast members. I was invited (by Diane?) to come down to San Diego for a few days to meet the cast and do some pre-production work on the show prior to its moving into LATC’s Theatre 4. Diane had so much sartorial style, and a 300 watt smile that warmed you as much as the embrace she usually delivered along with it. The work was so much fun and the audiences loved the show. It was one of so many shows I did with Ando as my partner in stage management. I remember loving calling that show, laughing on my headset up in the loft overlooking the stage. Over the weekend, I’d been reading several peoples’ accounts of Diane’s magic- Luis Alfaro’s “Breaking Bread” and Phyllis Moberly’s tale about Diane’s battle against lung cancer. We were all denizens of the Taper Annex under Gordon Davidson. Even as a PA, I knew the warm greeting you’d get if you leaned into Luis and Diane’s office to say hello on your way to the copy machine.

Then, the news of Matt Holzman of KCRW. I never met him, but had always felt an affinity to him, his warm voice always so optimistic sounding.

Once in my Hockey Mom days, after years of driving back and forth to Santa Clarita to the rink there, my sixteen year old son more sensibly elected to play with a team in Panorama City. That night we were driving to practice and were fighting in the car about homework, or a messy room, or some other now insignificant issue, when my cell phone rang. This was pre don’t-answer-your-cell-phone-under-penalty-of-death-or-fine, so I picked it up. Chris continued to harangue me, and if you were to go to the archives of KCRW’s website, you would hear him in the background nagging at me and my shocked, anger-tinged voice answering and upturning to a lilt as I said Hello to Matt Holzman. He was calling to tell me that I had just won a 17′ iMac computer. My anger and the resulting embarrassment at having been caught fighting in the car with my son by Matt Holzman turned instantly to wonderment and elation, as Chris listened and fumed in the passenger seat. That was the best way to end an argument I’ve ever experienced. From then on, I’ve always smiled when I heard his distinctive voice on the radio.

At about 6pm, when I was blubbering over the vegetables on my cutting board, I was receiving an email from a friend, with more devastating news of the loss of another close friend. None of these losses had to do with the coronavirus, but it doesn’t make the relentless onslaught of death any easier to any of us to process. It is around us, as we remain encapsulated in our homes in solitude and watch the numbers climb on the CNN COVID-19 ticker. The continual loss imbues our bodies and souls leaving us feeling raw and pummeled with bad news.

It took me several hours to recover from the profound sadness that washed over me. I called a friend, who mentioned that she was watching the concert of Jesus Christ Superstar on TV, so we hung up and each watched it in our separate silos, then continued our chat afterwards. I followed along in the libretto I’ve had since I was 14. I almost didn’t need it because I’d listened to that LP so many times that the words and songs are ingrained in the old memories folder. Earlier in the day, she had sent me some videos of walks at Descanso Gardens through the endless beds of tulips. We’d been there last year so it was a sweet reminder of the friends who have been there throughout the grief. We mustn’t forget the friends who all may be mourning our loss of normalcy, or heavier griefs more personal. When I hear the hopeful phrase, there will be a new normal, I shudder a little. I’m quite happy with the old normal, thanks. Can I have some of that?

6 thoughts

  1. Oh, Els – so beautiful and so poignant. You write beautifully. And you make my eyes well up. Sending hugs.

      1. Thanks, Elynmarie- not the intent but just felt it was important to have an ugly public cry. I know I’m not alone. You know that our Jimmie lost Pat this week. 😦

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