You know "those" calls. It's 10 p.m. and the phone rings. It can't be good.
I've had too many of "those" calls.
And this was another one.
Just three days ago, I posted "Camping with the Blackfords," telling all the funny stories of things that happened when our little group went camping.
I talked about how great it was that the "Pinata Women" had started a discussion going and how we were going to have a sleepover in December.
On the phone was Char, telling me that Michele had died this afternoon. Her husband came home from from doing some volunteer work and he found her lying on the bed. She was dead, so they assume she had a heart attack.
Michele and I were the two youngest of the group. She was my age.
Why am I sitting here writing? Because they live a long way away, because I've called some people and e-mailed those I couldn't get hold of and... well...because writing is what I do.
What follows is purely free association as it pops into my head because, quite frankly, I just don't know what else to do.
Michele didn't go to Berkeley with the rest of us (she graduated from UC Davis, in fact). We didn't meet her until our kids went to Tiny Tots nursery school together. Our kids, the Blackford kids, the Jones kids, a whole bunch of kids. Michele and Richard fit right into our crazy group and before long they were as much a part of the Pinata group as the basic five were and from about the fourth New Years Day party to the present, they were part of all the parties, the camping trips, the pinatas, and everything else.
In fact, the last time I saw her was when I saw "A Patriot Act" for the last time. We saw the show and all went out to dinner in a group. We parted promising, as we always do, to get together soon. They had moved from Oakland to the foothills, about an hour and a half from us, several years ago and I am ashamed to say Walt and I have yet to visit their house, though we keep saying we are going to do so.
She and Richard were also at Ned's 40th birthday party.
When the Blackfords were selling their house and moving to Alaska, Michele and Richard bought it, so it stayed "in the family." They had wonderful parties there, but we missed the best one. It was the surprise party Michele threw for Richard's 50th birthday. I've told this story before, but Richard has a moustache and that big Czech nose, and he wears glasses, so everyone always teases him about wearing Groucho glasses. When he arrived at his party, everyone was wearing Groucho glasses, including his 80-something mother, and the stripper who arrived later, wearing only Groucho glasses.
I don't know anybody who loved people, especially children, more than Michele. She only had one son, but would love to have had more. She took an interest in everybody. And she loved animals. When they lived in the old Blackford house, they had a dog named Milhouse (guess who was in the White House at the time!)
When they finally sold "The Blackford House" they had a great "house cooling" party. I have a video of that somewhere, where I can't find it at the moment, of course.
...Ned found it...
Moments that pop into my head as special memories of Michele:
- picking huckleberries on their property in Mendocino (where her ashes will be scattered)
- long, long, in-depth conversations where she would try to help me sort out the problems in my life, even when I didn't have any.
- meeting her on the street in San Francisco after she'd had some medical procedure done and taking her out to lunch so we could discuss it.
- her laugh
- her love of plants and how she could make anything grow. A talent I never acquired.
- and of course, the story about standing out in the rain in Mendocino with a kid in a cast, a very wet dog, and no shelter, while Richard and Walt were enjoying hot coffee and a warm fire at a neighbor's while waiting for the tow truck to pull us out of the mud
Three days ago Michele was so excited that I'd found this picture from our camping days, because it was one of her favorites.
"TY, TY, TY!!! y tambien, gracias del fondo de mi corazon!
I can't believe you actually found this!
And my ego must also add, it gave me great pleasure as a sometimes editor and an always wannabe writer, that you quoted me verbatim on your own blog! I think I've arrived!
That makes me feel (a little) better. But not much.
I loved you, my friend.