I’m pretty certain my friend Edna has never met Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk with whom I spent a week in silence a few years ago.
My guess is that, if she did meet him, she would think he had good stage presence, lousy vocal projection, and a sense of style and colour that left something to be desired. She would only tell him about the good stage presence. She’s graceful that way.
She would not be interested in his slow, meditative walk. Edna loves nothing more than to pull up to my clinic on her bazoo (her name for the Cadillac of all motorized chairs) at an absurdly high speed, wearing a scarlet leather jacket, sunglasses, a long scarf, and a cigarette, looking like a female Jimmy Dean.
Her biggest, fastest bazoo became unreliable last year, so for some time she’s been on a smaller, slower version, which offends her sense of style. She has no interest, even in her late 70’s, in becoming an old woman.
Which may explain her swearing. When I asked her a couple of weeks ago how she felt about Christmas, she said one word (four letters, begins with f), loudly enough that I was concerned for the more sensitive people in the waiting room.
All of which may or may not begin to explain why she had a stroke on December 24th and left the planet on the morning of December 25th.
I write that and just sit here, stunned.
Because I don’t get it, yet. I don’t get that she won’t be in today, wearing a fabulous fur coat, fabulous earrings and necklace, and fabulous purse (last time a large, purple purse that she acquired when she retired from teaching, in an era, she said, when you had to buy the purple shoes at the same time. This was the first time she’d worn that purse since. She must have a hundred beautiful purses at home.). She would also be wearing a fabulous defiance about the *&^%ing holidays, *&^%ing winter and this business of growing old.
I keep looking out the window, waiting for her to pull up to the curb.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that when I look in the direction of the bazoo, I’m looking at the place where a beautiful cloud formation was this morning, or six days ago. In this case, a cloud that looked like Edna.
He says that while I’m looking in the direction of where she was, flying down the street with calculated recklessness, the real Edna, the current Edna, is off in another direction, calling, Darling, look over here! Here I am!
He says I can’t see her for staring at where she was, and what she was.
So. Edna. You crazy, gorgeous gem of a woman. I will not look out the &^%$ing window for you anymore today, if I can help it.
I will look everywhere else, though, in the direction of anything with style, anything swearing, anything fast, anything with great stage presence.
And I’ll listen for you.
Thanks for every conversation we’ve ever had.
(Here I am, here I am!)