She was a fighter. Graceful, tough, and tenacious, she never had it easy, but she never shied away from hard.
Her mother died the day before her high school graduation. Her husband had aggressive testicular cancer in his third year of Harvard Law School. She took notes for them both, as she took care of him and their young daughter. When her husband was offered a job in New York, while she was doing her last year of law school, she asked Harvard if she could transfer to Columbia, but still, be granted a Harvard law degree. They denied her, only to change its policy years later. After graduating from Columbia, she didn’t get any job offers from law firms. She finally got a clerkship with a federal judge, because her mentor threatened never to send him another law clerk if he did not. Her first Supreme Court victory, Reed v. Reed. The 88-page brief she filed in that case, an inventory of all the ways in which law served to reinforce society’s oppression of women, became famous in legal history as the “grandmother brief,” on which feminist lawyers drew for many years. I could go on and on, and on and on, but instead, you can read this superb and comprehensive New York Times obituary for the full story of a woman who never stopped trying to show that women and men should be treated equally.
Every person in the United States owes this superhero immense gratitude because she not only helped us live better, more fair and just lives, she taught us how to live–with passion and purpose. Even when she was battling cancer, her never-give-up attitude allowed her to continue fighting for what was important to her, what was important for us.
If you ever doubt that good things, extraordinary things, can come in small packages, consider the five-foot, 100 pound Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the very best of what we can be. And I hope her dying words will come to pass, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” As usual, she was fighting for what is fair, and what is right. We should all do the same.
And so with pandemic pandemonium still full tilt, the summer 0f 2020 ends with an anniversary, a birthday, and a death. Yup, all in one weekend. We just needed someone to give birth for the full monty.
33 years ago.
I celebrated my 33rd wedding anniversary on Saturday. We got married on Labor Day weekend to remind us that marriage is work! And after more than three decades I can confirm that as fact, but it’s also fun and funny and awful and stupid and the best thing ever and did I mention, a lot of work! Our kids are home, those people we made during this marriage, and I might add, the best thing we have ever done, so it was a little different. They gave us breakfast in bed and that night we went to the North End for a socially distanced and delicious dinner outside at Mare. I got a cool bouquet of flowers and wine from Winston’s and check that box, we’re onto 34 years.
The next day we headed down to my sister’s on the South Shore for my brother-in-law’s birthday. We had a decadent lunch of steak and salad and swiss chard and this rice thing my sister makes which is disarmingly good. We took a walk on the beach and just hung out in their backyard. It was so nice to be together. This is what you realize during this hideous virus, that the simplicity of just being together with people you love is every little thing.
Monday morning we got the call that Peter’s dad had passed. He’d had Covid for two weeks and went straight downhill like an Olympic skier. He had been living in a memory care center with Parkinson’s, and while not able to do a whole lot, he was content and loved seeing Peter’s brother and sister and grandchildren and brand new great grandchild, who all lived nearby. But in case you don’t believe the power of this virus, by the sounds of it, it runs through an older body like a fucking tsunami.
Peter’s dad was the child of a Holocaust survivor, who, with the help of nuns, escaped from a camp and came to Ellis Island with his wife and seven year-old son. His wife died quickly of a brain tumor and having been a wealthy Viennese lawyer,, with no English in a new country, he gave his child over to foster care, while he went back to school to become an accountant. Peter’s dad went to a few foster homes, before landing in a permanent one, where he also saw his dad. It was a challenging start to life for him, but he worked hard and went on to UPenn and get his Ph.D in chemistry at Northwestern, where he met Peter’s mom and went on to become a prize-winning chemistry professor at SUNY Buffalo, who helped lots of students go on to find their own success. He had three kids he adored, loved classical music, art, symphony, and peaches, blueberries and corn(!), with great passion. He played piano, swam a mile a day until he became ill, and spent as much time as he could at his house in the Finger Lakes, which he cherished. After an unexpected divorce in his early 60’s, he grieved hard, the bounced back and was lucky enough to find the most fabulous woman to enjoy his later life with. His kids revered and loved him. His was a life well spent and a shiny, bright example of resilience, that thing that keeps us afloat when we could be at the bottom of the sea.
This is what we do in the time of Covid. We still celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and grieve deaths. It’s different, but we don’t let that which is important and vital go unnoticed. It’s harder, it’s more challenging, but it’s also more necessary not to allow this unspeakably awful virus to ruin what’s important. It’s already taken too much from every one of us. Gratitude for a long marriage, a loving brother-in-law and and the end of a life of, “Fall down seven times, get up eight,” that will never be forgotten.
It’s full-on election season. And although I love to exaggerate, this is fact–It’s the most important election in modern times (and I’d contend maybe ever).
I know who I’m voting for. I know I am going to march to the polls that day, barring natural disaster, (and who knows what 2020 has in store for its last big hurrah), and vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I happen to think that the other choice is not only dangerous, but cataclysmic, disastrous and could make our country unrecognizable. Get your passports ready, people. I, myself am looking at Italy.
I’m not telling you who to vote for (Joe Biden), but just telling you that this year you have to make a plan to vote. The current president is making it complicated with his post office cuts, his wonky rhetoric about voting twice, his ignoring Russian and Chinese interference. So, make a plan now (https://www.vote.org.) It may seem early and unnecessary, but if it is, so be it. If everything turns out hunky dory and it’s easy to vote this year, what did you lose, the little time you invested in making your plan. Better that lost time than not getting to use your voice.
And man, wouldn’t it be nice to bring back integrity to the white house. Wouldn’t it be great to not have this low grade fear about what stupid lie the president has done or said or tweeted that insults one group or another of us, or another country, leader or way of life? Wouldn’t it be gosh darn great to feel like the leader of the free world was intelligent, surrounded by other experienced, intelligent people, who have integrity and grace? Wouldn’t it be fucking amazing to have a president who had compassion and empathy? A person who knows how to unite and doesn’t get up in the morning thinking about how to divide us.
Right now, we still have the right to vote. That vote is your voice. And if we’ve learned anything from the past, in particular the last election, EVERY VOTE COUNTS. It matters. It’s vitally important. So, whether you’re going to vote by mail, or in perso, make a plan, a solid plan how you will get your voice heard, how you will cast your ballot. If you never vote, start now, if you think it doesn’t matter, slap your face, if you don’t care, reconsider. We may not always have the right to vote, but I’m grateful that right now, we still do, so get your hiney to the polls, or the ballot box, or the post office. Ask someone for a ride, an assist, help. This is it, people. Make your plan to vote right now. And vote like your life depended on it, because, and this is the truth, no fake news here, it fucking does.