What do Henry V, Kit Carson, Henrik Ibsen, Bonnie and Clyde, John D. Rockefeller, Heinrich Himmler, Moms Mabley, George Jessel, Sterling Hayden, Lloyd Bentsen, and my mother have in common? They all died on May 23rd. The way my insane mind works, I’m now busy thinking of all the connections between my mom and these other folks who died on the same day (different years, of course!). Trust me, it’s not hard. For starters, I’ve seen movies about, by, or with the majority of those people with my mother (we went to at least one movie a week together from my earliest childhood until the day I moved to Los Angeles and watched endless classic movies together on TV), and I certainly remember discussing Lloyd Bentsen’s famous debate line to Dan Quayle with her (“I knew Jack Kennedy, and sir, you are no Jack Kennedy”), especially since she worked for the Kennedy-owned Merchandise Mart for most of her adult life. As far as Heimlich Himmler goes…please! Anyone who knows me can imagine how many times that name came up in casual dinner conversation!
I could talk about the horrible day 13 years ago today when my mother died at my sister’s home in Chicago after a dreadful five-month “battle” with small-cell lung cancer, but I think I’ve written about it before and I really don’t feel like dwelling on it today. And since I just wrote a whole post about my mother on what would have been her 78th birthday the week before last, I’m instead remembering the great influence she had on me that led me to see the connections with that diverse group of May 23rd departees. Maybe my mom is meeting up with that illustrious group in some other dimension right now. I could see her relating to aspects of Bonnie Parker’s life, and even Moms Mabley’s. To be honest, there were times in my mother’s life that made her seem a lot like a character out of Ibsen, especially Nora in “A Doll’s House.” (Incidentally, I saw a Broadway revival of “A Doll’s House” with my mom in the 1970s with Liv Ullmann as Nora and Sam Waterston as Torvald.)
Why do I always do that? If I think about it, every single post on this blog is about me taking one moment in the present and connecting it to a thousand threads in the past. Do I have some kind of Asperger’s? This afternoon I interviewed Brandon Routh, who played Superman in the most recent “reboot” six years ago (Henry Cavill has now taken on the role in yet another reboot that will be out next year). My mother died years before Routh’s version came out, but sitting across from him an hour ago, I still visualized going to see the very first Christopher Reeve “Superman” movie on opening day with my mother at a theater on the Champs-Elysées in Paris in 1978. I swear I can remember where we were sitting in the theater and the gigantic cut-outs of Christopher Reeve in the lobby. I was going to school in Paris that year and my mother was visiting for a few weeks when the film came out.
I guess my constantly spinning spiderweb of past and present is simply the way I make sense out of the world. I can’t not do it. In the ten minutes that I’ve been writing this, I’ve thought of a dozen more connections between my mother and the people on that list. Don’t even get me started on the people who were BORN on May 23rd, such as my mother’s favorite actress, Betty Garrett, who became a friend of ours and had a hand in bringing me and Kendall together, or Rosemary Clooney, one of my mom’s favorite singers.Come on-a my house!
Okay, okay, I’ll stop. For now, I’ll just think of all the grieving family members of the May 23rd Club. I’m sure all those folks were deeply mourned, even Reichsführer Himmler! (And even THAT is an inside joke to my mom: I can hear her screaming about me ending a post about her by mentioning a Nazi! Love you, mom!)