“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran
Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I checked email one morning and there from Victor’s family was the message that he had died late the night before. He lived with the knowledge of and received treatment for pancreatic cancer for five months before his death. That was a long time of course unless that’s all you have of the rest of your life to live.
Victor was seventy years old when he died. I met him in 1981. We’d known one another for nearly thirty years. When we met, I was a young woman on a desperate quest to feel better about my life and life in general. Victor was already a political science professor at U.C.L.A. but he was also in training to become a psychoanalyst. I was one of his first “clinic cases.” This meant that I got a formal, four-hours-a-week, on-the-couch, look-at-the-wall psychoanalysis for a greatly reduced rate. And he got to practice being an analyst on me.
The process helped me manage three years of through-the-roof anxiety; from applying to and going through graduate school and through the first two years of my first marriage. I guess today, I would just take an anti-anxiety drug but thirty years ago, I didn’t believe in pills. I believed that therapy could cure me.
Since the end of my analysis, I stayed in touch with Victor, first professionally when I needed a little tweak and later as a friend. He was always so present, so kind and so generous with me. I loved Victor and I always felt his warm regard for me in our interactions over the years.
Before I learned about my friend’s death, I had made a shopping list. There were a few presents to buy and a few Christmas decorations to pick out. That day two years ago, I continued on with my day as planned. The first stop was Walmart where I spotted the box of thirty-six (36) Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family cookies. Perfect I thought. I love ginger cookies.
I took the cookies along with the un-stuffed raccoon that I purchased for my cavalier spaniel and rejoined her in the car. I opened the box of cookies and ate twenty-five (25) of the thirty-six (36) ginger people before pulling out of the parking lot and heading for another shopping center.
Having missed my turnoff of Highway 1 between Marina (California) and Seaside, I took the next off ramp. I found myself on the California State University Monterey campus. I had wanted to go there anyway so I drove around until I saw a sign that pointed to the Fort Ord Dunes State Beach. I had wanted to go there too so I kept driving.
Between the university and the state beach was a massive and defunct Fort Ord army base filled with fenced and boarded buildings. With pain in my heart and the slightest feeling of nausea, I pulled out my camera and shot.
I walked my cavalier spaniel around Fort Ord Dunes State Park and took pictures of the view. It was spectacular out there.
With shopping still to be done, I made my way back down Highway 1 to the Imjin Road exit where I decided I would first go to Michael’s Craft store, then to Target and last to REI. I was shocked by the red in Target. Have you ever noticed how red that store is?
Having finished a Starbuck’s latte and shopping, I returned home to our 30-foot Jazz fifth-wheel trailer and gave my doggie her dinner and another walk. Though Victor was Jewish, he had told me that he enjoyed Christmas music so later that evening I listened to a radio station that played just that. I felt comforted to know that he would have enjoyed listening also.
Today, I listened to Christmas music on the radio just like I had the day two years ago after I learned of Victor’s death. I felt comforted all over again knowing that Victor too would have enjoyed the same songs.