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Ellie's Commemoration

What a fine thing to have old friends travel so far for a brief inurnment, especially at age 97. That says more about Ellie's magnetic personality than anything else. Now of course a magnet has two poles, and anyone who knew her close up for any length of time saw Ellie's passionate fits of temper, mainly when people weren't doing things the way they "should" and/or she felt mistreated, and she'd verbally assault the presumed wrongdoer. In my year of daily interaction with her, I learned that fear often underlay the anger. You wouldn't know it, but she was very fearful, of all kinds of things-- not just squirrels and deer, but a window left open, or a door unlocked. The world was not a safe place, and she had many stories to buttress that conclusion.

She raged against Donald Trump every day thru the ugly campaign, which I gladly and enthusiastically endorsed, but in quiet moments she revealed her deep fear for the country-- a fear so vivid that collapse was imminent and right upon us. On another level, anger sometimes bubbled out of her grief at losing Harry, which never abated.

I know that many of her volcanic explosions were due to frustration (and fear) at her increasingly limited mobility, and her loss of independence and control over her circumstances. I totally sympathized with that. I grew less and less tolerant of her go-to response-- that she had to move-- anywhere else-- and right now.. as if that would improve something.

Ellie was accustomed to being treated like a princess, abetted by Newt's romantic side, and people let her get away with it all her life. That wasn't going to change in her last year. What bothered me most when we moved in together was her narcisism and ingratitude, both of which happily abated considerably over time. The most difficult aspect of her behavior, to me, was her shabby treatment of Alexis, as Ellie directed most of her venom toward her and her (many) caregivers. But that, too, improved greatly over the course of the year.

In the end, I loved Ellie. I loved her vivid sensate presence, her capacity for simple joy, her ebullient spirit. She could be clever and charming, she could add pathos or humor to her colorful stories at a whim and on the spot, and I learned a lot about Alexis in the process. Indeed, I learned a lot about living and dying from Ellie, and treasure our time together.

So God-speed, Ellie, Travel Well.


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