Wednesday, February 20, 2013

queens without a country

one of my old friends had a mother who was diagnosed with cancer one week.

and three weeks later she was dead.

this happens almost never now.

but it happens.

i drove up for the funeral, and after dark we were out on the driveway of her family's home, affectionately known as 'the estate.'

her father came outside by himself, looked around, and then up at the night sky.

it was obvious what he was looking for.

my friend, who everyone said was just like bette midler, called out, pop? you ok?

he said yeah.  then went back inside, his head low down in the dark.

that was the last time i saw him, he was dead of cancer 6 months later too.

'bette' went through a really crazy time after that.

her parents were immigrants, first generation italians.

bette's mom didn't go to school past the 6th grade, and had worked in a christmas ball factory until she married her dad, who was a sign painter.

 he was really quite talented.

they lived their own colorized version of the american dream.

but for some reason, they never went to the doctor.

none of them, as far as i recall.

this is probably why the cancer took them out so 'fast.'

there was so much love in that house.

lots of loud talking, and loud laughter.

 no one ever read in that house, which was fine, though my friend did.

and though she read the words, and understood them in context, she'd never heard certain ones spoken out loud.

we'd hang out and talk about things that seemed like bullshit to us.  our big thing at the time was how we couldn't stand poseurs.

bette would say 'i don't know why so and so acts like that.  it's just such a facade.'

but she would pronounce it fah-kaide.

i'd say what?

she'd say fah-kaide?

i'd say facade.  she'd say oh.

we thought we had a real grip on things, as you tend to do when you're in college, and you think you're a genius.

we'd hang out on the school steps and act like we had things all figured out.

somehow we'd adopted weird accents, during those long winded discussions about the ways of the world.

we thought we sounded super royal.

 so we decided we were queens.

but my friend, who thought i knew 'everything' said, wait.  where are these accents from?

i said who cares?  we don't need a country.

we can still be queens.

we're just queens without a country is all!

 we kept it up for a couple of years.

we would so fall into the accent whenever we talked, in person, or on the phone.

i'm sure the accent was really nothing more than a broken down version of a combo of zsa zsa gabor and cyndi lauder.

but as i think of it now, i'd probably have to say it had a dash of snookie thrown in.

after college, we lived in the same city for a while. 

we hung out on the steps of a conservatory, which was beautiful.

i'd started reading stories out loud by then, so she could hear how the words were pronounced.

she was a very good listener.

sometimes other people walking by would stop and listen too.

these things happen in 'city life.'

'bette' never really got over the shocking and sudden ways that cancer took her parents away from her.

her heartbreak took her to some pretty dark places.

it got very heavy.

it just seemed so brutally preventable.

that's because it actually was.

i have no doubt things would have turned out differently, had early detection been a factor.

for now, that's anyone's best defense.

yours and mine.

i miss her.  cancer takes lives in many different ways fyi.

i believe in our lifetime this will change.

i hope i'm right.

xx katy  


  1. Funny I had recently asked about her. Bette twin if ever I saw one! I remember when you guys walked into the dorms to pick me up for a ride & you were holding masks over your faces -- & you wouldn't remove them when I tried to introduce you guys to people. People whose names I can't remember -- but I remember Bette!

  2. Bette here, aka Paula. I miss you too Katie. A lovely post. I just emailed you. I hope I hear from you.


About Me

My photo
virginia, United States