I could hear Nancy’s voice amidst the din of the party at Neil’s last weekend.
It’s been a couple of months since she passed in January. I guess, for the most part, we’re ok with it. We were expecting it for years. She had stage four ovarian cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good. This came on top of the MS she had been battling for years.
Neil seems no worse for wear and is getting on with his life, traveling and fixing up the place. He finally gets to do his pond, an endeavor of which Nancy was not particularly fond.
It was the first time that Neil, Tony, Tami and I had all gotten together since she died. This little coterie has been our core for twenty years now. There have been so many dinner parties, Nancy cooking up a storm, the rest of us sitting around or helping in one way or another. We had a ritual on Friday nights: get out of work, ride the T home, get the stuff for the weekend together (usually masterfully handled by Tami) and drive the Mass Pike for 3 or 4 hours with Jiffy Pop and come in the door at Knapp House to be greeted by Nancy in mid story and Neil mixing cocktails. Tony would call from the Lee rest stop to let us know where he was. It was Friday Night in Copake and it was the best.
Now that Tami and I live out here, it’s not the same. There is no drive and no euphoria any more. It’s not our getaway any more; it’s where we live. We have lives here and are woven into the community. This is great; I wouldn’t have it any other way. But things change.
A big part of the reason we moved here was to be with N&N while Nancy died. It took longer than expected, a blessing and a curse. We got more time with her but she really was in a lot of pain for much of the last year. Patrick and Cynthia also moved up from Brooklyn and they have been wonderful.
Cynthia and I were there on the last day when Neil came out of her room and said he didn’t think she was breathing anymore. We went in and couldn’t find a pulse and that was that. She had been hopped up on pain killers for the past few weeks. There was a drug she was taking for her trigeminal neuralgia which was really helping with the excruciating pain in her jaw but it was causing anemia, which in the end may have been what she died from, not the cancer.
Nancy held court like the New Yorker she was. Strident, declarative, and awfully sure of herself. She learned from her father how to tell a good story and never forgot his advice that a story was more than just the truth. She loved her cats, her cooking, and her audience.
And she loved her Neil. I have never known two people so attached at the wrists and ankles. When they were apart, they would call each other a few times a day. It never seemed like they were saying anything important, they just needed to connect. Now, I love Tami but we never feel compelled to call each other when we travel separately. But they got together at a young age and grew up as a couple. Old habits were formed in their twenties and stayed. They were never very demonstrative but their abiding love for each other was clear.
So last weekend when we sat around their rusted smoker, The African Queen, chatting in the afternoon, I could hear Nancy’s voice echoing through the years and it was nice.