Personally, I'm having a terrific week. My annual trip to Los Angeles, which kicks off the holiday season for me, has been great fun. The teaching I do for my good friend Judy, for her high school students, fills the day with creative energy, and there is always some social time with Jude and others afterwards. There is a lovely weekend upcoming to end my trip, with tree trimming and other ho-ho-ho-ing.
But the world is not having such a great week. We've had the sad news that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is battling cancer, and on Tuesday (the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, talk about a bad week!), the world was saddened that this iron butterfly lost her battle with cancer:
She called herself the "anti-Barbie," and among those beleaguered women who suffer philandering husbands in the political arena, she was my favorite. She was a Navy brat, spending much of her childhood in Japan, and was particularly unsettled when her family moved during her senior year of high school (I know EXACTLY what that feels like). She was four years older and infinitely smarter than her husband, and had a thriving legal career before the death of their teen-aged son caused her to refocus her energies. Interestingly, until Wade Edwards drove off the side of the road at the age of 18, Elizabeth kept her maiden name professionally; after Wade's death, she adopted the Edwards surname, she said, in order to have her son's name, not because it was her husband's.
Mrs. Edwards's bravery during her lengthy battle with breast cancer, with her insistence that her life, and that of her family, continue as normally as possible, is exactly the attitude my mother had while she was fighting the same fight. Elizabeth became an advocate for universal health care, and maintained a spectacular dignity as her marriage disintegrated in a nasty, public way. (When her husband's infidelity was finally revealed to the public, I reacted with a snarky attack on his lack of character, it's a pretty fun read.) I have a friend who has the impression that Mrs. Edwards used her cancer, and her husband's political scandals, to remain in the public eye; I believe that could not be further from the truth. She maintained a genteel silence when rumors first surfaced about her husband, and when the truth came out, she reacted with a natural anger which I found refreshing. She and her husband legally separated earlier this year, when he finally acknowledged having sired a bastard daughter with his mistress. And Elizabeth's two books, one regarding the loss of her father and son, and the other with her cancer, have no doubt helped countless others deal with similar tragedies.
On Tuesday, the day after the Edwards family announced that their matriarch had ceased cancer treatment, Elizabeth died.
This week in infamy is also remembered as the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. TV and radio stations have devoted a lot of airtime to remembering this sorry day, with good reason. I was never a slavish devotee of Lennon or The Beatles (though I am probably the only person you know who saw them in concert, an experience I mentioned in a previous Dance Party), but John Lennon penned some of the most beautiful ballads of the 60s and 70s. One in particular seems an appropriate choice for this infamous week. Here it's sung by the great Bette Midler, who included the number in her film For the Boys in 1991. It has since become part of her regular repertoire. The scene is a Christmas USO-type visit to Vietnam. It has a poignant tone, but that's ok by me. In honor of Mrs. Edwards and Aretha, and John Lennon and Pearl Harbor, here is this week's Dance Party: