My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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a fallen friend

I’ve been thinking a lot about a childhood friend of mine, Irene Blum, who changed the course of my life. One day in 1981 I complained to her that I’d wanted to write my Master’s thesis about my great-grandfather, but all the resource material was in Yiddish which I do not speak.

“I bet my friend Sarah Torchinsky would be interested in your project,” Irene said. “I’ll tell her about you. “
Sarah Torchinsky became my Yiddish translator and colleague; without her, there would be no book. More than two decades later, when compiling the list of Acknowledgements – more than a page long – at the end of the book, I forgot about Irene. She flew in to the book launch here in Toronto and said nothing about the very long list of names which did not include hers.
It was only when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, not long ago, that I suddenly realised my omission. It became vital to apologise to her. Though Irene was unmarried with both parents gone, her best friend Carol kept vigil with her almost every day in hospital. But, Carol told me, Irene was depressed and would not answer her phone; she didn’t want to speak to anyone. Finally, one day, I was able to get through, and we talked for half an hour. She was her old self, full of humour and good sense. It was such a relief to be able to tell her how much her contribution and support had meant to me; how mortified I was that I’d forgotten to thank her in print. “When the book is reprinted,” I said, “your name will be first.” She liked that. In the days afterwards, when I called, the phone simply rang and rang.
Irene Blum, who taught French and loved the theatre, especially Brian Bedford, died in Edmonton on Saturday night. She was 61.
Another dear friend has had some worrisome test results and had to have further testing done. I went with her to St. Michael’s Hospital this morning, and while she was with the doctor, I sat waiting. It was the chemo room, packed with LaZBoy chairs, men and women sitting with their arms chained to drip machines, lying patiently, dozing or reading, one woman, in a scarf – most of the women wore scarves or hats – feverishly doing needlepoint. It was calm and peaceful. It was a nightmare.
No time for morbid thoughts, as the cold dark days move in. We do what we can. I will not forget the woman in her bright headscarf, tethered to a clicking machine, busy making something beautiful.
I will try never again to forget whom to thank.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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