This dreadful January continues to cut a cruel swath through the world. I found out earlier today about the death of an old friend, Jerry Franken – and I’ve just received a phone call to tell me that my first cousin once removed, George Gordin, has died in Washington D. C. I had not seen Jerry in some time, but I remember vividly the summer of 1970 when we met in Halifax, he a talented, fiercely idealistic young American actor and I, 19, working backstage at Neptune Theatre. Though the subsequent years were hard on Jerry, the last years particularly, he had many friends and admirers, including some of my closest friends, who loved him deeply, always.
I am devastated at the loss of George, even though he was in his late eighties; he was in great shape until recently, and his twin sister Caryl, who called me, is still going strong. As far as I know, Caryl and George were the last remaining grandchildren of Jacob Gordin, my great-grandfather the “Jewish Shakespeare,” the subject of my first book. George was a lawyer, a man of erudition and taste with a beautifully decorated apartment full of great art, including a small sculpture by Rodin. He travelled extensively and once a year took his sister on a trip or a cruise somewhere in the world. I visited him twice in Washington, when he took me to several museums and good restaurants, and was going to try to get down there again. It comforted me to know that such a gentleman, an old man wise in the ways of the world, was somewhere out there and cared about me. He avidly followed my travels and read all my articles and books with succinct comments on each; but he was not a fan of his grandfather, and when I spoke in Washington about my book on our mutual relative, he did not attend. We became true friends with great mutual respect – at least, my respect for him was enormous. A huge loss for Caryl, for his extended American family and his friends, and for me.
George in September 2008, taking me and two of his nephews for dinner in Washington. This is as wide a smile as he ever gave.
Just in time, as I’m contemplating all the losses of this brutal month – and my friend Wayson, mourning one of his dearest friends – and my friend Lynn, whose daughter just moved to Burkina Faso to work, having to wait hours to learn that she was not harmed in the terrorist attacks that just took place there – a world spiralling out of control, it seems, and it’s January, forlorn and bitterly cold – I found this moving film on Facebook, an interview with Maurice Sendak. “I’m in love with the world,” he says. “It’s a blessing to get old, to find the time to read books and listen to music. I cry a lot because I miss people. They leave me and I love them more. There are so many beautiful things in the world I’ll have to leave when I die. Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.”
I will try, Maurice. Today, talking to Eli about one of his friends, Finn, who’s a bit rough, which upsets my grandson. “But Finn is already four,” I said, “older than you, so maybe that’s why he’s a bit stronger,” and we discussed how age makes a difference. “And how old am I, Eli?” I asked.
“Four and a half,” he said.
Fine by me.