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Today in My History

2000:  Comedy of Errors
2001:  Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
2002:  Don't Push that Button
2003:  Penis Envy
2004:  Love and Marriage
2005:  The Other Side of the Interviewer's Notebook
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
2007:  I Love a Lomerick

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Books Read in 2008
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"The Apprentice"
"Body Double"



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14 June 2008

While the death of a celebrity, especially one who is larger than life, is usually sad, there have only been few whose death has moved me to tears.  I cried, of course, when Judy Garland died.  I cried when Jim Henson died.  I cried when Mister Rogers died.  But I can't think of any other deaths that have moved me to tears.

Until today when I heard of Tim Russert's death. 

Despite the fact that I am halfway through my 60s, I never really got as involved in news and politics until the last few years, when I became an MSNBC junkie.   That spilled over into Face the Nation and Meet the Press, and I became a fan of a lot of the talking heads. 

Tim Russert was head and shoulders above the rest.  I'd been watching him on The Today Show since long before Katie Couric left.  As I recall, he had been her mentor when she was first becoming a news person.  There was always a special relationship between the two of them that was apparent as you watched them on the screen.  I watched major news figures, sometimes struggling to hold themselves together, Andrea Mitchell with "shining" eyes, babbling on, sometimes incoherently, as people do when they are still stunned at the enormity of the loss they have just suffered, as if to stop speaking was to acknowledge the life that was stilled.

Other commentators struggled between using the present and the past tense.  Keith Olberman sat and read tribute after tribute from the high and mighty all over the world.  Even those who had been skewered by Russert respected him as a journalist.  Obama called him the "standard bearer for serious journalism" and someone who "expressed the core values of this country."

Obviously I never met Russert, but from listening to the outpouring of comments by his colleagues and political figures who had faced him in the hot seat on Meet the Press, it was nice to have my feelings confirmed that he was the real deal, a guy who was passionate about politics, and who was one of the good guys, whom most people seemed to love.

What I liked about him was that he seemed to truly listen, not to start with a point of view he was determined to get the interview subject to finally acknowledge (as MSNBC's Dan Abrams often does).

He just seemed an approachable guy, the guy next door, who seemed to like everyone and who was open conversation.  I loved the relationship he had with his father, the camaraderie he had with him, and the reverence that showed when he wrote his book, "Big Russ."  It seems that most of his friends who spoke today talked about his love for his son and his love for all kids and his work with low income children to improve their education and chance to attending college.

Perhaps my emotional reaction to Tim Russert's death was brought on by what is going on in our family right now.

Walt spent last week in Boston.  Jeri and Phil gave him a ticket to a Red Sox game as a Christmas present and so he flew there last week to spend time with her.  They had a fabulous time and he flew home Tuesday night.  After he got home, he checked in with his sister and learned that their mother had been hospitalized again.  They didn't want to spoil his fun in Boston, so they waited until he got home.

So he was home long enough to wash his clothes, repack his suitcase, and take off for Santa Barbara last night.

It might be easier if there was one big "thing" that we could say sent her to the hospital, but basically she seems to just be fading away.   Irregular heartbeat, exhaustion, breathing problems.  She apparently is starting to have difficulty swallowing and aspirated something into her lungs as well, which resulted in an infection, so she's back on oxygen again.

She was in the hospital last week, then briefly to the convalescent hospital, and then back again to the hospital, where she is now, in the critical care unit.  Walt's brother has been there for several days and now Walt is there too.   Walt said this morning that his mother was telling the three of them goodbye, telling them to be good to each other. She told the doctor she wanted no extraordinary measures, but she also told the doctor she wanted to be here for Jeri's wedding at the end of August. 

Walt said she is having some hallucinations, which she has had before. It's an emotional time, one of uncertainty.  She has weathered crises before and her spirit is strong, but each crisis seems to be a bit worse and leaves her a little weaker.

(On the heels of Russert's death and the situation with Walt's mother, "The Secret Garden," a show about death, grief, and the presence of ghosts was a very strange show to have to review tonight.)

As for my own mother, she had calls from all three of her grandchildren yesterday and, whether that helped change her attitude or whether she's just tired of lying in bed and "taking it," the tone of her voice was completely different today.  She was actually going out to her hairdresser to have her hair done.  She said she didn't know if she would be able to sit in a chair that long, but she was going to try, even if she had to stand up while her hair dried.

She says that the pain isn't any less, but she's decided she wasn't going to give up on life just because she's in pain and it was time for her to learn how to cope with the pain.

Now this is the mother I've known all these years!  Her fight is back and that is a wonderful sign.

It's been a memorable Friday the 13th. 


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