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THINKING OF MICHELE
5 March 2014
Our friend, Michele Havel died of a heart attack in 2007. It was a terrible shock. She and I were the same age. Her husband went out one morning to deliver food for Meals on Wheels and when he returned, she was lying on the bed...gone. I still remember the phone call from Charlotte...one of those late night calls that shock you because it's too late for a polite telephone call, so you know before you pick up the phone that it's not going to be good.
I was thinking about her because we went to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Sacramento last night. We went to play #3, a comedy called Wrong for Each Other, in Sacramento. A Tuesday night. How odd. Must have been for the white haired set because the show started at 6:30, so we were out before 9 p.m. I decided that it was too early to have dinner before the show, so we would just eat at a restaurant afterwards. Walt picked the Old Spaghetti Factory.
As we arrived at the restaurant, I remembered that this was the place where I last saw Michele.
We had gone to a play with Michele and her husband Richard, and with Char and Mike, in September. It was an original play about putting George Bush on trial by military tribunal for war crimes, dereliction of duty, and treason. The others did not come to shows in Sacramento, as a general rule, but I talked this show up, since I had interviewed the director and it was going to be a controversial play. None of us were fans of the 43rd president and the thought of his being held accountable for some of his actions, even in make-believe, was a pleasant one. The verdict in the trial was up to the audience, some of whom were witnesses, some of whom were members of the jury. The night we saw it, the president was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to the maximum time in prison. On another night, the director told me later, he was acquitted on two counts and convicted only on the count of deleriction of duty.
It was an interesting experience and I was glad that the others had come.
After the show, we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. It's a big ol' barn-like place along side the railroad tracks in Sacramento. In fact a train car is parked in the middle of it and you can choose to eat in that car, if you like. As you eat, trains rattle past you on the tracks which are separated from the restaurant only by the small parking lot.
We sat at a big table and I was sitting next to Michele. We talked about how nice it was that we were all together and how it's silly that since she and I lived relatively close to one another, we didn't see each other more often. They lived up in the foothills from Sacramento, I lived in the other direction, but we talked about how we should make a date for lunch every couple of months, at some spot which was about halfway between.
My last sight of her was her walking away with Richard, turning around to give a quick wave.
A month later she was gone. We never did have our lunch together.
One of the things on Michele's bucket list was to go to France and she finally made it in 2009. We had gotten together a year before to scatter her ashes on property they owned in Mendocino County, where we had so much fun camping over the years and where we discovered huckleberries, which we harvested yearly. Char saved a little baggie of Michele's ashes to take with us the following year when we went to France. On a grey and drizzly day, a small group of us--Char and I and our friend Pat, Char's daughters, and Jeri, all went down to the beach in Nice and we scattered Michele's ashes in the Mediterranean.
It hurt all over again, this final goodbye.
I thought of all that as I sat there with Walt, eating my pasta and flat-bread pizza (free gift to patrons of the B Street Theater), sitting opposite the table where we had eaten with Michele and Richard. I thought back on all the memories of Tiny Tots, parties and clam dip, Eric's Property, the dog Milhous, and the missed opportunities for lunch when we lived so close.
It was a cruel reminder of how life can change in an instant ... but a sweet reminder of a good friend and the good times we had with her.
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