Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Lady Vanishes

I once quietly stalked Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson on Broadway with my daughter, Middle Babe, walking stealthily behind them for about six blocks until they turned right on a street in the West Sixties -- I think it was W67th Street -- and into a luxury building.

They were wearing sunglasses and holding hands.

"Well?" I asked my daughter, standing stupidly on the street as our movie stars greeted the doorman and disappeared inside an elevator.

"Pointless but cool," my daughter summarized. "Let's check out the Gap," she suggested, heading back to Broadway.

Earlier today, before Natasha Richardson's death was announced, I sent my daughter a message on Facebook reminding her of our long-ago adventure. After accusing me of being Perez Hilton, Middle Babe conceded that the news about Richardson was horribly sad...and that, yes, she remembered we had once stalked her and Liam Neeson.

It was a while ago when we did that; I think Middle Babe was a freshman in high school. Still, I didn't need to explain to her who Richardson and Neeson were after I spotted them on the street. She recognized them, having seen The Parent Trap and Schindler's List.

My Facebook message reached Middle Babe in Dublin, where she was recovering from St. Patrick's Day with one of her best friends, who is taking a semester at Trinity. I'm bound for Dublin tomorrow night to spend the weekend with her, HOBB and Little Babe...and then I'm onto Berlin to visit Big Babe, my oldest son.

Nothing but nothing is ready for this trip. I've been consumed by work, the cleaning lady is MIA, there were Parent-Teacher conferences this afternoon followed by a drive out to Great Neck to see NOBB (niece of Bungalow Babe) perform (steal the show) in Beauty and the Beast

Leaving the show at intermission, I dashed back to the city with the intention of getting a jump on all that needed to get done -- laundry, packing, purchasing items on a Wish List for Big Babe, work assignments -- before I boarded my plane.

Sitting down in front of my computer close to 11 pm, the staccato headline jumped out at me, confirming the rumors of the past day: Natasha Richardson is Dead at 45.

I stopped in my tracks to observe a moment of silence, enveloped by sadness for the actress I first noticed in The Handmaid's Tale.

And reorder my priorities.

It is nearing midnight. I am not Perez Hilton but I find myself thinking of Natasha Richardson and the unkind way that death came for her. I think of her famous husband and her young sons, imagine the terrible shock of her unheralded departure. I think of her family, the names that are a Who's Who of contemporary theatre and film.

I grieve for her mother, that immovable, impossible icon Vanessa Redgrave. I ponder the unspeakable cruelty of a mother having to bury her child.

The suddenness of this particular death rivets and terrifies us. We want to rewind the footage so as to track the stealthy progress of the Angel of Death as he moved to claim her, note the snares he had set, see how he covered up his work, tricking everyone into a false sense of security.

Most of all, her.

For Natasha Richardson, the thinnest of veils separated this world from the world to come.

I think of her death as when last I had seen her -- standing in the lobby of a building one moment, gone a second later.

No comments: