I had planned to write a funny post about my latest Formerly Hot moment, which took place last week when it was unseasonably warm.
I was in Maryland visiting friends and was chasing after my kids on the playground and sweating like a baked potato that someone forgot to poke air holes in. It occurred to me that as recently as 10 years ago, I would have taken my top off and pretended my purple bra was a bikini top. Now that I’m a Formerly, that seemed like a uniquely bad idea. I was going to say something about the bra, which wasn’t as cute as the kinds of bras I wore back then, and of course my boobs, which require less cute and more supportive scaffolding-type materials to support them. It was going to be a real crack-up.
But then my stepfather, who had been fighting cancer, succumbed two days ago, and that all seemed even sillier than usual. David was a wonderful man, optimistic almost to the point of delusion, which served him and the many people he helped in his almost 75 years very well. He was the unofficial mayor of South Orange, NJ, where he lived from the time his kids were small, and after his divorce, was one of the first single dads to have sole custody back in the early 1970s. He was the kind of guy who would give you a job at his public relations office over the summer when you were home from college, even if there was no work to be done, just so you could earn some green, pad your resume, and not feel like a moocher. He was a pre-hippie era hippie, working up until he died for various peace action groups around New Jersey, and doing so much pro bono PR work for worthy causes that the New Jersey chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the professional organization he belonged to, named a public service award after him.
He represented the sugar industry for many years in his PR work, but probably more important to the sugar industrial complex, ate his body weight in candy and ice cream each week. The day after he died, a gigantic gift basket full of Godiva and English toffee and gourmet popcorn arrived for him from the PRSA of NJ. My mom burst into tears, thinking how much he would have appreciated that. I, too, am a great lover of sweets, but because I try to be reasonable about it, limiting my daughters to candy OR cookies OR ice cream OR pie OR cupcakes at a single meal, he teased me about being a health food freak, asking with exaggerated solicitation if it was OK if my daughters had a single peanut M&M.
As it is when someone important to you dies, you think about his influence on your life, which calls to mind the emotional place you were when you first met the person. I have said many times that David was largely responsible for the fact that I did not grow up to be a man-hating shrew in a rotten marriage. He showed up and was kind to me and my mother and my brother (who is autistic) when I was 15 or so, at a time when I was nurturing an affinity for assholes. I had many reasons back when I was a teenager to think ill of boys and men, and he was a living, breathing example that not all men treated women poorly. (This is not to slag my dad, but from my simplistic, adolescent perspective, I didn’t see shades of gray.) Of course, I fully exhausted my asshole options in the dating world before gradually working my way toward my wonderful, non-asshole husband, but having David in my life was a background reminder to me that there were other, better options.
I’m sure David had his own Formerlies, things he left behind in favor of the man he became, but I didn’t know him when he was young. To me, he was a remarkably consistent, principled, generous straight-shooter, and he will be missed beyond what I can express here.