Monday, August 07, 2006

Remembering Happy Times

Bea has been having an exceptionally good day. She is articulate and glad to have company. I remain by her bedside for a long moment. Nick and Elspeth Macdonald drop in for a short visit, a welcome change from our routine. The timing is perfect. Bea has just mentioned Dwight and Nancy, friends whom she saw while living in Manhattan after Vassar.

“She said Nancy was in a special category, people you care about and who are important in your life,” I tell Nick and Elspeth.

“Nancy felt the same way about you,” Nick responds.

"Did she?" Bea asks hopefully.

"Maybe not when you were at Vassar, but certainly afterwards."

Bea’s eyes light up. “You made my day!”

She then amazes Nick by going into detail about his stay in a London hospital, an event which took place in 1978.

After I show the Macdonalds to the door, I find Bea back with the Whitney brothers, Simon and Bill. She had been remembering them fondly earlier. Bea is mumbling to herself in a low voice. I turn off the fan to better make out her words. It seems there is something she does not understand.

BEA: “I would really like to straighten out this business about economics...”

ME: “Are you talking about a lecture? Did you dream about a lecture?”

BEA: “No. They were telling me about the functioning of the economy.”

ME: “Simon and Bill?

BEA: "Yes."

ME: "Which one did you like better?”

BEA: “Oh, I was in love with Bill. I had an affair with him. He had rooms in a hotel. I would meet him there.”

ME: “Why did it end?”

BEA: “He broke up with me. So did Joseph Philips. Both he and Bill were older men. When I decided I was going to have sex, I went to this famous woman and got a contraceptive. It’s very hard to care for a man and have an affair with him, then not have it work out. I took a week of vacation to get over Bill. He had been married already and divorced, with children.

ME: "How did you get to know him?"

BEA: “Six friends got together to give dinner parties. They all went to Yale. When they gave a party, they usually invited me.”

ME: “How nice that must have been!”

BEA: “Every six weeks they had a party. I thought it was important to go because the Whitneys were in this milieu that I wanted to be in. They had rented a house on W 74th Street. I lived on 66th Street then.”

ME: “Who cooked?”

BEA: “Their cook. There were different people every time. Barbara Russell, she took up with me because men liked me, and she wanted to meet more men. I was working at CBS then. I was at CBS for quite a while. Simon taught at Yale. So did Bill. And Simon wrote a book on economics. That Whitney family was really gifted. Their mother was the first woman to be in the state legislature of Connecticut.”

ME: “Was the conversation at dinner interesting?”

BEA: “Yes. I could keep up or they wouldn’t have asked me back.”

ME: “What did you discuss?”

BEA: “The theatre. Things like that.”

ME: “Sounds like fun.”

BEA: “That was a very happy time of my life …”

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