Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vanya, my dear friend, died

For Vanya - with love

Last week, I felt a strong need to know how my old and dear friend, Vanya Franck, was doing. In 2008 Vanya started the process of moving to different nursing homes after Alzheimer's took greater effect on her brain.

So I Googled her and there on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) were the stark words that she had died, on April 28th this year. Over 4 months ago and nobody had told me. I was horrified and filled with grief, guilt, sadness at the same time. Why had nobody told me? Vanya was a precious friend, since I moved into the building next to where she lived in 1987, 25 years ago. Her friends knew my phone number, my email address. Then I found out one neighbor knew, told all our other neighbors, but not me. It was such hurt compounded with the grief, feeling excluded. It surprised me too because I had gone out of my way for so many years to help those neighbors of Vanya's connect with each other, to feel part of the local, Hell's Kitchen community when they moved here.

There was no memorial for her. That surprised me too. Surely we neighbors of Vanya's could get together and have a dinner with loving reminiscences, commemorate her life and death?

So there was that. Now, as the days have passed and thoughts of Vanya have been constant in my thoughts, I decided to start this blog about her. I don't know if anyone will look at it. It is simply in honor of the life of my dear friend, who I loved deeply and will always love. She had a tremendous impact on my life in a number of ways. We did fight, bitterly, angrily, loudly a number of times in the decades we knew each other. And we made up. We had some deep differences in our approach to life, to people. Some of our preferences, perspectives, theories about life itself were very different. Nonetheless, in spite of all that we were deep friends. We also shared many similar tastes, shared stories, shared our histories of our lives, our interest in our neighbors, our neighborhood and tenants' rights activism. We shared friends, had many Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays together. We taught each other a lot over the years. We told each other deep personal things and, I think, shared a deep understanding of each other.

I always wanted Vanya to experience the internet before she died but Alzheimer's had her in its grip from the time she was in her mid-70's. There were traces of the illness before that. It is my hope that Vanya would think benevolently of this memorial to her, this blog.

Perhaps friends or relatives will add their thoughts and comments too over the years, perhaps they will copy the information I include here and add it to the family history, a sort of cyber scrapbook. As I dig up photographs I will include them.

My intention is that over the months and years, as memories surface, to include them here, in no particular organisation, just a patchwork of reminiscences, history, images, thoughts and love.

This is Vanya in 2007, 5 years ago, age 77 years old. Doesn't she look *amazing* for that age? She's lovely looking in any case but pretty astonishing to look so marvelous at 77.

Her old gas stove had stopped working properly and there was a gas leak. Finally, with great reluctance, she decided to let it go, in favor of a new stove. She loved the elegance of the old one. I offered to help her try and sell it on Craigslist but, sadly, nobody was interested in it then.

The marvelous candle holder above the stove was my favorite object of Vanya's. typically she found it in a thrift shop or the garbage and painted it. It hung in the kitchen above Vanya's round dining table, a place we sat for countless hours over 2 decades, talking, having dinners, laughing, crying. We did a LOT of laughing together in that room.

It is a year before the onset of Alzheimer's and the year when her beloved dog, Becky, died. 

Vanya is wearing her favorite color, aqua teal. It's a slightly darker version, more green than her usual preference. She's 77 years old here. Even if she's sad to let go of her cherished antique stove her eyes are sparkling. She's spectacularly fit as ever, slim and elegantly simple.

Dearest Vanya, may you have found cosmic resonance, peace at last.

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