Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Degree of Shock

"It's been a long time. How are you doing?" my old (actually young) osteopath in Charlottesville asked me at his office this morning. He hadn't seen me in more than three years.

"I'm alive," I said.

He chuckled. A few minutes later, after he'd looked over the many pages of reports detailing the injuries I suffered in May 2006 and the many surgeries since, he said, "You're lucky to be alive."

"Yes," I answered. "It's been bad, but at least I'm here."

A few minutes ago, I read the news that 45-year-old actress Natasha Richardson died today from an unspecified head injury suffered when she fell during a ski lesson on Monday. According to the Quebec ski resort's spokeswoman, quoted in the NYT, “It was a normal fall; she didn’t hit anyone or anything. She didn’t show any signs of injury. She was talking and she seemed all right.”

In early August of 2005, I was in London and went to the theater with my long-lost cousin Larry. I'd gotten tickets to see "The Home Place" with Tom Courtenay, who'd acted with my father in the mid-1960s. I'd bought the cheapest tickets, but through some fluke was upgraded to mezzanine seats.

There were very few people in the mezzanine, so Larry and I moved up to the first row, by the railing. A couple of minutes later, he nudged me and gestured to the section to our right.

"Who are they?" he whispered.

I looked over to see a very glamorous couple getting seated. He was tall and craggy-handsome, with light-brown hair. She was gorgeous: blonde, tan, impossibly thin and dressed in impossibly spotless white from head to toe. Very L.A., I thought.

"You can tell they didn't take public transportation to get here," I muttered. (Larry and I had arrived via Tube.)

Then I looked a little harder.

"Oh, my God," I said. "That's Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson. Her father Tony directed my dad in 'St. Joan of the Stockyards' in this theatre--or one just like it--in 1964, and in 'The Loved One' in 1965."

"Wow," breathed Larry.

After the play, we went backstage to see Courtenay, whom I'd been in touch with beforehand. Who else should be there but Richardson and Neeson, so I had a little chat with her. When I approached, she looked grim, probably thinking I was a fan, but warmed up when I told her of our connection. We exchanged names and everyone shook hands all around, greatly impressing Larry.

I then had a little chat with Courtenay, especially admiring the kiddie-print pirate sheets on the twin bed in his dressing room. Then the three famous people got into waiting limousines, and Larry and I walked to the Palms of Goa restaurant, where we ate cheap (for London), spicy food and marveled at our brush with the stars.

And now today Natasha Richardson is dead from a seemingly minor head injury, and I'm alive after a major one that left me with a concussion, PTSD, broken facial bones and nerve damage. The "family statement" to the news media from Liam Neeson came via Hollywood publicist Alan Nierob, who announced my father's death nearly 15 years ago.

It's all too close for comfort. But at least I'm here.


Mr. Obie Joe said...

Yes, you are, yes you are. And many are glad you are. It simply is amazing how the roulette wheel works.

And I hope you are having a spectacular time in Charlottesville! Isn't the Spring there beautiful?

Bella Stander said...

Thank you! That roulette wheel is indeed amazing.

And springtime in Cville is indeed beautiful. How I've missed the Eastern woodland birds! A shimmering bluebird and I eyeballed each other for a couple of minutes yesterday, after which he flew off, whistling his poignant song. Sheer enchantment.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Wish I could be at the Festival this year since I had such a great time there last year meeting you (and other writer buddies!).

It's a small world, isn't it? I've been so bothered by Natasha Richardson's death--we really do need to live in the moment as much as we can! Enjoy your trip.

Kim Stagliano said...

The Bluebird of happiness. That's appropriate. I have a little glass BOH from a glassblower in W. Virginia. I try to peek at him regularly, even when life feels more like a large black raven.

This was a lovely post, Bella.

Christine Fletcher said...

We were watching "Once Upon a Time in the West" last night on DVD, and when the barman appeared I said, "There's Bella's dad!"

Beautiful post. No rhyme or reason to so much of life (and death). When I give talks about writing, I tell people I don't write about what I know--I write about what I don't know, the stuff that drives me nuts. Because in a manuscript, at least I can try to make it make sense.

Bluebirds of Happiness help, too. :)

sarah pekkanen said...

Hang in there, Bella. I'm astounded by all you have been through, and yet you have more energy and enthusiasm than 20-year-old Olympic athletes. I can't tell you how much your coaching and workshops have helped me. Hope Charlottesville was wonderful and see you at BEA.

Bella Stander said...

Awwww... Thanks everyone! Sarah, you made my flu-ish day (the result of Too Much Fun on my recent travels).

Carleen Brice said...

Next you're going to be telling us your name is really Kevin Bacon. Glad you're here. :)

Bella Stander said...

Thanks, Carleen! I'm glad I'm here too, even though I'd rather not still be feeling flu-ish.

Indeed I'm not Kevin Bacon. But through my father, who acted for 60 years in films, radio, TV and theater, I'm just 2 degrees from any number of people, from Bob Hope to OJ Simpson.

Oh, and my old friend (read: brief acquaintance) Tom Courtenay stars in "Little Dorrit" that starts on PBS tomorrow night. I know I'll be watching.

Jeanie said...

I just happened upon your blog while researching Marianne Williamson’s “Our deepest fears”. I love the way you wrote “A shimmering bluebird and I eyeballed each other for a couple of minutes yesterday, after which he flew off, whistling his poignant song. Sheer enchantment.” Do you think about this or does it just roll off your pen (keyboard)? It really is so much more enjoyable to read when written with enchanting details.
I love how you made Natasha Richardson come alive for a brief moment. Lots of puzzle pieces to life that when taken the time to put together make us sit back and reflect with wonder.

Bella Stander said...

Your comment made my day. Thank you, Jeanie! The line about the bluebird came straight from my heart.