"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.