Sunday, September 9, 2007

Losing Madeleine

Sad, sad news. Madeleine L'Engle died. She was another of my heroes. We served together on the Authors Guild Council. In the 80's when both our books came under fire -- hers for "teaching new age-ism" (if you can believe that!) we once went on a TV show together. I loved her for being so open, so honest, and so completely taken aback by these challenges to her work, written long before anyone ever heard of new age-ism. Of course her books will live on. A Wrinkle in Time will speak to kids of generations still to come. Madeleine had a great sense of humor about our predicament. At her 80th birthday I was seated next to someone who would become a dear friend. I like to think Madeleine knew this would happen. She'll be missed.

It's been a season of losing dear old friends. Barbara Hersey, also 88, died over the summer. Married early to Charles Addams, the cartoonist and creator of the Addams Family, it's said that she was the model for Morticia. She was beautiful, witty, charming, and was later married to the writer John Hersey, the great love of her life. They had a daughter together and at 84, Barbara became a first time grandmother. I never knew John. He died just before I met Barbara. She lived on the Vineyard and in Key West so I was lucky enough to spend time with her in both places. She was the toast of every dinner party. My grown children were so fond of her that last summer, when she wasn't strong enough to come to our house for a meal, Randy prepared a dinner and we took the party to her. Even though I knew how frail she was her death was a shock to me and my family. Key West won't be the same without her.

Grace Paley, the writer, also died this summer, at about the same age as Madeleine and Barbara. I only met her once but she was warm, funny, and generous. Her stories about women spoke to me, and I've no doubt they'll continue to speak to anyone interested in the most important relationships in life.

Three great women. Three times the loss.