Thursday, June 12, 2008

grieving from afar

I'd been planning on writing tonight about the Obama Baby Mama embarrassment that is Fox News, but Karen, ex-boyfriend Chris's mother, left me a message earlier this evening to let me know that Josh Perl died Tuesday night.

Josh and Lucy are the parents of Chris's childhood friend Sam. I first met the three of them the same evening that I first met Chris's parents, back in November of 2001. I was pretty anxious about meeting Karen and Jerry (a psychologist and a federal judge, for God's sake -- who wouldn't be a little nervous?), and was vastly relieved to discover that not only were they decent folk, but that their friends were pretty amazing, too. I was particularly grateful for Josh's uncanny ability to put people at ease.

The seven of us periodically got together for dinner over the next five years.

It was a longstanding tradition to have Christmas Eve dinner at Josh & Lucy's place, just up the block from our apartment. Lucy and I would bond over knitting and having family in the Pacific Northwest. Josh would disarm us all with his smile.

Josh and Lucy gave me my favorite kitchen utensil, a five-inch Global chef's knife, which I have been using almost daily ever since. And it was because of Josh's delicious chicken & dumplings and enthusiasm for one particular cookbook that Staff Meals from Chanterelle's David Waltuck became one of my culinary bibles.

One afternoon Chris and I ran into Josh and Sam on the street outside of our building. We were on our way to the subway, trying to get to the hospital where we had just found out a friend had been taken the night before with severe pneumonia. Josh and Sam had been heading to their car for, I think, a shopping expedition. The hospital, all the way on the other side of town, was nowhere near their destination, yet Josh, with his ever present generosity, insisted on giving us a ride. When I thanked him and suggested they drop us off part way there, he just gave me a look and said, "Emily, we have a car. What's a few more avenues when you have a car!"

They live just up the street from me, Josh and Lucy and sometimes Sam, and yet I have only run into Lucy once, and Josh and Sam not at all, in the year and a half since Chris and I broke up.

I didn't even know until this Tuesday, when Karen came to pick up the last of Chris's stuff, that Josh's cancer had returned, that pneumonia had complicated things, that they had decided to forgo any further treatment, that it was a matter of time.

It is a strange and heartbreaking thing to know that I am so close to Lucy and Sam, geographically speaking, and yet at the same time so far away that I'm not even sure of sending a card.

I would bring them offerings of chicken and dumplings, cookies and casseroles and a bottle of Sauternes, if I could.

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