She said it all. Or most of it all. And what she didn't say or write we will never again hear. At least not the way Nora would have said it or written it.
It was amazing, her last two books said so many things that I might have said... but I didn't. Nora said it for me; for all of us.
It reminds me of my record of Carole King's "Tapestry." Those of us of a certain age, all sang along with it so easily, it was like we were all Carole King. But we weren't; we connected with her, we thought she was our friend. We loved her. So like Nora. One day years after "Tapestry," Carole K and I got to write a song; Carole sang it over the end credits of You've Got Mail, a highlight for me, Carole and Nora together.
Every generation has its spokespersons. Nora was definitely one of mine.
We were good friends. That always surprised me a little... why me? I wasn't as smart or as witty, and I lived in L.A. That was an immediate minus 10 points; as Fred Allen was quoted, "a good place to live if you're an orange." What a surprise when she told me she grew up here. I grew up in New York. The geographic switch says a lot about the differences between us.
What I found through time is: she was never judging me. When you were her friend she loved you. And even if I made a grammatical slip or said something mildly disappointing by her standards it did not change her feelings for me.
She knew everything. What cake to buy at what place; "I told you, only buy the pink cake there, not the white one. If you want a white cake here is where you go." What book should I read? She would tell me and occasionally I would listen and was always rewarded. What did I need to understand about the latest political crisis? And on and on and on.
A number of weeks ago a few of her friends started to worry, where is Nora, why didn't she call back, what's going on?... Something's wrong. But we all knew not to delve. Allow her her privacy mutual friends said, and of course I did.
Sometimes we traveled together, Nick and Nora, me and Bob. Looking back there are times I realize now she wasn't well. But then she was. And she did more than anyone else. No self pity. She crammed more into a day than most of us did in three. Climbing the steps to Capri, seeing every nook and cranny of every city while the rest of us fell behind and returned to our rooms.
She didn't want to miss a thing.
But at the end it wasn't the places she visited, the sights she saw, the books she read or the unbelievably delicious meals she and Nick prepared for us. It wasn't the questions and games she would ask around a dinner table. If you could be any other person for a day, living or dead, who would you be?; if you could do anything other than what you do, what would it be? These games always made me nervous, lest my answer was not clever enough.
Yes, she was the sum total of all of her experiences, her family, her children, her Nick. But there was something more. It was inner knowing. A "soulfulness," if you will, and a certain "genius" to take the ordinary and find the funny and sad, the sharp and exact truth of each thing she examined. I, like so many others, loved her and I will now re-read her books and re-watch her movies so I can stay close because I'm not ready to say goodbye.