Dear Helen

You will never have a chance to read this letter.
Because you are dead.
Something I just recently learned.
That you had passed away in August 2012.
I do apologize for not writing sooner.
And I apologize for being aware of your passing.
Your death no doubt made the news.
The headlines in fact.
Your life had such a profound influence on so many people, me included, that your passing was well and very publicly announced.
I can only surmise that I did not hear about it because, well, I was too busy having it all.
You see, your book entitled exactly that, Having It All, was something of a playbook for me.
I don’t remember when or where I purchased it, but somewhere in my 20′s I decided I needed some guidance.
And your book provided it.
As instructed, I worked hard, kept my head down, persevered, and with dogged determination, made a little something of myself and my life.
Like you, I had several secretarial and word processing jobs early on.
They were great – helped me to pay the rent – got me out in the world – and taught me the value of having a good little job.
Never mind that back in the day, the roaring 80′s, I was just making enough money to cover my bills, with barely enough left over to afford appetizers at a restaurant when out with my friends.
No matter.
I was independent, on my own, learning responsibility, how to cook and clean and entertain and manage my bank book.
When the time came that I realized I needed a more fulfilling career, I went back to school to study broadcast journalism.
That led me to a couple of wonderful careers as a reporter and anchor: first at a local cable tv station, and the second at a medium market broadcasting station.
Unlike you, my first and only marriage didn’t stick.
But a second partner has proved more compatible and enduring.
Through him, I did have the experience of being a sort of “step-mother” to his children.
Like you, I never had any children of my own, and I only partially regret that.
They are not always a guarantee that you will have company in your old age, or someone to care for you, or that they will even turn out okay.
Like you, I love animals, and feel the purring of a cat is one of the world’s best elixers.
And like you, I love to write, the mere act being a wonderful catharsis and therapy and outlet of all feelings and emotions.
As Having It All was a wonderful playbook in my earlier years, so too is The Late Show now.
In fact, in my prime, I had recently reached for that book in my bookcase.
I am not sure when or where I acquired it, but it has been something of a balm these last few weeks.
I realize you wrote it in 1993, when you were in your 70′s.
In my late 50′s, I am having trouble coming to terms with the fading of youth, the new realities of the coming golden years, etc.
Your words have helped immensely, again.
By touching on every subject, from food and health and work and relationships and more, I feel more equipped to handle the years that are to come.
After all, you managed to live to the ripe young age of 90! Perhaps kicking and screaming all the way through the rigors of getting older, but with grace and style.
And so, like you, I will diet well, try to live well, forgive lots, love lots, keep working to some degree, keep contributing in some way, keep being thankful always, being appreciative every day, filled with gratitude each and every minute.
For who knows how long we each have.
And so, Helen, although we never had the chance to meet, I feel I do know you and I consider you to be a friend.
And I want to thank you for your words of wisdom and experience and encouragement throughout my formative years, and now my prime time.
We are all in this together.
And although you are gone, more than 7 years now, you will always live on my thoughts, and my actions.
Thank you, Helen, for being the brave trend setter, non-feminist feminist, no holds barred, let it all hang out and say whatever you feel role model for an entire generation of women.
We will do you proud.

 

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