Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Evening with Eleanor Clift

Last night I attended a lecture at the college. Eleanor Clift, whom you may know from her regular weekly appearances on The McLaughlin Report (and several movies) came to speak at Hood College for the Thanatology series.

She published a book last year called Two Weeks of Life, which tells the story of the death of her husband Tom Brazaitis (a fellow journalist) which played out against the backdrop of the Terri Schiavo story. She fondly said, "He was a tough competitor. He died the day before Terri Schiavo and two days before the pope. He won the race to the pearly gates." She told an amazing tale of her life and her love of her husband. She also talked about her journey into politics from a secretarial job at Newsweek. Chuckling at herself, she said, "The irony isn't lost on me that I'm always lecturing at college campuses and I don't have a college degree!" I used to feel that way, a little embarrassed about not having a degree, a little ashamed of that even while being proud of my accomplishments.

I got the honor of asking the last question of the night. It was something that I really wanted to know the answer to. When the microphone came my way, I said, "I was wondering...in the marriage relationship, we typically lean on each other. When your husband died, who did you lean on?"

She smiled and said, "I hope you don't think this is facetious, but I have these two cats. They were named by the shelter where I got them: Precious and Little Tom. Well, Little Tom is a big 20-lb Maine Coon, and he sleeps right up on the pillow next to me. Those two cats, but particularly Little Tom were a comfort to me in those difficult days.

"Also, I had some close girlfriends. When I looked out my window one day, not long after Tom died, and saw a pigeon in obvious distress, I called my friend. She said, 'I'll be right over.'"

She went on to say that her friend had wrangled the local wildlife department into taking the pigeon in for care (though they referred to pigeons as "rats with wings"). She used Eleanor's fame and donor status to get past their resistance. Eventually it was discovered that the bird was suffering from dehydration and could not take in sustenance. They euthanized the bird. "But," she said, "at least I didn't have to watch the poor bird die on my lawn. The lesson from this is - keep your friends close. You may really need them."

I felt honored then to talk to her at the book signing afterward. I shared with her how close I am to my own animals, particularly my little Russian Blue, CC.

So Ms. Clift wrote in my copy of the book, "To Doris, My Kindred Spirit! Warmly, Eleanor Clift".

What an amazing night it was! What a strong woman she is.

And now I leave you with a little tongue-in-cheek humor from Portia DeRossi, apologizing for her marriage to Ellen and how many people it has hurt ;-)

Peace - D


Maggie May said...

A true friend if she came to rescue a pigeon in the night!
The video was funny.

Mental P Mama said...

What a wonderful evening...and that video is spot on.

Sandi McBride said...

Your evening was perfect...so glad for you...and yes, cats are my strength too, lol! In fact I have one on the keyboard whenever I sit down...loved this post, it "hit the spot",

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi D!
What a terrific evening you had! and getting to speak with that wonderful woman! It must have been an awesome experience!
I am the same way with my dogs... they give me plenty of unconditional love whenever I need it and they always know when I am feeling down.
Ahh, almost forgot: love your new photo! and love the blue-tinted glasses! very Annie Lennox! Beautiful!
Big Hugs,
Donnie XXX

The Things We Carried said...

That sounds like a PERFECT evening!

Cloudia said...

I love Eleanor Clift!

Friends & cats; sounds about right.

I'm proud of you!

TheWritersPorch said...

D...........sounds like you had a wonderful time and you deserve it!

Moannie said...

Great evening for you, and, you've got to laugh, love the irony, how did she keep a straight face [oops...no pun intended]

septembermom said...

Eleanor Clift is one of my favorite commentators. She gets right to the heart of the debate and doesn't back down to anyone. A touching story about those days after her husband's death. She is a strong, focused woman. What a great opportunity for you to hear her speak.

The Portia video is funny too :)

Shrinky said...

Oh D, I can't tell you how tickled I am at that video - I was so pissed when a friend told me Ellen and her wife were appearing on her show in the States, and I missed it. The best way to tackle hatred is through humour, this is a perfect example! x

Shrinky said...

Ooops, got so carried away, I forgot to comment on the main part of your post (rolling eyes). Home and education left me when I was 15. I got over my inferiority complex about that when I became the sole proprietor of a business that payrolloed over 500 staff - wink.

Water rises to it's own level - scientific fact.

Shrinky said...

But I still can't spell.

Syd said...

It sounds as if you had a great evening. And having a few true friends is so important.

Daryl said...

What a wonderful personalized inscription ...

And I am wiping tears of laughter .. that poor gay dog .. Portia is a very funny woman

ConverseMomma said...

What a great questions to ask. I remember reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and wanting to know that exact thing.

Great video!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

What a great evening! And I am so glad you got to ask a question! And thanks for the video link. It was spot on.

RiverPoet said...

Maggie - That's the truth!

MPM - It was great, for sure.

Sandi - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I had great fun at the lecture.

Donnie - It was truly an awesome experience! And blue glasses? No...I think that was just the reflection in the monitor :-)

TTWC - Indeed it was!

Cloudia - What more does a girl need?

Carol - It was great fun...

Moannie - HA! You're funny!

September - Wish you could have gone with me! You would have loved meeting her, I'm sure. She has the palest blue eyes.

Shrinky - Good to see you around these parts! Yes, humor does defuse even the stupidest situations, doesn't it? And I don't care if you can spell or not, my friend. Sounds like you've done just fine without being a stickler!

Syd - I have a couple of friends that I know I can always count on, no matter what. It means so much!

Daryl - Glad I could give you a laugh. I had a good one over it, too!

CM - I'm so glad I could get your question answered for you! I also enjoyed Didion's book, and Eleanor talked about that one, too. She and Joan are friends.

NATUI - It was truly, truly cool!

Peace - D

Akelamalu said...

That sounds like a perfect evening! True friends will always be there for you when you call. :)

SandyCarlson said...

That's quite a night! I would lean on my pets, too.

TSannie said...

Now I want to meet Ms. Clift.

I've seen that video and it is brilliant!

Jules~ said...

Pets are so special. I am so grateful God gave them to us. You've told me a bit about your dogs. Have you posted about them? Are there pictures?

Blessings to you today.

Lavinia said...

I've talked with two men recently who have complained to me that the single women they know who have gotten dogs, have given up men and dating. ha ha ha ha ha! I totally understand that!

Woman in a Window said...

What a gift you received at that talk but I'm laughing myself senseless here over the video and what my expectations were. I expected her apology to be to everyone she shortchanged by getting married. She's just too friggen hot to belong to one. And here it was about gay rights. Well, that was funny too but I'm a little pleased with myself for not having seen that coming.

Butch Boo said...

Great video- thanks!



Sounds like you had an absolute delightful evening! Nice to get out and have fun every once in a while eh? lol, take care my good friend,
Julian :)

San said...

Doris, thank you for introducing me to Eleanor Clift. I love what she wrote when she signed your book--that is special.

Lovely, reflective post. As always.

BTW, the video is great, and the icing on the cake--my word verification is 'dykey.'