There isn't any column in this space this week
because the girl I used to write it for isn't around to read it. I wanted to write something about her instead, something that sang, but I choked up. I found that it's one thing to hammer out small jokes about a wife
like that and quite another to pick up the pieces of a shattered lifetime and set them
down in those easy newspaperman's sentences.
I have no secrets. I was not the world's greatest husband, couldn't be, but make no
mistake: this was an affair of some depth; you couldn't have any other kind with Birdye. It was an affair that began on a poor street corner in The Bronx (it must have been a long time ago, because I
remember her Sweet Sixteen party) and ended in a bleak and dismal hospital room way down on Second Av. In between, there was nothing but love; oh, so much love.
The funny part of it, thinking back, is that there really wasn't any strong public demand for this union in the first place. Her parents didn't go wild over the garment cutter's skinny boy from Belmont Av.; I
suppose they wanted their youngest daughter to marry a doctor. And my mother and father
didn't lose their heads over her either; maybe they wanted me to marry a doctor, too (a girl doctor, of course).
We shook them all off. We had the $2 for the license and at least $8 more for spending money and a $25-a-week job on The Post besides. Sure, we were too young to know anything but there was music in our
hearts--and in her talented fingers--and there was a whole town, our town, to conquer.
So we wrote our love story.
Nothing could have ended it but the dark cloud that took her mother and a sister and then another
sister--and even at that Birdye gave cancer a whale of a battle: 150 days and nights. I saw her supple athlete's body wracked and ravaged by that furious enemy (you worrying about the H-Bomb? ) but it was
a long time before I saw fear, the first fear of all her beautiful years, in those big twinkling hazel
You have heard about the shortage of nurses in town; it has touched most of us. Not so for Birdye. For Birdye, there were nurses to
spare--angels of Christian mercy drawn to her side by that mysterious spell of hers. McIntyre and Walker and Farrell and Morley and
Cheney and some names I've lost: you had to force them to take a day off. Why? They must have
loved this brave stranger: they must have sensed something. They kept the big secret and battled to keep the lady alive when even their golden arms couldn't ease the raging torment within her.
But it ended, finally. It ended on a Sunday that
was simply glorious for New York in November (you see, the Weatherman
waited; he even left some green on a hill in Westchester for her) and the next day there wasn't enough room in Mr. Campbell's
chapel for all the people who loved this woman who was so good and so warm. Some of them
wept--the men with the women--when Rabbi Rosenblum said his simple, eloquent service but her
children stood straight and proud and never even blinked; they knew Birdye wouldn't want them to cry.
Now how do you say thanks? How do you thank little Birdye, who walked so
tall? How do you thank her friends and yours? How do you thank the readers of this column who take the
trouble to tell you that they want a piece of your heartbreak? How do you thank the people
who send money to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund to fight a killer that strikes without asking your credentials for death? You
can't; there is no way, but I would like to say this much for Eleanor and Howard and Paul:
Don't light any candles for Birdye. She found the way when she
was around. She lit up some of the dark places in the town. The question here is, will it ever
be the same without her?