One of my favorite college roommates died of skin cancer a couple of years ago, and last night her husband came over to talk to me about writing her biography. He said his first fantasy was to simply hire me and make it my full-time job to do the whole thing, but he had fortunately discarded that idea before I had to tell him no. However, I do want to be in on the creation of this biography, and I’m flattered that he asked me to help write and edit it. She was someone I always tried to be a little more like.
She was highly organized. She arose every morning at five, exercised, and wrote in her journal before breakfast. When we were at school, she then would get ready and go to classes or work, always on time, and she’d have all her homework done days ahead. I can’t remember her getting straight A grades or anything like that, but I was always aware that she was fully competent in everything she did. I do remember she typed very, very fast!
I liked to dance in those days. I had taken several ballroom dance classes and was on the “bronze” ballroom dance team (the team that did NOT perform, which was the sort of training team for people to get to the performance level). My partner and I used to organize impromptu dance parties in my apartment lots of week nights, where we’d put on records and start teaching everybody the dances we had to practice for our class. When this roommate moved in to my apartment and into our lives, she was a natural dancer. My partner fell for her, hard! I was all sympathy, but unluckily for him, my roommate couldn’t return any similar feelings for him—they just weren’t there. She was kind to him, however, not wanting him to keep hanging on to hope but not wanting to be too brutal either. A few years later he told me hers was the “best” breakup he’d ever experienced, which he knew was a sort of sad comment, but it was also a reflection of her good character. He later married and was very happy last I knew of him.
One time this roommate and I went to a dress shop when the fashion for old lace and floor-length dresses (maxi skirts, we called them, and Jessica McClintock was a well-known label around town) was current. We took my camera—I was taking a photography class—and tried on everything in the shop, photographing each other posing in the dresses. The store owner got in the spirit of the thing and I sent her copies of all the pictures with old-fashioned sepia-toned finishing, but I don’t think she ever used any. There went my modeling career. What a fun day.
This is the roommate who got me jogging. She decided she needed to take up jogging, and she wanted me to come with her. I discovered I really, really liked running. I ran for years and years. One of my great regrets is that I no longer run. I need to walk more, too. My roommate was a slender woman always, and she kept herself fit.
I wish we had never laid out in the sun, trying for suntans. I don’t know if that’s why she got skin cancer in her early 50s, but I still wish it. She warned me, “Never put off getting skin problems checked out!” She had stage 4 cancer because she had put off getting the problem area seen by a doctor. Had she been seen earlier, she might have been able to beat it. Who knows. I went with her to chemo treatments and to group therapy to talk about it.
For a number of years, she had organized getting together with me and another of our roommates for dinner every six months. We loved those times. She was the really entertaining one of our threesome. She would bring pictures and talk about her family, and we would listen, enthralled with all that she was learning and doing.
I miss her. The memories I have of her make me smile. It will be good to delve into her life and refresh a lot of memories that have faded.