Nora Ephron, Dying "Young"
When the news hit that Nora Ephron had died at 71, I’m not the only female who reeled with shock. “So young,” my mind screamed at me. “So very young.”
When I was actually young, in the child-rearing years, busy with work, and kids, and home duties, I used to laugh as my mother and (then) husband went round upon round, arguing, when ever she said, hearing of the death of a seventy year old, “But he was so young.” My husband, full of hubris, tried mightily to get her to admit that seventy wasn’t young. “You wait,” she’d say. “You’ll see, someday, that it is.”
Well, time passed, as it will. My mother lived to 94, which even she admitted could probably be called old. Now, to my ex-husband, seventy, no longer looks so old. In fact…
But Nora, to die at 71? Chalk up another one in the book of “Life is Not Fair.”
We met only once, at an award ceremony. She was adorable. To this day, I cherish a note she wrote me, complimenting me on an Esquire article. “My husband and I laughed out loud,” she said. That was her first husband. My byline in Esquire had been shared with my first husband. We’ve been through the marital wars, she and I, and come out the other side, happy and, at last, well-married.
It was a mighty bond. At the exact time Heartburn was published, which was, as she described it, “the most thinly-disguised work of fiction ever,” my husband and I were meeting to go over the terms of our divorce. He put a newspaper down in front of me; it carried a full page feature story on Nora, Carl Bernstein, the book and her famous depiction of “him” as “a man who could have sex with a Venetian blind.” The blood had drained from my husband’s face. In twenty-five years of marriage I had never seen him that color. “I suddenly,” he said, “realize the danger of getting divorced from a writer.”
When asked for comment about the “novel” Heartburn, Carl Bernstein said, “It’s just like Nora. Very, very clever.”
Just after her death, I heard a rebroadcast of an interview she had done recently about her book I Remember Nothing, which is her take on the disadvantages of growing older. (The only advantage she could come up with, when asked, was “You don’t have to wash your hair as often.”) Her words, even after she’s gone, resonate. “Your cleavage,” said our Nora, speaking of ladies of a certain age, “looks like a peach pit.” Now, that’s writing.
Some years ago, at a Puppetry Festival, I saw a time line of the art form. It paused for a long moment on the late, great Jim Henson. I’ll never forget what it said. “He was our Mozart.”
Nora, my dear, we will miss you. You were our Dorothy Parker. And what’s so bad about being very, very clever, I’d like to know. Between you and Dorothy, you turned it into an art form.
Bonnie Remsberg is an award-winning writer of books, magazine articles, films, television scripts and plays. She holds the Career Achievement Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Her plays, for puppets and people, have premiered at the National Puppetry Conference of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. She and her husband, Rev. Raymond Teague, an Interfaith wedding officiant in Northern California, (www.californiaweddingjoy.com), are writing a book together: "Chocolate Foreplay -- Loving More and Being Happy."
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