FOR RICKI, FEBRUARY 22, 2007
In a city where friendships can be fickle, Ricki was a friend forever. In a world where tides of opinion pull people this way and that, she was a rock.
And what joy she brought into our lives. I think of her on one of the days when she and Larry tied their boat up to our dock on the Eastern shore and she walked to the house with me, her head back as though she wanted to get all the sunshine she could on her face and pull it into her soul so she could share it with the rest of us. I think of her phone calls. “Lynne,” she would say, “I have the most wonderful news,” and it might be big or small, but she would use it to lift your heart.
Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself, what made her the way she was? So optimistic, so positive, even when the news she wasn’t sharing, at least not much, was not good. Her marriage to Larry, of course, is where everything starts, that base of love and support made her very strong. Almost fifty years and she was making plans for an anniversary party. She was secretly getting a dress made to surprise you, Larry. It was like the one in the portrait that hangs in your house because she knew you liked that dress. And she said we would dance till dawn at the party and eat eggs in the morning–which struck me as so wonderfully transgressive, staying up too late and eating forbidden food all at once. When she wasn’t feeling well, she canceled the plans, but not forever, she assured her friends. “We can do it later in the spring, or maybe in the fall,” she said.
Family is where it started for her, and she was so proud of her children. She worshipped you, Bobby and Katie and Annie. And she loved her grandchildren. She never let me get away with a story about my grandchildren without returning one–or more than one story–about her own.
Part of her gift, I think, was that early on she figured out the difference between right and wrong, and no amount of slick talking was going to get her confused on these matters. She brought her convictions to her work at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to the women she organized in support of Clarence Thomas, and to the Independent Women’s Forum. And once she signed on for a cause, she supported it fully. I visited her a few months ago, and she was saying she was going to beat this thing that was making her sick and I felt helpless as we all did and asked the question I suspect we all asked, “What can I do?” And she handed me a fundraising brochure for IWF. What I could do was write a check–which, of course, I did.
I also think Ricki did something we all know we should do, but too often forget. I think she worked on being a life-affirming person. She knew that the combat of politics is important. She loved this country and knew that its fate matters deeply. But she also knew the importance of turning away from this city once in awhile and watching the sunrise on the Chesapeake, and listening to the luffing wings of the swans that sometimes fly by. There is this world of politics and power in which we struggle over decisions that will matter for generations to come, but there’s another world where you work on your soul, and Ricki knew that one, too. She thought about life and death and love and kindness, and, oh, how she shines in our memory.