Apr '03 [Home]


'I Followed the River…'
A Eulogy for Ginny Wray

by Terrence Dunn

. . .

'…and it led to the sea.'

I have always liked that line. I did not write it (Bob Dylan did), but I remembered it and I am going to use it. I have begun to think that writing has less to do with a good imagination than it does with a good memory. And yet memory is what I am afraid of, that someday I will remember every part of this moment in my life and so much of it will be gone.

I have been in absolute denial about Ginny. I have been waiting for a phone call or an email from her husband Paul, saying that she is in remission and going home and that our writing group will meet again in the Spring. And I imagine sitting at her kitchen table, as we have every other Tuesday for the past three years, eating her cookies, telling her yes, she is too a truly talented writer (which she is, but does not believe), and hungrily taking her advice. I have never had a friend like her before, a (slightly) older woman with an unorthodox path through life and a passionately introspective approach to it. A strong survivor of child abuse, a college graduate in her forties, a born poet. I have never been certain where to store her in my mind and my heart; there is no prior part of my life she belongs to, even by association. So I have carried her around with me, eloquent, kind, separate.

But I received a different message than the one I wanted, a call from Paul telling me that he would be taking her home from the hospital in a day or so and that treatment would then stop. He suggested that if we wanted to see her again, it would be better to do it before she returned home. He suggested that because of the tumor's effect on her brain, she would probably not recognize us. We visited and saw her, ravaged, rasping and unable to speak. But she did recognize us, she held our hands, smiled and silently waved goodbye.

Ginny had convinced me to look to my children as an inspiration for writing, a suggestion that worked beautifully. She has made many other suggestions along the way that resulted in my being published, finally, in the past year; to my utter delight but no surprise to her. She was unwavering in her support and fiercely resisted all credit. I have felt for a time as if I were floating gently in her current, with a broad and lovely ocean ahead of us. Now without her I am at a loss as to how to write about her. She wrote about everything and anything. With great feeling, devastating emotion and, always, with humor.

Paul suggested that I could read a biography of her at the service and I agreed to that, partially because I would like to hear the story of my friend (there are so many things I do not know about her!). What I do know is this: Her hands shook sometimes when she read something to the three of us. Because she was nervous, a little. Because she cared very much about what we, as her friends, thought, and because she cared very much about what she wrote. She wrote from love and delivered it with love and cared enough about that to tremble.

She always signed her emails, "Love, Ginny." I have never done that with adults, but I may start. So now I write this goodbye to her and tell her I will miss her. Miss her, I am afraid, much, much more later, when memory takes over, than I could possibly know now. Ginny, I will write to you often.


NYC, March 15, 2003

~ . ~

In My Rhinestone Model Tee's
Ginny Wray

(From Jul '02 feature:  'Shoes, Socks Optional')

I've finally found the shoes of my desire
in a mail-order catalogue on page 16.
Called Model Tee's,
they have short squat heels
made for dancing,
pointy pointed toes, and a skinny tap.
They come in black patent leather
and red, just imagine!
and for five dollars extra
there's a rhinestone clasp.

But they're too pretty for me
and I know I'll never buy them.
I'm too old, too tall—
I can hear my mother laughing.
And yet, if I had the guts to wear them
I'd create a big scandal
dancing the Flamenco with a
slim Latin lover (too short, but who cares?)
and his pants would be so tight
they'd start a riot in the ballroom
and we'd all go up in flames
like crackling paper dolls.

Sadly having no lover,
couldn't I still wear them
with my old blue jeans and
my lumberjack jacket
to buy a quart of milk
and a box of Cheerios?
I can see myself now
looking cheap as dimestore roses
with the rhinestones at my ankles
driving to the deli in my brand new Model Tee's.