“Kathy Lee drinks wine in the morning!” spouted my sister with disdain.
“What?!!” Maybe my dad needed the right funeral service for his once and future death, but this was jarring news.
I moved from the desktop to the couch to seek refuge in the comfort of morning TV. It was the Morning Show, no the Today Show, and Kathy Lee Gifford was greeting America for as long as decades have existed.
What surprised me was not that women were imbibing fermented grape juice at an hour when most stores had not even opened in the East Coast, though that would have raised more than one eyebrow even in alcohol-friendly Europe; it wasn’t the fact that people were knocking back some drinks on live TV, though it was uncharacteristic for Americans to portray on the small screen what they spend most of their time doing in real life, if only to pretend that their life is pure and unaltered by impurities. Mind you, they may have stirred my curiosity, but they didn’t floor me, like ten shots of tequila might. In reality, what really got me over to the sofa was the realization that Kathy Lee was still presenting morning talk shows in a year when I thought she would have long been nestled in a villa in southern California, or wherever she lived (it happened to be my hometown, if that is any indicator of how little involved I am in following her life) because she had been around for as long as I could remember. For as long as decades were decades. Then again, if Harper Lee is still among us and publishing, then maybe just about anything is possible.
“And her husband just died. It’s disgraceful, though I admit I shouldn’t be saying anything at the moment,” added my sister.
That, I didn’t know. Her spouse, the famous former football player and TV sportscaster, Frank Gifford, had just passed away on August 9, also in my hometown. He was just about to turn 85. He died from natural causes which I used to think was one of those queer vague terms to sugarcoat perishing from this planet, but it’s actually a valid legal term, often a vital distinction, if you’ll excuse the paradoxical adjective I have chosen, to clarify why the person is no longer with us. Accidents, reckless conduct, negligence, suicide, manslaughter or homicide, are all causes, but are occurrences that, had the circumstances been entirely different, the victim would have been otherwise living a normal life. It’s true that if you hold a knife the wrong way, trip and fall on it, one might argue that it be only natural that you die. But in the greater order of things, in the higher harmony of the universe, you and your death become an anomaly. Horrific. Horrifying. Horrendous.
But they deviate from the former situation. For natural causes to be typed onto your death certificate, you need to be killed by microscopic assassins, viral or bacterial. Or your internal body, a section of your innards, a weary organ, has to give in. Give up. Give out.
Old age is not acceptable as a cause of death. Naturalness is.
Dad was not a big sports fan, at least that’s what I recall. He didn’t disdain it, and he knew the rules to most of the games, so he must have followed it enough as a young man. He may have even recalled Gifford’s glory days as a running back for the Giants and even the year they won the championship back in 1957. He maybe would have enjoyed spending more time watching the final round of a golf tournament or catching a college bowl game, had it not been for the fact he had eight children to provide for and maintaining a Greenwich lifestyle which was no easy task to tackle. Those were very natural causes. As were the clots in his arteries. As was the ictus. As was his weary body.
Mom said she was ready. She was ready today. She was ready that day. I ran down to the Stop & Shop for a Dunkin Donuts coffee, and with an luck, I would have a chance to get another Starbuck’s cup before heading up to the room. To see dad die of natural causes live for the first and last time.