I learned so many important life lessons from my Philip. The best lesson was learning to be me.
Philip loved me. He loved every thing about me and he taught me that I needed to love me as well. He encouraged me to speak my mind and to be me! My friends and even acquaintances that know me probably find it difficult to believe that there was a time that I didn't speak my mind,
There was a time, when we were newly together, and after I left a miserable relationship that among other things, stifled my impulses and my thoughts, that I held my tongue and kept my feelings strangled within me. As I write this, it seems inconceivable that I allowed anyone to do that to me. Now it seems so foreign, so unlikely, so not me, but my Philip had much to do with that growth.
He loved my spunk, my funny side, which is another thing I didn't know I had (of course, my family always thought I was funny, but I thought "they're my family, of course, they find me humorous." Now, I know that I'm occasionally funny in an entertaining way, not at all like my Philip's humor. No, he was gifted in a way few of us are.
He taught me to love me. He taught me to appreciate all of me. He also taught me a very valuable lesson: to treat one's losses as one would treat their accomplishments. I remember after an unsuccessful meeting with some HBO hierarchy I was feeling quite downtrodden when I heard Philip ask me, "where would you like to go for dinner? How does The Palm sound?"
Shocked, I turned to him and said, "The Palm, Philip? We didn't get our gig, why would we go to The Palm?" He smiled his gentle smile and said to me, "Norma, we need to celebrate our losses as well as our successes. We're celebrating the effort. We shouldn't give the loss any importance. We'll get what we need when we need it. In the meantime, we need to celebrate our losses just as we would our successes." And so we did! We went to the famous Palm in NY and ate a four-pound lobster and we laughed and enjoyed every morsel of our meal. I learned a very valuable lesson, which I have incorporated many times over.
In the beginning of us, I wasn't sure how to treat Halloween. It was Halloween Eve; in 1977 that Philip had lost his ability to walk. I didn't know if I should ignore the day, mention the day or experience the day, but leave it to my Philip, who always wanted to enjoy the day!
I have lots of fond memories of Halloween together. Several come to my immediate mind. One Halloween eve, we were editing our NBC documentary until late at night. We left the NBC offices and decided to go to a favorite Village haunt: Joanna's Restaurant.
It became an attention getting restaurant almost from the moment it opened its doors. One of the reasons I loved it, was that it offered a "dessert sampler": a plate filled with bites of their best desserts. Yum, even now so many years later, I can conjure a memory of the plate of delicious delectables and it makes me yearn to be there.
As we neared the restaurant and rounded the corner, we were nearly run over by a pregnant nun on roller-skates. When we walked into the restaurant it was jam packed with Halloween-garbed patrons all dressed in their Halloween-best costumes. That's when a notable N.Y. newscaster, who like us, was not dressed in costume, but was clearly quite inebriated approached us and slapped Philip on his back.
"Great costume!" he shouted. In his good humor, Philip thanked him and we laughed. Obviously, he was referring to Philip's wheelchair!
Years later we were invited to a costume party where all the guests were to dress like Hollywood characters from a movie. After great thought Philip decided on going as the Invisible Man.
He wore a mock turtleneck sweater and gloves. We ace-bandaged his head leaving his nostrils exposed along with his eyes. He wore dark sunglasses. He looked terrific. A few hours into the party and drunken woman arrived.
When she saw Philip, she made a beeline to him. We used to joke that drunken women always made their way to him. We never could figure out why, but without exception they always did. She came right over and with tears in her eyes she exclaimed, "Oh, you poor dear, you must have been in a terrible accident!" As I write this, I'm still laughing.
Another year we went to Scarlet O'Hara's in our sweet hometown to celebrate the day. Again, everyone was in costume, including us. Being in a wheelchair always created a little more creativity. This year Philip decided to wear a satin vest-like top that came up to his neckline, but was sleeveless. He had the florist make him a wreath of greens to wear upon his head and he went as "The Fall of Rome".