Tuesday, May 28, 2013

These People Left Too Soon

I just came back from the World's Most Relaxing Weekend, in which I slept very nearly as many hours as I was awake, to discover that last week my daughter (and I, since I'm her transport) missed yet another orthodontist appointment. 

I feel like I should care more about this than I do.  She's been out of braces for a year, so this is just one of those last checks where they tell her whether or not she still has to wear a retainer.  I didn't miss appointments when my children were actually wearing braces.  Still, it's a complete pain for the office to have her not show up, and then have to reschedule her.  I completely get that.  I seem to be messing up appointments a lot more in the past year than in all the rest of my life.  I think it's because my children have their own agendas now.  They're quite likely to text me from school or their friend's house or wherever and tell me that their plans have completely changed, and in the effort to remember everything I forget most of it.

Anyway, this weekend I read two obituaries of women I never met, and wished I had.  One was my friend Anne Howard's mother, Alexsandra Howard.  Anne was a classmate at Smith; she was unusual (at least to me) in that she was very involved with horses, but not with the Smith barn.  She brought a young horse to school with her and wanted more turnout for him than the very limited turnout Smith's stable offered; also, she did some sort of riding--I didn't understand it at the time--that wasn't the hunt seat riding we did at Smith. 

I learned to ride in college, culmination of a life-long dream, and threw myself into horses the way you'd run down the pier and belly-flop into a cold lake.  I was in over my head most of the time, never cared, and learned about everything side-on and with great enthusiasm.  Which is also pretty much how I approached foxhunting, when I got the chance to do that, and later my wonderful sport, eventing. 

What I knew in college is that all my horsey friends had great respect for Anne and didn't seem offended that she wasn't on the riding team or keeping her horse at the school barn.  I'm pretty sure it was Anne about whom my horsey friends said, in hushed voices, "She's an A pony clubber," an A rating being a huge achievement.  Anne did social things with the Smith Riding Club; my sophomore year, when we went to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, she spent a good part of the day teaching me about canter leads.

Here's what I didn't know:  Anne's mother, Alexsandra, was a world-class rider.  She represented the United States twice at the world championships in dressage, and would have been on the Olympic team in 1980, the year we boycotted the games.  She also rode hunters, evented, and helped a group of women form a vaulting team called the "Flying Buttresses."  Her obituary described a woman brimming with adventure, enjoyment, and achievement; in Anne's words, she "wasn't ready to go."  I haven't seen Anne since our graduating 24 years ago, but we're in touch via Facebook.  I'm very sorry I never knew her mother.

Then on Mason-Dixon Knitting I read about the death of Kathreen Ricketson, a forty-year old craft artist and blogger from Australia.  She and her husband had taken their two young children out of school for a year-long adventure around Australia.  Both she and her husband drowned, in view of the children, while swimming in the ocean.  It's horrible.  I'd never heard of Kathreen, but a few dozen bloggers added their tributes to her on the mason-dixon page, and now I wish I'd known her, too. 

A long time ago, someone I knew died, and that person's death seemed to increase, not decrease, the happiness in the world.  It was actually beyond horrible, to contemplate that.  I have wanted ever since to make the world better by what I did while I was alive.  Alexsandra Howard and Kathreen Ricketson did.