Saturday, September 27, 2008
A Real Star in the Firmament
Paul Newman died today at the age of 83.
I don't even know where to start to say how much I adore Paul Newman, the actor, the man, the philanthropist. Bambina loves him too, but for reasons solely involving teriyaki sauce, raspberry vinaigrette and organic lemonade (and because he does nice things for kids with his lemonade money). She and I have had so many Paul Newman conversations that it's almost weird to say it out loud. I said once that I thought he was "lovely" and that was that. "Paul Newman is really nice!" became her refrain as she drank his lemonade.
I had seen the news online this morning and said out loud, "Oh no, Paul Newman died. That is so sad." Bambina assured me she was sad too. She's still trying to figure out death, but she can tell it makes people sad. She kept asking, "Why did Paul Newman die today? Is he not dead yet or is he really dead? Is he alive still right now? Why did he die?" I did my usual "when people get very old or very sick...." but she was not satisfied by my answers. I resisted the urge to tell her that grownups haven't figured it all out yet either.
She asked me to tell her a "Paul Newman story," so I told her again all about his charities and how he helps kids and how he doesn't take any money from the food we buy with his picture on it. She was really upset about it; not crying or anything, but just asking and asking about him. I asked her what was going on and she reminded me that, just last week, she had told me that we should "write to Paul Newman and tell him we love his lemonade." I told her we would. But we never got to it. So I reassured her we could still write to his wife and tell her, which made her happier. But still not okay. So I pressed some more and she said very seriously, "It's a good thing we bought extra lemonade yesterday." Lightbulb. I realized that my child loves Paul Newman so much because she seriously thinks that he's the guy squeezing the lemons into that carton just for her and that he drew that picture of himself onto the carton just for her. She was thinking that the passing of Paul Newman meant no more teriyaki, vinaigrette or organic lemonade, because who was going to squeeze the lemons now? And what about the kids who need the money from the lemonade? What will happen to them?
So, a glass of lemonade later, after reassurances that the food would keep on coming and the kids would keep on being helped, she seemed happy again. She said, "That so sad he dead. But Mama, we still have his lemonade."
And she's right. When you think of all the legacies a person could leave, there aren't many better than one where kids not only eat great food while helping other kids, but they also get the chance to learn about a humble, faithful, talented and generous person named Mr. Paul Newman.