Fanny

4/6/2008

I am not writing this for the people who knew Fanny personally. I am writing it for all of us because even if you didn’t know her in the flesh, you knew her.

You know her because Fanny is that whatever sized part of you that is good and giving and willing to address people’s foibles with understanding and compassion. She is whatever selfless act you have ever performed and whatever time you have taken to encourage someone in need of it. None of us is perfect, but in my experience none better fits the description of “perfectly good” than Fanny.

She was my best friend for the last 12 years and the love of my life the last three. Fanny suddenly left this Earth on March 29, leaving the many of us who loved her in complete shock and grasping for answers. These past nine days are by-far the longest we’ve gone without speaking in that period and it’s time to break that silence. There is much to share.

Fanny was born in the British colony of Khartoum, Sudan to her Greek parents Olga and Dimitrios. She traveled extensively in her youth, spending time in Greece before settling in Brooklyn. Although she did not arrive in the U.S. until 1956, she became every bit the American girl. Fanny attended the iconic 1965 Beatles Shea Stadium concert and pictures from the era show her in miniskirts, go-go boots and reveling in the wonder of the times.

You would not have known it if you had to rely on this ever-humble woman for reference, but she earned a variety of degrees and certificates on subjects ranging from psychology to photography to design from respected institutions on both U.S. coasts.

Along the way, she married, gave birth to a son and ended up in the Baltimore-Washington area where she started what was to become a successful enterprise in the communication and design business.

It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to her calling. Gifted with an innate sense for color, shape, form and fashion, her shop produced countless pieces of pure functional elegance. Yet she was by no means snobbish. She also had an appreciation for dark humor and the macabre and once sent out invitations for an office Halloween party that were attached to a fake severed finger.

I met Fanny when I hired her company to create materials for mine. I was dazzled from day one by her style, worldliness and phenomenally-decent soul.

Her, and what was to become our, work involved dealing with the well-heeled and highfalutin to those in desperate need. Fanny treated all with equal respect. I’ll never forget working with her at a photo-shoot for an organization that provides assistance for severely disabled people. The commotion of the lights and cameras was making our subjects skittish, but Fanny calmed all, carefully fixing hair and straightening collars and softly telling these people that they looked “beautiful.” They beamed.

She was such an optimist that once, upon hearing an ear-shattering Fanny-induced crash coming from the vicinity of my kitchen floor, she immediately cried out to me about the things she’d managed to “save.”

Fanny’s mind operated like a 32-track recording studio. The result of this was mostly symphonic but there was the odd, often comic, note of disharmony. She recently picked me up to attend a meeting and I could not help but notice her rear-view mirror all askance and held fast to the car door by dozens of rubber bands. Noting my astonishment, she simply explained “I was on the phone.”

Last year we stayed at a park in Appalachia in a one-room cabin. Thoroughly unaccustomed to life deep in the woods, I explained to her that the ultimate ethic was quiet, ’so as not to disturb others like us seeking escape from the stress and strife of the city.’ But that was not enough to keep her from tripping my car alarm at 2:00 a.m., no-doubt scaring and irritating the bejabbers out of everyone and everything for miles.

But the big-city girl conquered her apprehension of the forest and became transfixed. We were to have traveled to that same park this weekend.

Fanny also recently overcame an irrational phobia of critters stemming from a bizarre childhood incident in which a litter of piglets was somehow loosed upon her. She became best friends with my little tortie cat Hansel who would nestle into her lap and the pair would fall fast asleep, Hansel still purring, Fanny still smiling. The two kindest souls I know, sharing a moment.

Tennyson wrote that ‘'’Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” It is wisdom for the ages even if it takes hurting like hell to begin to grasp the true meaning of it. I noted earlier in this essay that we all knew Fanny because she was the personification of anything good within us. Also know this, she loved all of us.

Fanny’s son told me on the day of her funeral that she’d often told him that her mission on this Earth was “to make it beautiful.” She surely had that impact on my world and we can do her wonderful spirit no greater an honor than to take up her cause.

Goodbye sweet Fanny, I will miss you always, yet you will always be with me.

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