Monday, February 1, 2010

Brilliant, Difficult Parents...

"Losing Mum and Pup, A Memoir" by Christopher Buckley. Twelve (publishers) 251 pages $24.99

"Mum" is Patricia Taylor Buckley, said to be one of New York's most glamourous and colorful socialtes. "Pup" is William F. Buckley, said on his part, to be the "father of the modern conservative movement." These are subjective points of view and I leave you to them. However, having finished the book, old Pup was "the father" in 98% of family decisions. The Mrs. used to remark that she was the Arab wife. He'd tell her to pack up the tents, she would and they would go.

Through anecdote and memories (his and others,) Buckley relates the last year of their lives. She died first, age 81, after a long illness (four hip replacements) ended in a stent that caused an infection. He had a history of emphysema, diabetes, sleep apnea and an appalling habit of over-doing the sleeping pills in his demands for instant gratification (sleep.) He died of a massive heart attack at his desk aged 83.

Buckley is most amusing at descriptions of actually getting someone buried/cremated. His father thought that two cases of wine (he never paid more than eight or $10 per bottle) served in a room designed to hold 80 to a crowd of 500 was just dandy.

Many years previously, WFB, a devout Catholic, had commissioned a large, bronze cross for his ashes and hers. (She said NOT to put her ashes in it; she was Anglican, not Catholic.) WFB then wanted the cross prominently displayed on the grounds, never doubting for an instant that the mansion would always remain in Buckley family hands.

WFB was a risk taker of majestic proportions - particularly when sailing - and she was a liar of equally majestic nerve. "When the Queen and Prince come to Vancouver, they routinely stayed with us (her family.)" She had the ugly ability to look someone right in the eye and lie her back teeth off. (Do not try this at home.)

It was an entirely engaging read although I could have lived without Buckley's moaning that he was now an orphan -- at age 55, with a wife and children -- until he explained (finally) that it meant in the natural order, he was next.

What stays with me is the fact that both of them were unerringly arrogant -- and got away with it!

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