If the world was a fairer place, Mrs. Heinlein would be 93, today, and in good health. A very nice woman.
Which reminds me of a story.
So, there I was, pounding away at the keyboard, when the phone rang. It was my daughter Judy's science teacher.
"Uh-oh," I said, and "hold one." I knew I was going to need at least one cigarette, and probably a drink. "What did she do now?"
"You're not going to believe this one."
It hadn't been a great year. Homework hadn't been done, or had been 'lost'. Classes skipped, authority constantly challenged -- well, that was okay, by and large, but . . . -- and then there was the series of excuses with my name signed to them, written in my style, and which I had nothing to do with. Catch Me If You Can wasn't supposed to be a training film, you know.
"The usual. Her homework is not in. You're not going to believe her excuse this time."
I sighed. "Okay." Missed another connection at JFK? Fifth grandmother died? What?
"She claimed that she couldn't get to it this morning because she was too busy chatting online with Mrs. Heinlein. Virginia Heinlein. Robert Heinlein's widow."
"Well, she does have to do her homework, but, yeah, she was. They do that pretty much every morning. Mrs. Heinlein looks forward to it, she says. I know Judy does; first thing in the morning, she gets to Instant Messenger and they talk for awhile."
Long pause. "Really?"
"Yeah. She still has to get her homework done, but, yeah."
"What do they talk about?"
Asshole. "Would you eavesdrop on Mrs. Heinlein's private conversations with a young friend of hers?"
"No, of course -- "
"I mean, I, err, well, but, sheesh, and . . . "
He managed to get off the phone, not completing a sentence. Understandable. I got on Instant Messenger. Mrs. Heinlein was on, and I ratted Judy out.
There was a long pause, and then . . .
May I still chat with her in the mornings? I so enjoy our conversations.
Of course, Ginny. (She had long before told Felicia and me -- among many others -- to call her "Ginny," and it was all I could do not to answer, "I'd be honored to call you Ginny, Mrs. Heinlein." She was like that.)
Thank you so much, Joel.
My pleasure, Ginny.
Talk turned to other things. I think that was the day I told her my Pournelle story, and she told me about how she's made Jerry's jaw drop by opening her pocketbook. (Other stories, for other days. Remind me.)
Every morning after, when Judy would sign on to Instant Messenger, a message would pop up.
Judy, is your homework up to date?
Yes, Mrs. Heinlein.
Agnostic that I am, I don't have any strong opinion about life after death and such, but it would be kind of nice to think that maybe, somewhere, she's reading this and thinking fondly of me and my kid.
We surely are thinking fondly of her, and not just once a year, either.
So: Happy Birthday, Ginny. Please pass along my respects to the Man Who Traveled in Elephants.
(Crossposted at Windypundit.)