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On the eve before my sister Carrie took to the sky in the silver bird that would be her transport to her dramatic and untimely end, we had a long conversation. We spoke of love, age, our children and a dozen other subjects.
When I say spoke, I mean we texted each other on our smartphones, she in London and I in Laguna Beach. But even via text, and oceans apart, we could still hear the sound of each other’s voice, that distinct Fisher timber that was full of mutual admiration. I clung to her every word, as I usually did, as we all did. Talking to Carrie always made me feel more interesting by osmosis. She expressed her amazement and pride regarding the anniversary of my marriage — 20 years this past New Year’s Eve — and compared my two-decade commitment to her own somewhat less steady love life. She threw in the word “crickets.” Quintessentially Carrie.
My sister would have wanted a dramatic exit; she just might have wished for another couple of decades before making one. She told me she wanted to see this political horror play out. She likely would have crafted a sharp, piercing novel about her non-conventional goings on with this national nightmare as the backdrop. But mostly, she would have wanted us to celebrate her life, her words and for Billie to be whole. In time she will be. She is smart and soulful and magic.
We spoke of our dear mothers, Connie [Stevens] and Debbie [Reynolds], both of whom have been fragile in the past year and how our roles as daughters had changed. My own belief is that our mutual father, Eddie Fisher, was everything you heard about him: charming, wildly talented, a playboy, a gambler, lost but he gravitated toward the spectacular in wives.
In 1977, Connie bought a house in Malibu. We walked out onto this tiny deck — sand and salt everywhere — and noticed that there was a swimming pool next door. Connie asked, “Who the hell has a swimming pool on the beach?” The real estate agent giggled and said, “Debbie Reynolds.” So we spent the better part of our childhoods as neighbors, our two families right next door. I adored Mama Debbie — she was such a character. And I got another sister and a brother in the deal, right there on the beach! Eddie even came to see us all together … once.
During our transcontinental chat before Carrie’s fateful flight from London to L.A., we promised we’d spend Christmas together. It’s a promise we kept, although not in a way either of us had anticipated. Throughout the holiday, I sat by her side in a hospital room filled with a cacophony of sounds made by the machines keeping her barely alive. Debbie, of course, was there as well. She told me that she’d been praying for more time. More time for Carrie, for herself and for Connie. I knew if those prayers weren’t answered, Debbie might very well join her daughter.
Of course, Debbie loved nothing more than the spotlight. And I can imagine Carrie is having a laugh right now, rolling her eyes at the kind of crazy ending that only happens in Shakespearn tragedies … and Fisher novels. Carrie’s mom has once again stolen the show, with the ultimate “twirled up” joke (see Postcards From the Edge).
I told both my sister Fish and mama Debs about how I had just returned to the stage. I told Carrie how I wished she could see me running around, singing my tits off and shaking my moneymaker and sent her a snap of me in my cat suit to which she replied, “Dance as long as you can…then keep dancing…but remember to change your shoes.”
You all lost Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher; I lost my hero, my mentor, my mirror. My brother Todd has lost his sister and his mother, whom he has said will lay to rest together. There is no universe where these ladies are not due their appropriate pedestals, and both will be memorialized in separate ceremonies in coming weeks. My sister Tricia Leigh and I vow to be whatever our niece Billie needs us to be. We will pick up the saber, use the force … whatever. We will honor these two magical people who have left the tribe in the way they lived, with grandeur and grace. I want them back but since I know that is not possible, I will soldier on. I have changed my shoes and will keep dancing to honor these magic people.
You can’t “right” this shit, but you can “write “it. And do I have a hell of a book in me.
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