The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Together forever

Two lesbians – life partners who’d been together “forever” – were found dead at the Villa Marin residential retirement complex in California, the Marin Independent Journal (MIJ) reported recently. It appeared that Pauline Putnam, 89, and her partner, Barbara Francisco, 80, had initiated a double suicide. The person who sent me the link to this story wrote in the subject line of the email, ‘This is incredibly sad’. But is it?

According to the MIJ, fellow resident Helen Andrewsen, 86, said the couple, who’d lived at the complex for ten years, were “quiet, independent people, and it was just their choice”. Villa Marin’s Chief Executive, Tom Bucci added: “The two women were life partners. They lived their whole life together. It’s always been a very important part of them to control their destiny.” Neither women had any family he was aware of, and neither was suffering from any illness, Bucci noted.

So, here we have two old women who’d been a couple for a very long time, lived what appears to have been a happy life, shared a room, were treated well by other residents in their final years, had no family, hadn’t degenerated into serious illness, who decided to off themselves at a particular time, together. Personally I don’t find that sad; I think it’s rather beautiful. Yes, they could have lived to 100, but sooner or later, one of them would have died, leaving the other behind, feeling lonely and devastated. Instead of waiting for disease to creep into their ancient bodies and slowly (or not so slowly) take over, causing constant pain and immobility, they took a decision to exit this world, happy and together. All power to them.

Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship with a loved one will at some stage ponder these things: Which one will die first? How? Will it be a long, drawn-out process from illness, or sudden, unexpected death? Will that kiss you gave him or her that morning as you leave for work be your last? Many of us won’t have a choice in how or when we or our partners die, but I’d like to think my girlfriend Tracie and I will get to the stage that Barbara and Pauline did – only we’ll be a pair of totally batty old bags in the vein of Bette Davis’s Baby Jane Hudson who will terrify anyone living in close proximity to us. We’ll still be dying each other’s hair at 90 (providing we still have some and if not, it’ll be wigs all round), wearing a thoroughly ridiculous amount of drag-queen make-up and dancing round the sitting-room to ‘Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves’ (in other words, nothing will have changed except our age and number of wrinkles). One day, we’ll decide it’s time to move on to the next world – for our physical bodies to expire and our souls to fly into the spiritual ether before being reincarnated into the nubile bodies of two young, beautiful supermodels – together. Here’s hoping.

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