The Robes of Friendship


C. Coimbra photo

Variety magazine’s tribute to Edward Parone: Edward Parone, Who Directed Edgy Theater in ’60s NYC, L.A.’s Taper, Dies at 90

Edward Parone and I were both wrapped in robes when we first met. Mine in rainbow colors and stylish; his in the hideously drab hospital-issued gray cotton robe with maroon spots, like dark blood. He sat next to me on the sofa, checked out my robe and asked, “How do you get away with wearing that gorgeous robe here?”

First, let me explain our location — an atrium-like room for cancer patients waiting for our daily radiology treatment in a Santa Fe hospital. The other patients scattered among the chairs and sofas in the room lifted their heads from the over-thumbed-through worn magazines. Wrapped in similar gray robes, they were as curious as Edward was about this newcomer wrapped in peacock colors.

Three days prior, a radiology nurse tattooed my chest to mark the boundaries for direct radiation, and then she handed me a plastic hospital bag. It included the most hideous, depressing, death-like robe. The robes were the first thing I saw when I had started this cancer-treatment journey several weeks earlier. Some patients in treatment were very, very ill. That gray robe enhanced the nightmare of lost hair and pallid skin.

“After you sign in for your first treatment tomorrow,” began the nurse as she introduced me to this glassed-in waiting room, “go into one of these changing rooms, remove your bra or t-shirt and blouse, put on a fresh gown stored in these drawers, then wear the robe that’s in the bag I just gave you.”

She noted that I should bring my robe everyday.

I removed the fresh robe from the bag and handed it back to her. “This is the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll supply my own robe.”

When I left the still jaw-dropped nurse and the hospital, my first stop was to the lingerie department of a nearby department store. There it was—a multi-colored, light-weight cotton robe that I would wear every day for the next six weeks over my hospital gown.

So, back to Edward’s question. My reply: “I’m paying for this treatment, so I’ll wear any robe I want, and I’m NOT wearing that gray thing!”

“You mean we don’t have to wear these awful things?” Edward asked.

“I don’t see a sign, nor did I sign anything in those mountains of forms and agreements that said, ‘You will wear really ugly robes when in treatment.’”

The next day, Edward (whose appointment followed mine) sauntered down the long hospital corridor singing a Broadway tune in his brand new designer label, full length white robe.

In the hospital waiting room we were inseparable. We made radiology fun. At times, we thought we’d be kicked out of the place with our raucous, and sometimes loud laughter, jokes, and conversation — he in his white robe, me in my peacock-colored robe.

That was about 12 years ago. The more I got to know Edward, the more I loved him. No, he was not a lover, nor a father. He was genuine. That’s a rare commodity in this world.

Yes, Edward Parone owned some celebrity and great respect from many in the world of entertainment — something I never knew until much later in our friendship. But he retired from all of that. His choice of retirement venue said it all — an unremarkable old adobe casita among a few other old adobes on a large ranch in Nambe, New Mexico. There, he listened to classical music, read profusely, walked his dog everyday, and gave his time to a few special friends.

Because of this man, I learned and better understood who I am and why I am. You see, Edward was always to the point. He was clear in his commentary, critique and suggestions—all of which I listened to and paid heed. His encouragement pushed me to better writing and the art of creative thinking. These are gifts more rare and cherished than the Koh-I-Noor diamond.

Edward celebrated his 90th birthday last August. When I visited him earlier last summer, he did not look a bit older than when we first met each other in our robes. No cane. No limp. No cough. No pallid skin. Just Edward ranting about our crazed politicians, talking about a new writing project that he thought would be taking off, and recommending a book for me to read, and a little bit of tongue-lashing me for not pitching the memoir that he first recommended that I write in 2004, and has coached me through the entire writing process.

On January 9th this year Edward emailed:

It snowed here today as it did yesterday and the day before.

When you are going to stop being “mindful”  whatever that is,  and  come visit?   Have some fun, sweetheart.   The country is turning to shit right before our eyes and we can’d do one  f—in thing about it.   Except laugh.  Which I try to do every day.

Buzz sends busses of kisses. as do I.   xxxxxE

I’ve nearly completed my 30 Mindful Days project. Part of the project included a three-day retreat in Joshua Tree—time to view the Earth’s nakedness wrapped in rocks and desert fauna. On my way home from the desert last week, Edward’s dearest friend called my cell. My heart sank. This was not good.

“Hi Charmaine,” he began. “I have sad news.”

Tears started before he said anything further. Edward had died while I tried to capture the naked desert earth, the sky and the moon with my camera — much of which I planned to share with him after I found my best photos.

On this blog, Edward wrote in his Octogenarian Blues:

“We Octos are the last of the grandchildren of the Edwardians. And while we might wish that some of the best of that now-distant age would cling to your future, the last thing we want is a return to that past. Far too much of the world is not using the past to learn but is mired in it, in old superstitions, old beliefs and dogma, stuck in systems that will not allow the expression of real feeling and thought in the present, and that offer no real future. Unless you consider death a desirable future.”

Death is our future and the final robe we will all wear. But I’m pretty sure, that wherever Edward Parone is now, he is smartly wrapped in a full length white robe and singing his favorite Broadway tune as he strolls through the theater of the cosmos. Break a leg, Eddie!

2 thoughts on “The Robes of Friendship

  1. great read!!!

    On Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 2:35 PM, The Muse Pallet wrote:

    > Charmaine Coimbra posted: ” Edward Parone and I were both wrapped in robes > when we first met. Mine in rainbow colors and stylish; his in the hideously > drab hospital-issued gray cotton robe with maroon spots, like dark blood. > He sat next to me on the sofa, checked out my robe and a” >

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