The following is
Essay #9, Living With Lauren, of Dr. Ring's new book,
Waiting to Die: A Near-Death Researcher's
(Mostly Humorous) Reflections on His Own
One of the
things that makes waiting to die a somewhat
bittersweet experience is my girlfriend
Lauren, though I'm sure she would object to
being called "a thing." No, she is both my
dream girl and the answer to this old man's
unspoken prayers. I don't know how I would
have survived these past few years without
her loving care and all the many things she
has done for me during this time to keep the
ship of Ring afloat. So it sometimes makes
me melancholy when I think that when I die,
I will have to leave her behind since the
practice of suttee does not seem to be in
her repertoire. I will miss her dearly when
the time comes for me to take up residence
Lauren and I met
online in March, 2015, just as she was about
to leave her home in Piedmont, California in
order to join her son, Rob, a flight surgeon
in the Navy, in Florida where he was to get
his "wings." Lauren is, like me, an e-mail
junkie, and in the first month of our
correspondence, before we had met, we
exchanged no fewer than 200 messages, some
quite lengthy. I had obviously met my match
and the epistolary girl of my dreams. We
fell in love writing to each other, but of
course we didn't even know each other -- we
were only words on a screen. All she knew
about me by then was that I had apparently
been married a dozen times and had had
innumerable affairs. I feared this one would
turn out to be an affair to dismember.
Lauren is a
therapist and like all therapists she had
been seeing one for years. Of course, it's a
game all therapists play -- a racket, in my
jaundiced opinion, but never mind. In any
case, I imagined the dialogue that would
take place when Lauren finally got back home
and had a chance to have her next
appointment with her therapist.
I call her E.
here, which stands for Eliza, my pet name
for her, as I often play the insufferable
Henry Higgins when we are together for
reasons you will soon come to appreciate...
T. Let's see if
I can get this straight, Eliza. Are you
telling me that you've fallen in love with
an old man – pushing 80 -– that you've never
met and have only corresponded with for the
last couple of weeks or so?
E. I know it
(interrupting). And that he's a Jewish
retired professor who has apparently made a
career of studying arrant nonsense like
near-death experiences and other such pap?
E. Well, I
haven't had a chance to look into any of
T. You mean you
only have his word for all this? You haven't
even Googled him?
E. I really
haven't had time. I've been so busy.
T. Not so busy
that you apparently, according to what you
told me over the phone, couldn't be writing
to him night and day, dozens of e-mail notes
and letters, isn't that true?
E. Well, yes,
again). And didn't you tell me that this old
coot has, according to what he's told you,
had innumerable lovers and at least four,
maybe five, wives already?
E. He's admitted
that. He seems pretty honest...
T. Ha! Eliza,
don't be naïve. He sounds like an amatory
serial killer to me. What in hell are you
thinking? That you'll be number 25?
as Eliza has fallen mute). And didn't you
tell me that this guy is, to put it gently,
visually challenged and possibly now
suffering from some kind of neurological
impairment? Are you so addled and besotted
that you have forgotten what you went
through all those years with Michael?
E. Well, don't I
at least deserve a few years of happiness
before I die? This man really loves me. I
know it and I trust what he says.
T. You know what
they say about love, Eliza – that it's
blind. Didn't you admit to me that in a
loose and unwise moment – maybe when you had
drunk too much – that you had indicated to
him that you were well-off financially?
E. Well, yes,
T. That you even
unwisely, for God knows what reason, told
him about the diamond mines in your family?
E. I just
blurted it out. I know I probably shouldn't
have mentioned it.
T. Good Lord,
Eliza. How do you know that this Ken is not
like some character out of a Henry James
novel and is just after your money? What do
you know about his financial circumstances?
E. It's never
come up. Besides...
again). Have you even talked to anyone who
knows this man? Anyone who can vouch for
him? What about those ex-wives of his? I bet
they could give you an earful.
Please – you just don't know him. If you
could read what he writes to me.
Eliza, anyone can write anything. And a
seductive guy like him could easily tell you
exactly what you want to hear. For
Chrissake, you haven't even met the guy --
not that that would answer most of these
questions – and you're already almost ready
to shack up with him?
E. Don't put it
that way. It's so vulgar.
T. I think I've
said enough for now. Please think about what
I've said and please don't do anything rash.
If you decide to explore this, despite all
the warning signs and cautions I've
mentioned, don't make any decisions without
first consulting me, all right? Do you
T. I'll see you
next time. Better make it in a week before
you run off to Mexico with your inamorato.
never ran off with me to Mexico, but she did
take up with me after all despite her
reasonable doubts about my amatory history
and character. And I can say honestly and
truly, I have never been happier with any
relationship I have ever had. Lauren is a
blessing to me in every way, and guess what,
she is not only a superlative cook, a
veritable Eloise around the house, but she
is literate, charming, fun to be with (in
bed and outside of it), and eminently
educable about which I will have quite a bit
to say in a few moments. And you know what
else? She loves to laugh. She writes very
amusing e-mail, too. She is a master of
drollery and la aperçu juste. Occasionally,
she even appreciates my sense of humor,
though I do sometimes have the feeling she
is laughing at me and just humoring me about
my quirky sense of humor.
Lauren is not without a few flaws that
blemish her otherwise sterling character.
For one thing, she is an ignoramus about
film. Apparently Bambi was the last film she
had ever seen, so I have spent the last
several years conducting a remedial firm
course for her during which I have
introduced her to all the classic American
and Foreign films she somehow missed during
the course of her adulthood, including
virtually every film that Woody Allen ever
made. Still, the depth of her ignorance can
sometimes be astonishing. Case in point:
Just last night, we were watching one of
Woody's relatively recent films, "Whatever
Works," starring Larry David. At the end,
Lauren asked me "Who was that actor that
played the lead?"
"You mean Larry
"Is that his
You mean, you
don't know who Larry David is??! Do the
words, Curb Your Enthusiasm" ring any
blank. I convulsed in laughter, and soon she
was having a laughing fit herself. I laughed
until it hurt and tears were streaming down
You can see what
I'm up against.
Not long ago,
knowing how much I enjoy playing cribbage
when my daughter Kathryn visits me, Lauren
asked me if I could teach her. Alas, Lauren
had a very deprived childhood. Not being
Jewish, which wasn't her fault, she grew up
never playing cards and continued to call
spades "shovels" for a while. But worse was
yet to come. It turned out that while Lauren
is a wordsmith, she apparently can't count.
In cribbage, you have to see certain
combinations of cards, such as a run of
3,3,4,5. But Lauren never seem to be able to
see these sets as such. It was as if she
could only see the individual cards one at a
time, but rarely as a gestalt. A single hand
that would normally take five minutes would
sometime take seventeen. Lauren is very
There's a part
of cribbage when each player lays down his
or her cards, and the points of each card
add up. The total can't exceed 31. If a
player can't play a card under that value,
he or she has to say "Go," and the opponent
then gets a point. No card is worth more
than ten points (all face cards, for
One night a
sequence started like this:
I played a 7.
Lauren played a
2, making nine points.
I played a 6,
I cracked up!
She almost had to keep me from falling off
Lauren also has
certain delightful eccentricities. For
example, when we take our walks, she will
invariably spot a worm and make sure it is
kept from clods like me who are apt not even
to see it and therefore stomp on it
unknowingly. She will risk life and limb to
break her car savagely to attend to any road
kill that hasn't yet expired. Or to lovingly
bury any who have. At her home in Piedmont,
she maintains a menagerie that includes not
only the usual birds and squirrels, but
raccoons and even skunks (!) all of which
she feeds and cares for. I will spare you
the story about what happened when one of
her local skunks decided to pay a visit to
Well, we do love
people for their eccentricities (as long as
they don't drive us mad), and some of her
colossal lacunae in her education do fulfill
my irresistible proclivity for displaying my
perfect imitation of Rex Harrison in "My
But I'll tell
you something else. Five or so years before
I met Lauren, when I was unhappy with my
last relationship, I made out a list of what
I desire in a woman. Here's what I wrote at
|What I Want (and
Don't) in a Relationship
interests -- in
art, film, politics,
Especially going to
concerts, opera, the
movies, and eating
And is physically
active and basically
in good health.
Appreciation for my
writing and need to
Someone who is fun
to be with -- light,
company I delight in
and with whom I can
have lively and
And to whom I am
And has a good,
sense of humor.
Someone who is
Someone who can
drive at night.
Someone who can
appreciates how much
women, mean to me
and who is not
jealous of them.
Someone who respects
my need to be alone
And who would be OK
with my retaining my
own place to live.
Someone who has her
own creative life,
her own circle of
friends and is
Someone who can
eccentric ways and
Someone who, if
necessary, could be
a good caretaker and
who, if the
situation calls for
it, could be
Someone who likes or
at least can get
along with my
friends and family.
Someone who can be
happy with mostly
-- which is not to
say that some
possible, my health
Someone who is
And guess what
again? Lauren satisfies every one of these
criteria. That's why I say she's my dream
girl. I dreamed her up, and now I have the
girl of my dreams.
It's enough to
make a man think twice about waiting to die.
If I can't
change my mind, well, at least I can dally.
With Lauren there is just too much fun to
think about death, even though I sometimes
think I will die laughing after she makes
another risible blunder while playing
cribbage. There are, I suppose, worse ways
Kenneth Ring's New Book:
Waiting to Die:
A Near-Death Researcher's (Mostly Humorous)
Reflections on His Own Endgame