Bibi, music and biscotti

When FOF Bibi was a college freshman, she lost vision in one eye for a few days.  The diagnosis was optic neuritis, an inflammation of Bibi’s optic nerve. Her vision returned, but the doctors said the episode could mean she’d eventually develop multiple sclerosis, which is inflammation and damage to nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Bibi is an avid reader with wide-ranging interests, including modern American fiction and film and music criticism.

Bibi was fine for twenty years. She became a music teacher at a New York City private school,  married Ted, a journalist, and had two children. (Coincidentally, Bibi was one of my son’s teachers and Ted worked for me as an editor, at the same time.)

Around the early 90s, Bibi could barely move in hot weather, but attributed her intense exhaustion to having young kids. “It also was hard for me to bounce back after my second child was born,” she told me. By now, you’ve undoubtedly guessed that Bibi was experiencing the initial symptoms of MS.

Within a few years, Bibi had to quit teaching because it became harder and harder for her to move. Today, Bibi’s left leg and arm are practically useless and she spends a great deal of time at home because she can no longer drive. “I go into weird contortions to get around in the house but use a wheelchair when we go out,” she explained.   “I once asked Ted if I move like a drunk person, and he answered ‘drunk people move faster,”  she remembered with a chuckle. The meds she was prescribed over the years were “horrible,” so she stopped using them.

“Ted has been amazing and my daughter has been an angel every single day of her life,” Bibi said. “Once, when she was a little tiny thing and I was having trouble maneuvering a snowed-in street, she piped up, ‘you can do it!’”

Bibi misses working and wishes she could at least volunteer to help older people. She’s grateful to friends who stop by and call, and talks about a former female student who visited often. “She’d call and say she was in my neighborhood and asked if she could come by for a chat,” Bibi related. “She actually lived 45 minutes away and was trying not to make me feel that she was going out of her way to see me.” The woman died in her forties of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

When I asked Bibi if she resents what’s happened to her, she answered,  “Compared to most of the world, I have it pretty great. Think about all the poverty. I can have a cup of coffee and biscotti.”  I also asked what she likes to do when she’s alone during the day. “It’s all about surviving since it’s dangerous for me to move around and I worry about falling.  But I love to read and listen to incredible music on You Tube, like Mozart, Bach and Schubert. Ted and I also love Dylan. I listen to music over and over and over.”

Bibi, you are an inspiration.

20 Responses to “Bibi, music and biscotti”

  1. Ellen Klyce says:

    Well I haven’t known her as long as Maury has but I was her high school debate partner.
    And we were dynamite as long as we could compete in the novice division. But somehow the powers that be caught on to us after a few too many first victories and that was the end of a beautiful but lazy duo. At least as far as a debate team. But our friendship was just getting started. Everything is more fun with Bibi added. And Maury is right— but my own experience is that sharing a butterscotch sundae is even more problematic.
    And don’t let her invite you to visit her in Aspen. You’ll never hear the end of it.

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  2. Laura says:

    I used to think Ted was really great – then I met Bibi. I always admired Ted’s impeccable taste, best exemplified by his choice of marriage partner. Bibi, forever and a day, you are my standard for grace and dignity. I’m delighted that you are getting this well-deserved recognition. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve been FAB at every decade I”ve know you!

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  3. Maury says:

    I’ve known Bibi longer than any of you have. I’m her big brother.

    So here’s what you need to know about my baby sister: she brandishes a fork like a rapier; she wields a spoon like a cleaver. You don’t want to split a piece of chocolate cake with that girl. And you never ever want to share a hot fudge sundae with her.

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  4. Janet says:

    I met Bibi 18 years ago when I started teaching with her at Dalton. Her spirit and EXCELLENT taste in music is still very much in evidence at our school. I try to visit with Bibi as often as possible. She has a wonderful appreciation for the important things in life (FOOD, music and family, to name a few (not necessarily in any order, though food does rank high!), but it’s her southern charm and phenomenal sense of humor that stand out first when i think of her.
    She’s an inspiration and a tremendous support to me since my husband also suffers from a difficult and debilitating illness. I feel blessed to call her my friend!

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  5. Robert J. Kossack, Esq. says:

    Bibi,

    Nice seeing you after all these years. The last time, and the only time, we saw each other was at your wedding to my UofC friend Ted. If you would like, I can email you a copy of my White Trash Test and my book on Mice. Keep up the spirits.

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  6. Kay Willcox says:

    Bibi – You are most definitely FOF and I know you were FUF (Fab under Fifty!!!!)…. no doubt in my mind. I am honored to call you my friend. Kay

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  7. Penny Craig says:

    What a great and well-deserved tribute to Bibi. She is everything listed above: smart, funny, insightful, etc. She is my go-to person for creative ideas. We’ve been sharing good times starting with Bronxville in the ’70s (where she was a student and I hung out), Solebury School (where I was a student and she was a teacher, not at the same time) NYC in the 80’s (she upper west side, me lower east – never missed a Gregory Fleeman concert), NJ in the ’90s (same 9 months of pregnancy) and to this day where we still have fun and laugh in her Montclair kitchen. As Ted said at the end of their wedding video, ‘let Ted be Ted and Bibi be Bibi,” and thank goodness they still are.

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  8. Joelle Delbourgo says:

    A phone call from Bibi is always such a treat. Bibi is the least sentimental yet dearest person. “How are you, dear?” she asks, and you sense that she means it from the bottom of her heart and at that moment, that you are truly a special person. She has even lent me her fabulous husband on a number of occasions: once at a black tie event, another time to hear Bruce at the Meadowlands, and several times when the three of us have vacationed in Ocean Grove, NJ together (and with Ted and Bibi, three’s never a crowd!), when Ted and I have taken a long bike ride or walk while Bibi stayed back at the hotel, always eager to hear about our escapades. And of course, on these trips to the Jersey shore, the three of us obsess weeks in advance about what restaurants we’ll try this time around. I often quip that Ted and Bibi are the happiest married couple I know. Despite the adversity they face with honesty, courage and humor each day, they revel in the good things in life and make their own happiness. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

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  9. Gary and Laurie says:

    We would like to chime in from the West Coast, agreeing with all of the wonderful testaments to Bibi’s strength and spirit, as witnessed by the wonderful family she and Ted have created despite some of the roadblocks put before them. The memory of our trip out to NJ last year to join Bibi and Ted for the Bruce concert during his last Giants stadium appearance will remain fresh forever – no retreat, Bibi, no surrender!

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  10. Clara says:

    I love my mom!!! I’ve been counting down the days until I can be home with her again (Thanksgiving break– 5 days!) since arriving at school.
    Thanks for putting up with all my crap for the last 19 years and being such an inspiration to everyone — you are the best mom in the whole world!

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  11. Stephanie says:

    Bibi gives the best advice! Objective and insightful. She may be the only person I will listen to!

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  12. Cousinbarb says:

    I second all that has been said!

    Lovely posting – thank you.

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  13. Barry Okun says:

    Bibi is over 50?

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  14. Fran Schumer says:

    As the major kvetch-a-thon record holder of the Western World, I have to say it’s very distressing to know people like Bibi who never complain and cheer up people who do (that would be me). To titanium or stainless steel strength, I’d like to add qualities such as her stiletto wit (as someone once said of my also non-sentimental, music-loving husband). Let’s add here Bibi’s impeccable taste in: music, books, food, husbands and, now that she’s allowing me back into her also-great stable, friends. P.S. Whose concert did you say you were going to tomorrow?

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  15. Susan says:

    Hip Hip Hooray for Bibs!! She is a light in the world, bringing her unique humor and perspective to so many people. Whether it is with or without MS, she always has an intelligent and often hysterically funny view of herself and others. I have profited as her friend since – what? Our freshman year? Sometime back before anyone heard of Springsteen! We loved Dylan, but especially Monteverdi. Bibi taught me Sacred Harp singing. After college, we moved into NYC in a huge UHaul, and she told the hitchhiker we picked up that we were Country Western singers moving to the Big Apple! Ted has been the perfect match for her from the beginning – that is what I am most grateful for – that he showed up.

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  16. Bob Erickson says:

    Bibi is a true inspiration for all of us who are lucky enough to be free of a disabling disease. She always smiles and never complains and is able to put up with her husband Ted with true grace. Ted has been a great friend of mine for nearly 40 years, so never mind that last comment! The two of them are a fantastic couple and Bibi is deserving of this honor.

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  17. Amy Burcham says:

    Well, it’s just wonderful to see this. Both Geri’s and Ted’s remarks are right on the money. I’ve known Bibi for well over 30 years, and she is indeed one of those people whose essence has remained beautifully intact. Regardless of circumstance, that’s rare by itself. Most of us come to adulthood still trying to figure out who we are – Bibi knew who she was and has never tried to be somebody else. She’s kept herself open and constantly learning, but that strength of character was part of what my husband meant when he once described her as “archetypal.” In the face of the life sentence she was handed, at an age when most of us are tempting fate right and left with little consequence, she has created a life that perfectly compliments her talent for music and empathy. I feel lucky every time I pick up a phone and call this person who lives, unfortunately, too far away for a shared cappucino – she’s an inspiration, and so is the fella she married. Disability may describe, but certainly does not define Bibi; a wicked sense of humor, smarts, and an irrepressible personality does.

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  18. Ted from Indiana says:

    This is a great snapshot of Bibi — to whom I happen to be married. Thanks, Geri. Bibi is exactly the same person she was when we got married 25 years ago, except she can’t really get around. One of her best qualities is that she violently rejects any kind of “triumph of the human spirit” sentimentality or ickiness. We’re talking stainless steel, or maybe titanium. I’ve come to believe that being unable to get around is the hidden disability, because you just don’t see mobility-impaired people on the street much. So I try to get Bibi bopping around out there as much as possible. Tomorrow, for example, she’s dragging me to see Bob Dylan perform at Monmouth University. Her favorite concert of all time was seeing Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band blow the roof off Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J. about five years ago. Those are the things you remember 20 years down the line. My personal “Hall of Heroes” includes those dear friends who drop by our house with Starbucks (triple grande cappucino s’il vous plait) and scones when I’m not around. Go Bibi!

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    • Lila says:

      I did a response but hit wrong button, so I will do it as a reply to Ted’s…lol
      Ted and Bibi are probably the most courageous people I know, seems like nothing can get in their way..two beautiful children and the will to do the things they like. So glad you are part of the family!! Love you both,
      Your “cousin” Lila

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    • Susan Herman says:

      Adding to the well deserved accolades for Bibi, and for Ted. When I think of marriages that work, Bibi and Ted’s top the list. There is such a high level of mutual respect, laughs and obviously love. Bibi is a role model for us all, and I am grateful for our friendship and always inspired by her strength and courage.

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