Today is my eldest niece Lila’s birthday. Quite a girl that Lila: A lover of animals, an avid equestrian, funny, pretty, once bought her old Uncle Greg a Scotch-and-soda at just the right moment, so clearly pretty smart, too. I think of Lila when I watch the Blues Brothers, because from her youngest days she could quote the entire movie to you line by line. I hear Lila’s voice, not the actress who played the part, when I think of Elwood asking the bar maid what kind of music they usually have at Bob’s Country Bunker and getting the reply, “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.” Someone doing the hand motions that go with the Blues Brothers singing “Stand By Your Man?” That’s Lila to me.
Once or twice a year I sit down and watch that movie, which is one of my all-time favorites. Unfailingly though, since 2002, I can’t watch that movie without at some point having to pause for a great while in order cry my eyes out. The person who I most closely associate that great movie with, the uniquely lovely Lila, is no longer with us, at least not in physical form. Lila died in a car accident when she was 24.
I say she’s not with us in physical form because to me she is most clearly still around. She’s with me when I play with my cat, Josie, who if she understands a damn thing I say other than “time for din-din!” must know Lila on some level, because we talk about her now and again. All animals and all people would have profited from knowing Lila. I am one of the lucky ones who actually got to. She was a gift to my family, one that we were fortunate to enjoy, though for a time far too short.