Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Dropping Like Flies

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Okay, that’s not exactly nice.  Or sensitive.  Or something.  Bu when I get really weirded out, I start to gigle.

I do want to get back to all the things we’ve been sort of talking about–especially whether I, as a taxpayer, am getting my money’s worth when it’s spent on public “universities” that provide only theoreteically “practical” programs–but I will point out here that when administrators say they’re being practical, they don’t mean they’re keeping those programs that have real utility in the real world.  What they mean is that they’re keeping those programs that attract a lot of students as majors.  If entrail diviination pulled in packed classrooms and forty graduates a year, they’d throw money at it in fist fulls.

That said, here’s my minor little mystery for today, because it’s on my mind.

My college’s alumnae magazine came yesterday, and in it there were two short and uninformative notices that one of the women I’d known best in my years in Poughkeepsie had died, this last December 21st.

Now, I hadn’t seen this woman in over a decade.  I think the last time I talked to her at any length was when  Bill was diagnosed with cancer.  And it wasn’t as if the announcement was necessarily a big shock, since when  I knew her she smoked between two and three packs of cigarettes a day.

It wasn’t, in other words, a big emotional deal, really, just a little creepy, until  I got an e-mail from a mutual friend this morning, saying that he had googled to see if he could get some information and ended up with finding nothing but two newspaper articles about a woman with “the same name” who lived in the same town having a series of traffic accidents.

Now, this woman imigrated from India at a young age, and her name–Renu Narang–is not usual.  I couldn’t see what was confusing this guy–if there were stories about a Renu Narang having traffic accidents in Westport, Connecticut, then it almost certainly had to be the same Renu Narang.   It wasn’t likely that there would be two people with that name in one of the most heavily WASP enclaves in the United States.

Then I googled myself, and I saw what his problem was.  The woman in the stories was reported as being “62 years old,” which would make her almost five years older than the rest of us.

The age difference is weird–if it had been only a couple of years older than the rest of us, I don’t think  I’d have thought anything of it.   There often gets to be a lag in educational attainment when people immigrate.  And if the age had been much higher, I’d have just assumed it was her mother the stories were talking about.

Common sense says that this must be the same person, but it’s still odd.

And what’s odder still is the content of the reports themselves.  The incidents are the kind of thing you’d expect to hear about a DUI–first, backing into a lot of cars in a parking lot, then jumping the sidewalk and crashing into the side of a bank–but there was no mention of alcohol in any of the reports, and if the police had suspected that alcohol was involved, there would almost certainly have been mention of it.

The incidents, as reported, read almost like the start of a murder mystery, especially so because nobody seems to have been high.  I can see it all as the opening to a Miss Marple.

In the day to day world, though, it’s most certainly something mundane–a series of small strokes, maybe (her mother had a very major stroke very young–or even small heart attacks.  The second of the incidents occurred on December 9th, and she was dead twelve days later.  There doesn’t seem to be an obituary available on line, and the notice in the alumnae magazine was stark and uninformative.   She died.  She was living with and taking care of her disabled parents.  End of story.

This makes the second death among people I knew in college that is strange in its details–one woman was murdered–and about the tenth among people I knew, period.  The rest of them, though, were fairly mundane–one young woman had an aneurism in her thirties, a couple of the earliest co-ed admits died of AIDS, one woman had breast cancer–and it’s a little odd to think that so many people who were relatively young have died. 

But I  knew this woman better than I knew any of the rest, and the details are very odd.

Information blackouts always do strange things to my head.

Written by janeh

June 16th, 2009 at 7:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Dropping Like Flies'

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  1. It’s not that people are dying younger, it’s that you are getting older, so more people you know are dead. My pattern of dead friends would be similar – the one who died very young (ovarian cancer in my friend’s case, although a relative died from an aneurysm, and a friend’s mother has just barely managed to survive one), the gradually increasing number who died of various diseases and a couple of car accidents… If I’d seen the reports on your friend, I’d have put the age together with the type of accident and thought ‘medical’ – maybe, as you say, little strokes. With the addition of her role as caregiver for elderly disabled parents – plural – I’d wonder about emotional stress. I wouldn’t have thought it was a particularly unusual way to die. It seems fairly common for people to have medical emergencies while driving.

    I’ve got a bit of a puzzler, though. I noticed someone listed on a memorial list, and I thought she was alive. I can’t find an online obituary. How can I find out what happened without looking like an uncaring idiot for assuming that because of her youth and apparent health that she’d just drifted out of my life? There must be someone I can ask privately….


    16 Jun 09 at 8:01 am

  2. Hey, I’ve had a heart attack, a bypass, been hospitalized twice for blood clots and once for near-fatal bleeding. In the last three years. Haven’t been the most fun three years of my life. :/ I could have died any one of those times if medical care hadn’t been swift and competent.

    As we age, our cohorts suffer more losses, demographically. By the time you’re 80 or so, almost everyone you know is dead. Well, you know what I mean. And when someone dies young, it’s almost certainly “odd” because we only regard old age as a normal cause of death.


    16 Jun 09 at 2:04 pm

  3. Could be my personal experience, but I’d look at diabetes: kills young, and insulin reaction (AKA insulin shock) produces results very like drunkenness. It’s not uncommon for police to breathalyze (Sp?) diabetics, because the behavior is so similar. It’s seldom listed as cause of death, since it tends to kill at second hand, if you will. And newspapers can be even less accurate with ages than with names and addresses.

    But if you’d like, we’ve got a nice John Dickson Carr in the Maryland suburbs of DC–prisoner strangled in a solitary cell about three months ago. They’ve had everybody in up to the FBI, but no arrest I’ve heard of. Where’s Gideon Fell when you really need him?


    16 Jun 09 at 4:20 pm

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