I regret I didn’t risk trying to meet Molly Ivins before she died in 2007.
Over the years I would occasionally contemplate contacting her, especially after I moved to Austin in 2001. I wanted to take her to lunch. But by then Ivins had been diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually kill her. I didn’t want to add to her stress by joining the throngs of people who wanted to be near her.
On the surface Ivins and I are opposites. She was a famous, tall, outspoken, always-single, hard-drinking, fiercely liberal journalist. I am a short, unknown, minivan-driving, suburb-dwelling, married-with-three-kids, evangelical missionary. We were from different generations—her birthdate was exactly five days after my mother’s.
But in many ways we were cut from the same cloth, and I always felt a sort of bond with her. We both grew up in Houston and would later have close ties to Fort Worth and Austin. We both sought refuge in books while growing up. Our families ran in the same oil-industry circles, along with the Bushes. In fact our fathers were both top executives at the same company.
And while Ivins and I took after our fathers in so many ways, both of us disappointed our fathers by choosing paths for our lives that were very different than what they had dreamed for us.
So I enjoyed “getting to know” Ivins a little better by reading her biography, Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, recently.
I identified with Ivins in her desire for fame. Not that I am, or ever will be, famous to the degree she was. But as I wrote recently, the urge to try to be seen, to be known, to be thought of and talked about, is a much greater temptation for me than that of, say, money or power.
I don’t know that Ivins ever found what she was looking for. Her drive, and her addictions, spoke of a hunger that was never satisfied. As I read Ivins’ story—of a life marked by triumph, yet at the same time threaded through with tragedy—I found myself grateful for the grace of God in my life. Not that I don’t have my own demons to wrestle with; but the Balm of Gilead has healed so much in my life, and has given me a peace that I wish Ivins had known as well.
I could have learned so much from Ivins; she would have made a great mentor. And if I had met her, perhaps I could have blessed her as well.
Maybe if I had been a little more like Ivins, I would have taken the chance.