Even though John and I had been together a long time, we had been married for only four years.
I was still getting butterflies every time he or anyone else would use the other W-word, wife.
I’m sure the word “widow” was all over the place in reference to me. When I was a little girl, my friends and I would play with our baby dolls outside in our yards.
It was the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies, and even though we didn’t know what the concern was exactly, we knew there was something troubling about it.
We would start every session of playing house by explaining to one another where our husbands were.
In fact, it was the first day that we parents were expected to drop our kids off instead of walking them in and hovering.
I think the thing with which children and their parents comfort themselves is the knowledge that these separations last only a few hours.
After a pretty cruel false start, it wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, I just drove in huge loops down to Ventura Boulevard, slowly cruising along for a couple of miles, then back up another canyon to Mulholland, across the tops of the mountains past her school, and then back down another canyon road to Ventura Boulevard in the Valley. Not only was talk radio to be avoided — especially Howard Stern — but every song was about John. Just the thought of music, any song, made me cry so hard my glasses would fog up. At some point during that first week back at school, I decided to widen my comfort zone by taking a longer drive down Ventura Boulevard before I climbed back up the mountain on the way to Stella’s school.
When I was pregnant with Stella, he told me that one of the many amazing effects that having a baby has on your relationship to the world is that every song on the radio becomes about your baby. I found myself at the stretch between Jerry’s Deli and The Good Earth Restaurant, two of John and Stella and my favorites. I should have been expecting some stories about John to show up in the gossip magazines, but I certainly wasn’t seeking them out. I got out of the car and stood about ten feet away from the magazine rack in an attempt to appear nonchalant, nearly backing into traffic in the process.
Amy Yasbeck, actress wife of John Ritter, writes poignantly of her life with the popular star of “Three's Company” and “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” who in 2003 died of an undiagnosed aortic dissection.
In this excerpt from “With Love and Laughter, John Ritter,” she writes candidly of the effect that Ritter’s sudden passing had on her and their 5-year-old daughter. Not only was it our daughter Stella’s fifth birthday, but it was only a few days into her first real week of school.
This whole kindergarten thing on a giant campus at a big school that went up to eighth grade was a really different feeling for all of us. My first instinct was to keep her out of school and hibernate the rest of the year away; she could just start again the next September. I was in this alone now and everyone’s advice that September was that Stella needed school and normalcy ... The drill was: I would go to school with her, drop her off in class, hang around close by, and then slowly start to leave campus for longer and longer periods of time.
I knew this was the wrong tack and I would have to pull her out of school for a while and then slowly reintroduce her to the idea of kindergarten. He had an abundance of warm memories about his adventures in grade school and at his beloved Hollywood High and USC. Clearly, this was as hard for me as it was for her. And when I first forced myself to get back in my car and actually drive away from her, I didn’t get very far. I remember my dad, who sang me to sleep every night with a repertoire of songs from the thirties and forties, his era, used to effortlessly replace the word “baby” with “Amy.” As in, “just Dorothy and me and Amy makes three, we’re happy in our blue heaven.” Now here I was driving radio-free, testing the radius of my invisible umbilical cord; all the songs were about John now.
Plus more about Jim Carrey, Tim Daly, Crystal Bernard, Mel Brooks, Tom Selleck. But you will learn first-hand of the recovery process of not only suddenly losing a spouse, but one in the public eye and how the media like to spin things to make it all the more agonizing. You were so lucky to have him and your adorable Stella. If you ever watched John Ritter you must read this book.