My late husband, Harold, was a movie buff, and his favorite film was “Lawrence of Arabia.” He saw it dozens of times and was always transported by the larger-than-life Lawrence, the music (We even bought the film score.), and the magnificent spectacle of this David Lean masterpiece.
In 2006, when Harold was diagnosed as terminal and I cared for him in home hospice, he occasionally requested that I drive him to Canter’s Delicatessen to have a hot pastrami sandwich on rye, dill pickle, and a chocolate phosphate. As he neared his life’s end, there was no need to continue dietary restrictions, so I happily made the one hour round-trip drive to accommodate his wishes.
One wintry Sunday when some of the children were visiting, Harold asked if we all might go to Canter’s. While there, a solitary customer wearing a woolen cap pulled low, caught our attention. His piercing blue eyes betrayed his desired anonymity. It was Peter O’Toole. What a thrill for us all, especially Harold.
We refrained from going over to tell him about Harold’s admiration, and Harold was content just to bask in the shared environment of the aromatic delicatessen with his hero. For the rest of us, it seemed like an omen, and unstated last wish for Harold.
Rest in Peace, Harold Dresser. Rest in Peace, Peter O’ Toole, and thank you for bringing joy to my husband and millions of other moviegoers.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who shares her late husband’s appreciation of Lawrence of Arabia.