After hearing Anderson Cooper at PLA, talking about his conversation with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, I picked up the book about that conversation. The Rainbow Comes and Goes is the story of their life, told through a year-long conversation after Vanderbilt turned ninety-one. Cooper challenged us at the conference to have a meaningful conversation with members of our family.
Vanderbilt and Cooper are the last survivors in their immediate family. When his mother was hospitalized at ninety-one, Cooper realized there were questions about her life that he had never asked. He didn't know about her relationship with her mother, and the "trial of the century" that awarded Gloria's custody to an aunt she didn't know. He didn't know about his mother's numerous lovers (and was a little squeamish when it came to knowing about his mother's love life). And, the two of them never really talked about the death of Cooper's beloved father, his brother's suicide, or the fact that Anderson Cooper is gay. But, a year-long email correspondence brought them much closer, and revealed emotions and feelings neither knew the other had.
At ninety-one, Gloria Vanderbilt had rich stories to tell her son. But so many of them stemmed from the loss of her father when she was a toddler, and the loss of a mother she never really knew. Vanderbilt developed "a rage to live" as she called it. Her restlessness, her searches for love, stemmed from the lack of a home, stability and love as a child. Even so, she's the optimist in the family, the one who still believes in fairy tales, and, as her son says, that there is a the right man in a yacht in the Mediterranean, just waiting for her.
Cooper, too, feels he is fueled by rage, but it's the rage of losing his father and brother. Both mother and son feel as if they need to keep moving forward, not becoming "too self-reflective or too mired in the pain of the past". Cooper sees himself as a catastrophist, just waiting for the next catastrophe. Because his mother never had a plan, from the time he was ten and lost his father, Anderson Cooper has felt he needed to be the one in the family with a plan. He is always searching for security.
When Gloria Vanderbilt quotes writer Mary Gordon, "A fatherless girl thinks all things possible and nothing safe," her son agrees. He said when he lost his father at the age of ten, he lost the fantasy of childhood. He knew bad things happen to people, and nothing was safe. He says he is not the person he would have been if his father had lived.
With the name Vanderbilt, most people immediately think of money. The Rainbow Comes and Goes is not a book about money. It's a book about two lonely, lost souls, both of whom suffered great losses in their lives. It's actually a very sad book despite the connection Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt still have.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062454942 (hardcover), 290p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.