Monday, November 09, 2009

Fiddling while Rome burns

This morning in bed, I finished (re-)reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which I liked a lot, but not as much as the critics did. In case you haven’t read it, it’s a writer’s memoir about the sudden death of her husband (of 40 years) and the writer’s subsequent grief.

And now – again – I have a choice as to what to say…

do I tell you

(1) that I like the bit at the end where she says: “I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to try to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead. Let them become the photograph on the table.”

I have a lovely photograph of my mother, but it sits on the bookshelf behind me in my study. I have not yet felt able to have it next to my computer, where the picture of my father sits. My mother has yet to become “the photograph on the table.”

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or do I tell you

(2) that I was so upset by the thought that Dave (like Joan Didion’s husband) might have a heart attack and die, that when he came in the room I told him I needed to learn what to do if he had a heart attack, and he said “Knowing how cack-handed you are with anything practical, I'd rather you didn’t try,” and I said, “I'm not altogether unpractical. I can make pastry.” And he said “Well, if I have a heart attack, you must go off and make pastry.”

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