Sometimes i won’t tell you the day in this Diary not because this horror--or occasional jo--can often run over several days: the point is more to tell you the truth, no matter how rough, of what is happening to me as I try to get over Jane's sudden, still unexplained death on Dec. 30.. Today in the New York Times I read about Joan Didion's magnificent book, The Miraculous Year, which sold half a million copies with its unflinching story of precisely what I am going through now: her beloved husband of 39 years had a heart attack in front of her at the dinner table and died immediately without warning. I can feel for her watching it but my agony is I wanted and could have insisted on Jane being beside me that last night before she died in the morning. The doctors wanted her uptown in her "Assisted Living" residence because she was writhing in pain over a flu shot given her only because her tests early that week
at the outpaitient St. Vincent’s Hospital she attended every day, in the Village, were good. The first night she slept with me, Monday night, then Tuesday night, too, she was in pain, with the real flu. I remember finding painkiller pads at a nearby Japanese store, "Sun Up," ironically. I put them on her and slept beside her. Now ...I long for the joy of putting those pads on her. The next day she went up to Broadway and 86th, in worse pain, on doctors' orders: I didn't want her to go. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, one of my heroes--tho he once broke my finger in the East Hampton Artists-Writers game by throwing a baseball at my lousy first baseman’s glove in the Hampton’s annual Artist-Writers Softball game in Long Island--died the week before at an "Assisted Living" residence in Washington, D.C. I hated Euclid Hall, Jane’s “Assisted” prison and so did she but Medicaid required it, and we couldn't afford all the care and drugs you need when you have emphesema and diabetes coming off a revived bipolar syndrome case going back 10 years. I went up there twice that week and put the pads on. When she called me Friday morning to give me her daily "I love you" wake-up call, she said, for the first time in a week, that she was feeling better (the night before I had brought her an herbal flu killer). The next day... no wake up call. So I slept. Around 11, a hospital emergency room, at St. Luke's Roosevelt, way uptown, who knew nothing about her or her medical history--and no staff members man Euclid on weekends (!), called: "You better come fast," the voice on the other end said (if she had slept me we could have gone five blocks away to St. V). I called our joint daughter, Victoria, who has not said a kind word to me since. She had a car and beat me to the hospital. When I walked in she said, petulantly, "She's dead. She never took care of herelf."
What happened from those words to this moment is the loneliness of overpowering Grief. For weeks all I could do is run over these mistakes--and my inability to get anyone to call me back or make an appointment to find out what happened. Joan Didion's lovely book, driven by the same agony that drives me, at least speaks of friends and doctors and family rallying around. But I was totally alone, without even the cremation ashes of my beloved angel of 35 years (I permitted our daughter to cremate her, after a complex talk at Trinity with Father Callaway, Heidi Koring, her best friend, up from Virginia, after we agreed how her remains would be divided and left in the several sites in the world she loved--she was from the earliest age living abroad with her diplomatic family; to this day I don’t know where her remains are; I have no death certificate, either, and no certainty as to why she died. Her loving doctor at St. Vincent's Hospital way downtown, has deduced from the autopsy reports Roosevelt denied me that Jane died from a blood clot in her lungs. "That means instant death," he reassured me. "She probably didn't suffer at all." But I find this kind reassurance almost impossible to believe. I know my beloved too well. Inside her sweet, soft, civility, she was a tough fighter. No, something happened up there far away from me: at first the people at Euclid told me she had a heart attack at "MacDonald's across the street." But I went up there to find NO MacDonald's “across the street.” No one in my family elsseems to care about this fuzzy reporting from both a hospital and an “Assised Living” staff. Her father, surely trying to calm me down, told me to forget the why of her death--and find a "new life." None of them know me. Jane knows me. When she talks to me at night she says, over and over, “Douglas, Go On.” What can this mean? (Beuys sometimes echoes it in German: yes, I know you think I’m mad). To me all this means I must solve this riddle of life and the death...of the most beloved person I have ever known.
And so I will, somehow, while you watch and hear me think it all through on this interactive Blog site, more truly interactive than any of them, as this particular story or accident is “open”: together perhaps we can solve something approaching either a crime or sloppy handling of a sick woman who deserved careful attention, given her recovering emphesema and diabetes, affected by a flu shot that...perhaps...killed her (if the dank air in my crippled studio, punctured by clumsy workers, still not repaired, after more than a year and many medical warners, by a negligent landlord... didn’t).. God bless you, divine Jane.
Since I am a man, a Superman, I receive little of the warmth Joan Didion deserved and got. Once while chairing a supper for the anniverary of that magazine I worked for long ago (Newsweek), Betty Friedan, rubbing my knee, told me "the Masculine Mystique is worse than The Feminine Mystique (the title of her socio-seminal work). “Why?” I asked, happy since Jane was there to protect me. "Because you are raised to be Superman, to never admit your weaknesses or fears, never to get into and indulge your children, never to cry. Can you Cry?" When I told her I could, when I told her my father died at four and I cried with my mother, she didn't believe it. "You're Superman, poor man."
Is she right? Will I ever cry again (Jane makes me cry inside so bad I can't cry outside)? Will the Masculine Mystique destroy me, lead me to kill myself or whomever treated her so stupidly, or clumsily? Let us wait, pray, and see.....It may be a miraculous year for me, too. Or..it may not. Those Americans out there who blame personal tragedy on the victim--we’re unique in this way--ought not give up. Another horror may be ahead...or...maybe...one tiny little miracle. I’m an optimist to the end, as is any Aries, any artist, any truly mad creator. Pray for me if you will....as I shall pray for you.