DIARY - April 09, 2006 2:24 AM
Date: Apr 9, 2006 2:24 AM
(two days before my soul-starved birthday)
JE' T'AIME/AIME (I-Love-Love-Love-You)
In what I will call for a while Grief I, most of us cannot bear to even
touch the clothes worn by the beloved when she or he dies. For almost two months Iooked at Jane's clothes across the studio* and could not bring myself to move them. Every hour of every day and night I thought of her, often almost crying ("little boys don't cry" in this land****). I was afraid either that I would fall to the floor, grieving, if I touched anything, or virtually eat them out of repressed lust and need. Finally, time passed. The therapists, Recent Widower Grief Clubs I attended--meeting dozens of men and women who suffered equal bitterness and
loss--and the books I read (The Best of Awful and, sent by a friend and jus published, On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross*****and David Kessler, a deeply humane pair of minds)...I began to recover. I began to believe Jane's voice, which still interrupts my sleep by calling out "Douglas...Go On!"
So one day I actually picked up the tee shirt you see here and held it in my shaking hands. After a while, I steadied, warmed by the wit, lively humor, and complexity of thought embodied in its words. Yes, it made me revere her even more...but what I revered was her quality of mind, the kind of mind that will not allow me to fold up or take my own life, as I often considred in the month that followed her still unex- plained (as I write this) death on Dec.30, 2005, and the deeply moving day devoted on Jan. 28, 2006, to her life by Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan, where she temporarily gave up her birthright Quakerism****** for the most compassionate and liberated form of Episcopalianism (my
birthright) I had ever discovered.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Why did God or Allah or Satan drape this lovely, enigmatic tee in front of me at this minute? Come to that, why and how did Jane die? For months I have been asking the hospitals and doctors and colleagues who lived with her at her “part-time” Assisted Living Residence uptown, a requirement imposed by Medicaid. Most of the info I get turns out to be either wrong, twisted, confusing, or downright lying. It was only the doctor she loved at St. Vincent’s, Robert Malcolm, who gave me an answer verging on the reasonable. DO YOU KNOW....WHY?....OR HOW?....ON THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 30 ... FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS....SHE DIDN’T WAKE ME UP WITH A FONE CALL OR A GENTLE SHOVE OF MY BACK WITH THE WORDS ““GOOD MORNING: I LOVE YOU” EVERYBODY SAYS I SHOULD FORGET THIS, SHE IS DEAD, ALAS, LEAVE IT AT THAT. BUT I CAN’T GIVE IT UP. YOU AND I MUST SOLVE THIS ENIGMA....FINALLY.
Jan. 28***** was a mixture of traditional Episcopalian singing, reciting,
andclerical address (by the Rev. James Callaway) mixed with speeches by our daughter, Charlotte Victoria, myself, and (the Quaker Wake custom) anyone who knew her in life who wished to rise and speak--among them John Brademas, lifelong friend, patron, collaborator in art and politics, and friends of all ages. Shortly you will read excerpts from some of these impass- ioned statements. Afterwards I saw my first two daughters--by my first wife--for the first time in more than a year. We were all in love with the moment, hugging, eating, drinking. I remember going out to the East River and staring at the Statue of Lib- erty, as I often had with Jane in the early years of our marriage.
What did some of the words on this shirt mean to her? Why did she buy andwear it? Why did life allow it to fall into my hands after months of avoiding touching her memory? Here are the words she is speaking to me from that shirt:SIMPLY...NARCISSUS POETICUS...S--U--R--T--I.
"Be simple," I tell mysekf she is saying. "Do one thing at a time" (I often heard this line from her. "Be Proud of Your Poetry (your work, in brief)...STAY MYSTIFIED BY LIFE."
Dear, divine Jane...I shall try.
April 9, 2006, 4:52 a.m.