Mar 30, 2021

The other day I dusted all the books in the tall bookcase in my bedroom, as well as the top of it, where I had stacks of magazines. When I noticed that the dust seemed to be irritating my throat, I threw open both windows for ventilation, but within a few hours my throat was painfully sore and my sinuses stinging. I figured it was an allergic reaction and would wear off in a few hours. No such luck—by bedtime my nose was flowing like a faucet being abruptly turned on and off, pouring down my face without warning before I could reach the Kleenex box. The next day I was even worse, so I couldn’t attend the last meeting of my second bereavement group to present my memorial of Earl.

I’d been feeling genuinely happy as I dusted and packed the pileup of magazines into boxes that afternoon. Ella was vacationing in L.A., visiting her mom and brothers, while I tidied up and finished old household projects before next Sunday’s meditation at our place. We’d agreed to host mid-month meetings that Sara would lead, several of us in the group feeling we need additional prodding to stay in touch with our Higher Power. And what I was thinking as I worked was that now that my memoir was written, I didn’t have to hold the pain of my life anymore—because my memoir was holding it for me.

At Chris’s suggestion over the phone, I gathered a number of vignettes I’d written about Earl for the group to read out loud that evening, as well as copies of the photographs I’d taken off his walls and snapshots of his paintings—Betsy was going to drop by for them on her way. And there was something so apt about my memorial taking this form that I was almost glad it had turned out this way, as I lay languishing on the sofa, leaving Kleenexes stuck up my nose when it got too pointlessly tedious to keep blowing. I’d written a memoir—and now my writing was speaking for me, as it should.

I thought about coming across that newspaper review last summer of a children’s book that had the same premise as Sir Little Fool and the Skeptical Princess—which had seemed at the time like another cruel twist of fate and had precipitated my writing my memoir in the first place. That was the prompting I needed to write about my outings with Earl, too, and to finally begin to set down the stories he told me. Early on in our friendship, I’d realized I was going to hear his anecdotes more—probably lots more—than once, and I decided not to make an effort to remember the details. That was one way, I thought, my bad memory could actually serve me well—it would be more fun for both of us if I didn’t remember too much. But once I started my memoir, I began to record everything Earl told me about his life. Weird as it may sound, I sometimes stroke the pages I’ve written about him now, grateful for these vivid—even palpable —remembrances, recognizing at last that happening upon that review was no cruel twist of fate but an incomparable blessing in disguise.