In the last post, I proposed myself as the party of the first part in this life situation and certainly in the blog as well. Carol, of course, in both ways is the party of the second part although I admit she would no doubt bridle at the second billing.
In any event, I will focus quite directly on her through the lens of her journals.
Sunday night, the end of a weather dominated weekend wherein a raging snow storm, perhaps unaware of, or indifferent to, the calendar showing us to be in the middle of April, arrived Friday and still hasn’t found the door. Saturday morning I removed a foot of snow, some of it accumulated into drifts nearly twice that height. This morning more snow fell and drifted, but removing it proved much harder because it was mixed with ice. I decided to skip my usual Sunday morning visit to the local market even though I had cleared the driveway well enough to get the car out. With all the ice and snow it just seemed a better idea to stay in the house. I am a creature of habit, and so it was with great reluctance I came to this decision. No doubt, in part, I was influenced by my concerns previously expressed about making sure as best I can that I keep myself safe.
My mind does flash to the end of Malamud’s The Assistant wherein Morris Bober, who I believe is younger than I, dies of pneumonia after shoveling an early spring snow.
As to my health, I was glad to receive the dermatologist’s judgment that the spots on my head, at this point, were not dangerous. As a precaution she sprayed them with liquid oxygen to freeze them off and had me schedule a follow-up appointment in a couple of months.
One less thing to worry about.
Because dealing with the weather these past few days has sapped my energy, and eaten up my time, I am only now getting back into a writing rhythm. In so doing, I have extended these introductory, here and now, remarks and now feel I should think about sleep. If I were living alone, I probably would be indifferent to the clock, maybe even as I almost always did, read in bed for half an hour or so, but Carol will rise when she does, and her needs will call to me, sometimes with serious insistence.
So, I will, as I sometimes do, just begin what I intend to explore in my next session with my laptop.
In considering the material that I was about to post in my blog this weekend concerning Carol’s journals, and in reviewing the journals themselves, a couple of ideas emerge.
Those journals primarily cover 2005-2006. One of them then continues briefly seven years later in 2013, a couple of years before Carol’s bout with breast cancer.
In them, I noticed the almost frenetic energy with which Carol was trying to shape her fiction, first her stories, and then a possible novel, or non-fiction book, and finally at the end of the period covered by the journals, a reasonable compromise moving from short stories to book length publication by marketing her stories as a collection.
I think I now understand two factors, which unnoticed at the time explain this intense energy.
The first belies an assertion that I made in the already published blog post, and that is namely that the years in question, those covered by her journal entries, were unremarkable.
They were remarkable in one most significant way: our daughter left for college and we became, although I never thought in these terms, empty nesters.
I don’t know if Carol saw herself as the mother bird watching her fledgling take flight, but it seems abundantly plausible that she consciously or not was profoundly influenced by our daughter’s leaving.
In danger of getting too caught up with this line of thought, which would result in inadequate sleep for me, and thus lead to a difficult day, when the weather, according to a recent forecast, promises to continue unpleasant.
Monday night. Just short of a month into spring and yet another day of snow dumping four or five inches. Snow blower acting like it just has had enough. Tosses the snow but barely moves. I had to supply the muscle to get it up and down the driveway. Not a very good idea, but I do get stubborn. As I was straining I worried about Carol in her bed, but continued anyway.
Dealing with the weather yet again has left me too tired to write tonight. Hope to pick it up tomorrow although it is my shopping day.
Tuesday night. Another six to eight inches of snow. Neighbor Rocco on his riding snow blower cleared the driveway in time to provide access for the nurse practitioner, then the aide, who came with a trainee, and finally, for me to get out and to the stores.
Carol never indicated how hard it was for her to deal with our daughter’s leaving. Perhaps she herself was not aware. Outwardly, she was delighted. She had invested so much time and emotional energy in enabling Danielle to overcome her Asperger’s sufficiently to let her native intelligence carry her through school and into college.
And there probably was a certain amount of relief for Carol as well. Satisfaction, too, of a job well done.
Later, when Danielle had graduated and gotten her first job in Cleveland, we refitted her bedroom as an office for Carol. In it, she could devote herself much more fully to her writing career.
That explains part of the stimulus for that frenetic energy evident in the journals. But there there is that second factor, which this late I have come to believe was just as important.
In 2005, the year Carol starts her journal writing, my novel Murder On Old Mission came out. I now believe its arrival amplified Carol’s writing ambition.
Of course, one reason I am late to this realization is that I had already published five novels during the time we lived together. The publication, therefore, of another novel from that perspective does not appear particularly significant.
But I now think it was.
For several reasons.
First, Carol’s own career seems to have stalled after significant early success with her short stories. One of them, “Dancing Feather Light,” appearing in the South Dakota Review, attracted the attention of a well-known New York agent, who contacted her to see if she could send him a novel. Stories are all well and good, but they rarely generate anything like serious money. Novels can. Others of her stories were recognized with prizes.
However, those successes in 2005 were beginning, I suppose, to look like they were in the rear-view mirror. Without checking dates, I am fairly confident in saying they all predated our move to Michigan. And the prospect of a novel dangled by the agent’s query no doubt motivated her to try the longer form.
Then my novel came out, based on a suggestion from Carol’s father, and set on this very peninsula on which she had grown up and on which we now lived. The book did well locally, receiving critical praise. Carol, no doubt, was happy for me. I do remember her saying early on in our relationship how delighted she was to have fallen in love with another writer.
Still, putting all this together, I now see that she so much wanted to get her own career back in gear but was finding it so difficult. There was her ADD, which her journals make clear she always battled. In fact, there is a brief note written in a large hand in her journal that “He,” meaning yours truly,” will never understand my ADD.”
There was the vacuum created by our daughter’s moving out on her own, and then there was my very local, but still intense, success rooted in her turf. I can even imagine that had that 2005 book been set in my hometown of Brooklyn, it would not have moved Carol as much to get her own book out.
Now, with the cliched wisdom of hindsight, I can see how hard Carol worked in those years to get her own book out. My guess, knowing the strength of her ambition and her stubbornness, she would eventually have succeeded. She had overcome so much, her natural shyness by getting her JD, her small town rural consciousness by immersing herself in New York, her agoraphobia by willing herself to travel by plane, all of those obstacles unable to block her on her way to wherever she chose to go, convince me she would have gotten her first book out, and then there would have been others.
Had not first cancer, and dementia intervened. The cancer alone would only have slowed her down. But the dementia, striking at her cognitive abilities, was too big a barrier.
One last, sad note on this topic, at the end of the journal that continued into 2013, I observe that her wonderful handwriting was beginning to deteriorate, just a little.
Another very early, unnoticed, sign, not visible to me until a few days ago, of the beginning of where we now are.