Dear friends and readers,
I am aware Miss Havisham has a bad reputation: she was spiteful and sadistic to Pip, and brought Estella up to be very mean. Well Estella would do fine at the DMV, never be out of a job. And as to Pip, I never liked him. Look how he treated Magwitch. ‘Nuff said.
Not long after the Admiral died, I realized the psychological acuity of Dickens’s symbol. This is not the first time I’ve been aware how Dickens frequently does not or cannot consciously psychoanalyze a character nor present a realistic one in depth but intuitively brings forth a presence which is more than half-crazed but enacts real feelings and behaviors we keep hidden but are perfectly understandable reactions to the world we live in and people it shapes. Moreover that Dickens will himself sometimes show he has not understood or empathized with his own creation: he appears to loathe Miss Havisham as an aging virgin (therefore useless?) But when I got onto a Yahoo list-serv meant to discuss Dickens’s works (Inimitable-Boz it’s called) I was not surprised when I expressed identification with her, after a couple of howls at her, a few people wrote in that they felt for her and thought she was a symbol of how women are hurt, damaged, twisted by society’s demands they marry — and after all she was deserted.
It’s in her stillness, the connection of that stillness with death, her solitude (often wrongly presented as regal) that the power of the image resides.
Miss Havisham (does she have a first name?) came to mind when I finally got a letter from the DMV. It was calming to realize they felt they had to send an explanation and some apparent method whereby I could get back my “privilege” to drive — it’s not a right you see, it’s a privilege, this, in a society with such poor public transportation. They prefer not to believe the doctors’ reports & machine print-outs — and as for my statement they ignored it. Epilepsy is what they want to discover. They send different papers for the doctor to fill out – fewer and just one doctor — expensive (yes I pay co-pays) neurological test again. And they demand he really fill out two sides a form “fully” — which he didn’t before. I should not have this test before May 17th but can thereafter. Then if (if I am reading it aright) the tests are satisfactory (but they are the same tests and machines) I can drive on probation, with repeat tests at six month intervals for 2 years. Like someone trying to catch lightning.
This time I face the ambiguity of the letter — recognize it. All it says is the DMV demands must be fully met and until then license suspended but now I know the list of demands can be met and they can still say not fully met.
So, if they felt like it this could go on and on. People have told me oh no, have faith they’ll give it back. Why? Why should I have faith? based on what? A concern for my well-being? Because of them I have stopped sleeping unless I take a strong pill.
34 years of perfect driving certainly counts with the insurance company. They did not put my insurance up — or only a tiny amount. A set of perfect scores on machines is nothing? that my husband just died and I am deeply upset is irrelevant. May they rot in hell — they are victimizing me because they can and they sweep by — I’m collateral damage to them. Like a bunch of US soldiers anywhere in the world sweeping by. Like shooting fish in a fish bowl one soldier said of his time in Kuwait.
It is a form of shaming and humiliation; I’m policed with no one on my side. I now suspect the lawyer is either poor or indifferent to me.
I do see too all the doctors are scared. The primary care man said there’s a rule against doctors contacting the DMV. They can take the doctor’s license away — they can — and that as we know is a license to print money. And I’ve just discovered that Kaiser’s new rule (overriding individual doctors) may be not to prescribe restoril any more. When the website and tape refused to put the prescription through and I asked the psychiatrist, he did not reply, only suggested if I knew of a near by pharmacy he could phone it in there.
Nothing in the US today is done with your or my interests in mind at all. Someone is afraid the corporation will be sued or lose money.
I’m a better driver than 9/10s of the people on the road today. I know I am.
I now realize I should that day have said “I lost control of the car and don’t know how that happened” and then clammed up. Too late. Bad propensity of mine, telling the truth.
A kindly neighbor who put a shopping cart together for me that I bought from Amazon (the everything store that sends you crap made in China by impoverished people unable to write clear instructions) told me his license was suspended some years ago for not paying fines; the DMV dumped a very high fine on him and suspended the license. Trouble was to pay it he had to go to work and he couldn’t reach work without a car under two hours each way. He was caught once by cops and told them his story. He was taken before some magistrate. What fun.
Actually we phoned the groceries in using peapod (on-line delivery service provided by giant — you pay extra for it).
I can reach AU in less than 2 hours; it’s about an hour and one half, the worst or slowest in Virginia. Once I get into DC it’s not so bad. I got there and was commended by all for my 2-3 minute teaching presentation, and this time found the bus stop for going back to the Metro. So I can have some social life locally that is useful. Honestly all I was doing with my car or mostly was shopping. Movies are now mostly out — though I can reach the E-street Cinema in DC (train fast, Virginia bus once an hour); it has sometimes has good movies. I can’t reach the grief support person at the Haven now — I can’t be sure when I’d get there using the bus and walking so can’t make an appt.
Going back to NYC did spring to mind — a fantasy (sell house, get rid of 1/3 of books, put 1/3 in storage and move with the rest) and I don’t know anyone there any more. Away for 34 years now. Manhattan was once home and I know it the way I know Alexandria. Don’t have this trouble of getting or feeling lost. Several times over the 9 years the Admiral was retired he made plans to leave Virginia. Immediately after he retired he said let’s go back to England and looked into getting a consulting job in Leeds as a computer software expert to help put medical records on-line. He discovered we’d take a 40% tax hike (he was a British citizen still) so that was out. Once we went with a real estate agent around Queens and up into Inwood in Manhattan. Last February he found another apartment, 2 bedroom in upper Manhattan. But we hesitated. It would take all the money we could get for this house and the apartment’s value could go down. And the following month he said he was having trouble swallowing. But he did dream this too.
Miss Havisham and her clock. Set to 9:30 was it? Jim died at 5 minutes after 9 on a Wednesday night. Also a mirror — instrument of self-torture. In the Gillian Anderson version which gives a new turn on the symbols, she looks out a window — it is more sympathetic to her than any other I’ve seen. Miss Havisham is not pictured with cats (though sometimes with mice). I can find no cats in the movie stills or old illustrations. My girl cat now stays close to me almost all the time, firmly ensconces herself on my lap wherever; or sleeps on a green pillow in the next room within hearing distance. The boy sits on a pillow just near my chair; when I sit in the front room he wants me to play with a string toy with him endlessly. Yvette tells me he wails when I’m gone more than a couple of hours.
How many widows there are and how inexorable are these social patterns. Set up for whom? in this case not corporations, this is not the result of a political arrangement but something has rather to do with gender and family exclusions — older women are useless to men and are keeping the money as did Miss Havisham. What matters is the family group and the widow gets in the way. Keeps her own money from others — though if she’s wise she doles it out. The big cosy family does always help the widow. In India there are no suttees, but read Jhumpa Lahiri and you see widows in India and other traditional cultures are treated like dead people, and they are preyed upon badly. They are at least no beaten like their daughters-in-law. I did say my two Muslim friends on line dropped me immediately upon my saying Jim had fatal cancer — I stand for some terrifying life that could happen to them any time.
The pussycat is on my lap as ever. Sits tight. Wise pussycat.
This has forcefully brought home to me the reality of my situation without Jim. The deep grief is all being alone. I would not have lost my license either if he were here. It’s also all the things that keep happening and I keep doing because he’s not here.
And could it be I’ll last 20 more years without him. Enduring all that this brings.