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Dear friends and readers,

I mentioned my daughter whom I sometimes or used to call Yvette and mostly call Izzy (her name is Isobel) was working on a YouTube rendition of Goo Goo Dolls‘ “Better Days” for Christmas Eve. Here’s Izzy:

If you want to view and listen on her blog. click on We need more fruit.

Ellen

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Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure — Jane Austen as Elizabeth, P&P

Dear friends and readers,

Last year, really 2012, the admiral, I and Yvette heard and after “Elvis had left the building,” danced to this band in the Kennedy Center Great Hall:

The admiral could cook.

I found it on YouTube around 11 at night this year, 2013.

Earlier (between 5 and 6:30 pm) Yvette and I had driven to an Olive Garden not far from our house, and with her $25 gift certificate, our Italian meal, salad, breadsticks, spaghetti and meatballs for her and egglplant parmigian with wine & coffee for me cost us $11.34 (exclusive of tip). We talked.

Home again, I watched on my Macbook Pro PBS Newshour, Amy Goodman for 2 hours (catching up), a powerful (anti-war) episode of the 1972 War and Peace (finely, realistically done, no computers so they had to hire all those men to enact battles in a park), wrote friends, read friends’ letters, was on the phone with a woman friend. Clarycat on my lap some of the time, looking at the screen too, sometimes on her grey pad behind said computer, Ian pussycat came in to try to get me to play with a string with him, but I wasn’t having any of this just now, so he returned to stay with Yvette in her room, while she watched something on TV, browsed the Internet, or napped.

About a quarter to twelve Clarycat and I went into Yvette’s room where she was watching CNN which was televising the mad vast public party that goes on in Times Square each New Year’s Eve. Ian on Yvette’s bed.

On her widescreen TV, two anchor people, Kathy Ann Gifford (comedian, most known for a part in a reality show, “My life on the D list”) and a newsman from the station, Cooper Anderson. They were exemplarily handcuffed to one another — the crowd was very thick, and while they would not have been pulled apart as it was not thick and everyone well behaved, people sometimes advise couples to do this. In 1976 on July 4th, the Admiral and I went down to the Bowery for a final ceremony of the centennial. My parents (also then alive, also now both dead) fearful for us in such a huge crowd, gave us ropes and we promised to tie our waists to one another’s. In fact, the crowd surged and was in thickness and numbers a mob, and when it broke up he and I could have been parted but for that rope.

Back to her TV: a huge stand with a electronic piano-looking instrument in the center of the square. I did not know they do shows nowadays and about 2 minutes from twelve there’s Melissa Etheridge in winter coat, trousers, sweater, heavy boots, with microphone, belting out John Lennon’s “Imagine” for all she’s worth. I love the lyrics of that song.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

As she was on the last stanza, the superlit ball began to come down and the crowd roared; there was 2014 blinking in neon. I have been there at the Square standing twice, once with my first husband (I was 18 so gentle reader 49 years ago), and once with the Admiral (we were in our 30s). Then piped in Frank Sinatra doing “New York, New York,” and then a male voice (why not Judy Garland I thought?) “Somewhere over the rainbow.”

On stage were a row of people dancing in a row, armed intertwined, one of theme the hispanic supreme court justice, Sonia Sodamayor. She had released the ball because in his last year the ex-Mayor (about time) Bloomberg could’t be bothered to stay in NYC but went to Paris where there is a more decorous street scene around the Eiffel Tower and fireworks. In the year 2000 the Admiral, I and Yvette spent 2 weeks of Christmas in Paris and we were there that New Year’s Eve. It was raining and began to pour just around fireworks time so I remember best catching a cab which took us outside the central city to a highway and brought us back again to our flat as the streets were so crowded with cars and people. Sodamayor looked very happy as she danced away.

But it was 20 minutes after twelve and I must keep to my sleep schedule. So Clarycat and I went to bed, and with a pill, I was asleep inside 20 minutes.

Up now at 7:30 am — from bed, I actually woke around 6:15 but lay there resting until about half an hour ago.

New day, bills. I did tell myself, maybe I’ll think about writing a book or go back to my A Place of Refuge, thus far 5 chapters on the Sense and Sensibility Movies.

Yvette and I are going to the US ice-skating championship do in Boston from Jan 5th to 13th, and she has just contributed this YouTube of Johnny Weir teaching Kathy Ann Gifford to ice-skate:

Yvette: “Keep in mind while watching this that when it was filmed and aired in 2006 society in general had already assume Johnny to be gay, even though he wouldn’t actually come out until 2011. (Also, he was actually coming off a rough breakup, which his fans shortly became aware of, though society in general didn’t).”

Sylvia

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‘Do what you are comfortable with’ (corollary: don’t strain for what you are not comfortable doing) — my father in one of our last conversations (1989 a visit here in summer)

‘Don’t go beyond your strength; if that means staying home quietly most of the time, sobeit’ — the Admiral in one of our last 5 am conversations (not necessary to return to teaching or anything else)

LadyMaryGeorgeblog
Michelle Dockery as widowed grieving Lady Mary Crawley with baby as the 4th season opens

Dear friends and readers,

Yvette and I just come back from the Olive Garden; we had a nice meal of Italian food together — mine a bit too peppered and not enough eggplant, but Riesling wine and coffee sweet; she liked the breadsticks and place prettily got up. I’m now listening to a suite of violin music the Admiral loved and will soon go watch PBS; later I’ll watch mini-series (1972 War and Peace) that he downloaded for me, and try to stay up to midnight. It was her second day on a full-time well-paid job as an entry level Librarian in a fine library. She catalogued! She does not know how she’ll pass tonight just now. The cats are miaouing at us. It’s cold out. Dark. Christmas lights on all the houses.

As I look back on the last 10 months experience, and especially these first two of widowhood, I want again to tell the truth, what is it to be widowed from a beloved husban after I’ve done my level best to speak truthfully of cancer, its treatments, how people cope and don’t cope. I’m now at that point of widowhood where I have to bear with the cliche of “I am sorry for your loss.” Why not “the death of your husband,” I am sorry for the death of your husband.” Loss makes it sound like a lost a handbag or some financial deal.

I told Cheryl, my grief support person (at the Haven) what it felt like these few weeks: a continual harrowing, either I was being harrowed, was potentially about to be, or trying to recover. I never said how a few days after my car was totaled I locked myself out of my Macbook Pro and some expert on the phone decided to have a little fun by pretending it was super-difficult to get back, and hung up after he had managed to lock me out yet more thoroughly so all I saw was a grey screen and white apple, with a black-and-white egg like object with my name on it. He said he’d call back in 10 to 20 minutes. An hour’s harrowing wait and I realized he’d been having some fun. I managed without benefit of computer to reach someone else (one Ben) and he got me back in, reset my password, discovered my old Apple ID (which Caroline and I had failed to) and within 15 minutes my machine was up and running again, with my iphone in sync.

How did I feel during that hour’s wait. It came home to me how a number of things that had become essential to my existence as I feel it still depend on his know-how. Until 1995 most of my existence was spent a lot alone; I had few friends except when in graduate school and that lasted very briefly. So when I came onto the Net and discovered this world I make contact with, thrive, enjoy onself, no automatic thresholds, could write and reach people with the website about issues. But how I’m in over my head. So good as his and my father’s advice is, I can’t quite follow it.

Also that I have been doing just the opposite.

What is falling away. It seems to me step-by-step each thing I valued so. I sometimes think the world or some force means to ask me, how far does it take to make death more attractive than enduring this.

This is what it is for me to be alive in the world without him alive. I have to open the mail and dread what will be there. I get a letter from a subsidiary from GEICO threatening me if I don’t turn in this form in 10 days, who knows what will happen? The form is utterly irrelevant to my case and I can’t make it out, so I have to phone them.

When I have told people of the bits of wisdom to try to avoid all this, keep at somewhat at bay, slow it down, especially the one about staying inside your comfort zone, I’ve been told (frankly) “how bizarre” and “ridiculous,” with the implication my father’s advice was somehow unAmerican. When I once repeated the Admiral’s words, the response was to be stunned. Another person told me if I was miserable, it was my own fault. Right. I gave him cancer.

Well I told Cheryl and she thought the first sound and in my case the second good for now. Her words when I left her were “recognize and stay within your limits,” for what happened that day was me trying to push myself well outside my limits.

I am deeply uncomfortable, stressed when I drive in unfamiliar areas, GPS or no GPS. I have no Admiral to practice with me going first any more. So skip it. “Tell the person, no.” On that day my GPS wouldn’t recognize “North Pershing Street:” what I finally realized getting near the place is it’s Pershing Street (with an N on one side) and I needed to type that in. It would’ve helped me not get so exhausted from enduring the long drive in up unfamiliar places and winding ways.

On another level, more concrete she noticed something in my story I had not emphasized and neither of the two hostile male doctors I’ve seen bothered to comment on: I had not eaten or drunk anything all day since breakfast. I got lost trying to get Yvette to work and then I was told I had to get the doll in by 5 o’clock. So both times I had planned to go home I couldn’t. She suggested beyond tiredness I had low blood sugar. I have not mentioned that I’ve lost 20 pounds since the Admiral died. I do eat but nowhere near as much. No one to make delicous sauces and all kinds of starchy-yummy kinds of vegetables; no cookies, fancy liqueurs after dinner. No treats for lunch from a recipe he made or found.

And she utterly concurred on what would happen to us were we to lose our ability to drive anywhere: for Yvette is involved too. No social club for her. Immobilized. She thought it wouldn’t happen.

My problem is getting the form filled out from them before I have to go away. That long-planned trip to Boston with Izzy from Jan 5-13; I must go, the tickets and reservations were paid (by Her) long ago; Jim did it with us, and although he had been diagnosed we were still believing he would live … So now I have to get all the papers in I hope before Jan 5th; as of the 13th the post office could fail me and not get the stuff in by the 19th. Wiltz has off today — another problem is these holidays — so that means the record office must copy them on Thursday after he sends them to this office. Kaiser demands copies. I fear I won’t get them before the Friday and the office is closed on Saturday. I dislike leaving them there until the 14th when I could — as Cheryl said — Fed Ex it. She said it’s not hard to do, just pay the people.

So now added to my fierce regimen (which is working) of sleeping every night at least 6 hours in a row or 4 and then 2 up and then at least 2 again: I must eat. Cheryl emphasized drink — drink something. So I’ve returned to my 11 am snack of coffee (lots of sugar and milk) and graham crackers, and at 4 ginger ale (which I like) and very salty chips.

The two male doctors treated me like some criminal: if I didn’t know what the medical profession is from the admiral’s cancer, I might have been surprised. It seems Vriginia makes them liable if they sign anything I’m okay to drive and then get into an accident. How nice. I did give the neurologist pause when I remarked “I’m not the enemy,” because of course to him I am. Maybe all patients are by the this time. By the end they both saw what had happened and one was willing to make out the form and the other to submit the neurological reports (which show me to be fine). I do wish there had been no video: it would have been dismissed as a hit and run by a white car; no one can say why the back of my car is smashed. Maybe the car wasn’t caught in the video. I do know I blanked out.

Not the female eye doctor. She couldn’t have been more helpful. Made out all forms; if I need more, tell her. Gender faultline clear.

Without him I am in danger; he would have spelled me. It just would not have happened. Life without him harrowing, harrowed. I have felt worst about losing the computer because the website is his legacy, the car his generous gift to me, meant to spare me 20 years of headache.

Not that this gets near the fundamental mood. Yes I get to do some nice things, have sometimes a cheerful time, but return home and he’s not here, not here to advise with, turn to, tell me not to worry about this, take care of that. No sense of peace. Pussycats, especially Clarycat have transferred to me: she is next to me all day long, one inch away her breath. My sweetheart. Innocent.

I see widows who come up to me to tell me they are widows and they have this washed out quiet face. I recognize it. The loneliness. Quiet despair.

I find the intelligent ads for the coming Sherlock season 3 again help me to express what I am feeling vis-a-vis, say the expectation that it’s time to stop mourning just when it gets hard and will get harder. Or cliched condolences uttered perfunctorily. (I don’t mention the first episode of Downton Abbey where I’m going to watch Michelle Dockery as a widow of six months.) What the makers of this new series are doing is taking seriously how a real Watson might have felt if a couple of years later his friend suddenly returned and said, oh yeah, I didn’t die, sorry not to have told you earlier. In the 1980s one they elided this by having it occur off-stage for the most part; in the Sherlock Holmes story where he comes back, “The Adventure of the Empty House,” the text is all about long explanations of how Sherlock managed not to die when he was so clearly seen hurtling down. (My view of many of the Sherlock stories are shallow and fodder for a cult precisely from this hollowness.)

Well Moffatt and Gatiss asked themselves, what would such a meeting between two such erstwhile friends be like.

Here’s the meditation:

The death of a beloved person makes all fall apart, much meaningless. I think of Last Orders again, and how just before he died, Jack proposed to Amy that they sell out (house and butcher shop) and go and live in Brighton. They’d be “new people,” and Helen Mirren (as Amy) wonderfully rightly incredulous wry “New people.” I have to keep her tone in mind. A New life.

No you come with 45 years baggage, experience, memory, stuff.

So now to turn to a few friend’s letters this evening too.

Sylvia

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Pumpsblog

Gentle reader, I wore those shoes all night. We are talking from around 5:30 pm to 1 am, and the last two hours dancing. Oh yes I paid for it around 4 am when such a giant dull drawing pain shot through my leg from foot (where feet bones are hopelessly awry) to thigh that if I could’ve I’d have hit the ceiling. WTF. It was not such a feat. It was fun. The style of shoe and even the plaid was just such a shoe as I wore the night the Admiral picked me up at a student bar some 44 years ago. I no longer have velvet emerald green ribbon in my hair and he now dresses in black top, black suit, all but tie (his shabby torn corderoy jacket from that first night long ago gone).

We brought the New Year in properly once again. We’d not done this for 5 years (we think). We brought it in dancing to a wonderful group in the Kennedy Center great hall: the Chaise Longue they call themselves. A group of aging white guys playing cello, saxophone, trumpet, piano, guitar and a not-so-young-girl, a marvelously soft-voiced crooner who sang irrevrent songs: like when she was “in a relationship” and it was time to end and he went on about his emotions, her refrain “I want my stuff.” Very sexy silver dress and wonderful tight grey boots, low heels, just wrapped around her feet.

They had begun the evening by being the first hour-long free act on the Millenium Stage. We arrived to find all seats taken, all steps, all places in aisles where this is possible, but we were not far from the front and I did manage to sit half-way through and the Admiral and Yvette just before the last number. “Snow day” was fun, and “I don’t want to” too. And when she was upbeat, looking forward to next year, the song was last year had been pretty bad so the next would in all probability be better. She ended on a Neil Simon.

Then dinner at the Terrace Cafe, very crowded. There were 5 shows going on: Shear Madness (of course); White Christmas (in the large opera house); Cheyenne Something-or-Other (Jackson?) way upstairs, solo; the National Symphony; and ours, Million Dollar Quartet. Meal was fine. I was glad to see more African-American people than I’ve ever seen before: not a tiny minority quite any more. People in all sorts of groups. Tables full but we got one as people got up. Everyone being friendly.

Mimickry is big this year (let’s not forget Bill Murray as Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson, Mirren and Hopkins and Mr and Mrs Hitchcock), and who can resist a supposed re-creation of one night in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, are said to have jammed together in a recording session with Sam Phillips. They added for female interest (dressed 50s style) Kelly Lamont as Miss Peggy Lee, Dyanne, and another women rock star whose number she belted out and boomed with, all rolled into one. It wasn’t great. Billy Woodward had all the gestures, and could do “You ain’t nothing but a Hound Dog” right, but he lacked the soft really lyrical register of the King so we had no “Love me Tender, Love Me Blue.” The play was maybe deliberately corny: like some 1950s movie the characters discussed “rock-n-roll” solemnly; three, Cash (David Elkins had Cash’s voice down pat), Perkins (Robert Britton Lyons, marvelous just extraordinary on guitar) and Elvis were moving to Columbia (or was it RCA?). Breaking Sam’s (Vince Nappo) heart. But this is caviling I suppose. Martin Kaye was Jerry Lee Lewis was exquisitely right. Whatever was the quality of that voice, the crazed piano playing, so exhilarating. Each and every number he did stole the show. Goodness, gracious great balls of fire! (There was some needless class-inflected condescending jokes, I feel honor-bound to say.)

Well by the end the group of them had gotten the audience to its feet, some dancing in the aisles. Elvis gave his scarf to one (good-natured) woman in the front row who let them rib her. Nostalgia, memory for me did the rest and their gorgeous jackets in the final number:

Photobog

I feel compelled to say this unfairly omits Dyane who had a tambourine (I used to love these) and rolled on the piano, feet in pumps kicking high up. You can see her here — don’t miss her round-toed (pink) high-heels:

KellyLamontblog

The cliches were hit just right. After the encore, we were told “Elvis has left the building.” The Admiral said in Presley’s later Vegas years, that would be announced to let everyone know there’d be no more encores. Eric Schaeffer’s career is a continuing zenith (he directed the Broadway production and this too).

Then downstairs to await the dancing as people spilled everywhere. Another enjoyable aspect of Kennedy Center New Year’s Night is all the bye-ways and stairs and balconies overlooking the hall are fair game for all. People just wander all over. It was a bit cold for outside but there were those who braved it.

Hats and noise-makers were on a table, but this year we saw lots of people seemed to bring their own very fancy hat (fascinaters the Admiral called them) or lit-up (fiber-optic Cleopatra like) headgear

A disappointment: no more are both sides of the hall with their own world-specific band. Meaning no more waltzing to Strauss. Chaise Longue showed up on one side (we saw them eating in the Terrace Cafe — not the super-expensive restaurant) but on the other it was at first dark, and then the magic of big screens had them appear on the other side too. It saved my feet. Most years we went we did walk from one end of the hall to the other and rocked on one side and waltzed on the other. I had hoped once again to see a couple we had seen several years in a row. A tall handsome man in white tie (blonde hair) and a lovely woman who seemed older than him at first so I dubbed her his mother, maybe it was her grey haired page boy. She would wear an elegant swirling skirted dress. He had white gloves, maybe she did too. Later I came to think they were partners, or man and wife, or “in a relationship” maybe. They danced the waltzes marvelously well. I wondered how they had felt the first year they showed up to no waltzing. Very disappointing. It would rejuvenate me each year to see them, the way I am rejuvenated by seeing characters survive in Candide.

We lost Yvette for a time. She usually wanders off by herself. She and I both wore calf-length skirts, hers black-with-gold-trim. It’s one I bought myself ten years ago in a thrift shop. It doesn’t look right on me any more but it’s now perfect for her. She gets compliments at work. Basically she put on my mother’s expensive earrings and tasteful pearls and pumps to match my skirt and black top (with a few sequins). I usually see her on the balconies looking down, going up and down stairs, mingling sort of. Chaise Longue music was anywhere from 50s rock-n-roll, bosa nova, to 70s soft rock, lots of familiar musical songs too.

Sh managed to find us just after mid-night. We were right near the stage.

The balloons had come down:

balloonsblog

Overhead are strung at intervals on the ceiling of the hall long waves of what look like cellophane wrapped scores and piles of balloons. At the final count of “one” and call “Happy New Year” someone (or more) lets them down. Then there is a free-for-all of balloon busting, balloon hitting, balloons floating in the air.

She came up just as people were making a mess of the floor & floating everywhere like balls. The three of us danced in circle. We were not so very drunk. The lines had been long for drinks and drinks not big. Actually we had scotch and ginger ale, not those thin things of champagne at $12.50 a pop.

We stayed not much longer afterward. My feet had had it, and I took my shoes off as I got onto the down escalator with its high rides. I didn’t want the heels to get caught.

Good news too. One of my Austen Reverie blogs, the latest, the essay on the Spanish-American re-cast of S&S, From Prada to Nada, has been published as an essay-review by BSECS on line:

From Prada to Nada:

What some light-editing and setting the paragraphs up conventionally will do! (On my blogs I use lines of stars between sections and within sections stills to mark turns of thought). I am chuffed.

And so I close with Burns’s great unbeatable song, which we sang at twelve, the three of us holding hands in the crowd singing too:

I

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindnes yet
For auld lang syne!

II

And surely you’ll be your pint-stoup,
And surely I’ll be mine;
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

III

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wandered mony a weary fit
Sin auld lang syne.

IV

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne!

V

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’thine;
And we’ll take a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

According to Chambers Scots Dictionary, a “willie-waught” is ” a hearty drink of any strong liquor.”

An Oxford edition of Burns (1904, ed. J. Logie Robertson), has an
indispensable glossary. Ursula Rempel beat me to the “hearty drink,” but I can add that “fiere” means “brother.” “Pu’d the gowans” means “picked the daisies,” and “paidled i’ the burn,” is “paddled in the stream.”

Must not forget footnotes.

We are off to Boston and the MLA tomorrow, back on Sunday.
Sylvia

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