Saturday, August 21, 2021

Absence

We know how Nature feels about a vacuum. Human nature feels the same way. And here I am trying to fathom this enormous absence in my life. Of course, it can never be filled.

Peggy is both here and not here. I hear her and see her in every room. When a new flower opened its throat this morning, I wanted her to hear it sing.

She is nowhere and everywhere at once. Maybe she’s on that bus to elsewhere. There are glue sticks and number two pencils scattered about at the ready for her jottings and pastings. Her Commonplace Books numbered twelve over the years. They are compendiums of her passions, obsessions, notable paper, collages, clippings……..anything that grabbed her and caused a spark. Open any one and you know her, almost but not quite.

I’ve been looking through a file she kept called literary correspondence. There are letters from Saul Bellow, Wendell Berry, John Banville and Penelope Lively to name a few. When she read a book she admired, she’d track down the author’s address and let him/her know. She often included a poem written for the author with her letter.

Call it a healthy chutzpah. As a teenager she attended Broadway shows by slipping in during intermission. I guess she never saw act one. When the curtain went down, she’d go backstage and meet the actor. I found letters from Vincent Price, Robert Morley …..and Kathryn Cornell who advised her not to pursue a career on stage because she was too tall. Morley said it wasn’t wise to meet the actor because she’d always be disappointed, particularly in him.

She also interviewed Orson Welles, just six years older, when he was a wunderkind on stage, screen and radio. They charmed each other. Fortunately, he married Rita Hayworth instead.

She met Maurice Evans and Joseph Schildkraut ( a leading- man no longer a household name) even courted her as did Jerry Gray, Glenn Miller’s arranger.

Having noted all the above there is still so much more beyond those encounters. She had over twenty almost sons and daughters. Friends, a generation younger, who received her nurturing and regarded her as a role-model. Woody Allen once quipped that his only regret in life is that he’s not someone else. Peggy might have said her overwhelming gratitude in life is that she was fully herself. 

For many years we started play-reading groups. At one point we had three of them going at once. Three or four couples would meet with the host choosing a play and casting it. No rehearsal; we just discovered the character as we stumbled and bumbled along, hamming it up.

Having experienced a kind of abandonment as an orphan she became a world-class list-maker. Every film seen got written down along with every book she read and even every friend.

The vault is rich and overflowing. Release is not an operative word for me. There is evidence of her in every drawer and every shelf. I want her close. I want her breath to inhale. Her creatives bursts. Her vehemence. How reverence came to her so naturally along with an effervescent imagination. She saw the leaf as a fish and allowed it to swim back again as a leaf.

Peggy was thrilled when my daughter, Shari, arranged for her favorite Irish singing group, Celtic Thunder, to send her their greetings. An envelope arrived a few weeks ago with autographed pictures and a note of their appreciation. Peggy’s penultimate entry in her journal was, I’m a hundred year-old teenager. In fact, she was of every age and no age.

 

 

3 comments:

  1. About 10 years ago Peggy wrote a poem in response to one of Richard Powers' novels, The Time of Our Singing, and sent it to him. He responded with much appreciation. He lived in my community at that time, and I approached him after a choral concert and described, as best I could, the person from whom that poem emanated. He was delighted, again, to say the least.

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  2. I love it, David. Did Peggy know of this?

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  3. "She saw the leaf as a fish..." -- such an exquisite description of dear Peggy. This piece is such a wonderful tribute to your amazing Peggy.

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