A 26-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1977


Monday, August 1, 1977

Noon. I’m not used to living through a terrible time. It seems like terrible times have always been remembered and not experienced. Last night Mom and Dad came home from Miami, and they were both very depressed.

Nothing can be done for Grandpa Nat. He’s being kept alive, but in the doctor’s words, he’s “no longer a living, viable entity.” Dad came up to my room where I was in bed with my cold. He started to cry several times as he told me about his father.

At first, last Wednesday, Dad felt hopeful because Grandpa Nat seemed to recognize him. He appeared to be making some sense. He asked “Where’s my daughter?” He said “I hate you” to the nurses as he struggled with them. He wanted ice cream.

But day by day, Grandpa Nat seemed to show no improvement. The doctors discovered that his brain was badly damaged in the moments following the stroke.

Grandpa Nat had been playing cards and he made a stupid error: he went bait, and he threw his cards down on the table, completely disgusted with himself. His pride was hurt, and he was so angry with himself that he had a stroke.

He was dead for too long – about four minutes – when the Rescue Squad brought his heartbeat back, and he lost the use of much of his brain. Now he’s like a caged animal, bearing no relation to the man we knew. Mom said he looks like a monkey now: he scratches and growls and it takes four nurses to hold him down.

Yesterday the doctors told Dad that it would probably be best to let Grandpa Nat “die with dignity”: take away the intravenous, stop giving him antibiotics for the pneumonia that he’s developing, and just let the man die naturally.

Dad wanted to wait a few days to see if there’s any hope, but there doesn’t appear to be. Grandma Sylvia is a mess, of course, and Aunt Sydelle can’t handle her; they fight constantly. Dad felt he had to come back to New York to get some of his business accomplished, but he’s in terrible shape.

He was so close to his father, closer than he was to anyone else. They saw each other constantly, worked together, fought, worried together. Mom tells Dad that the person in the bed is not his father, and he’s really not.

I’m sure Grandpa Nat would want to die. I hope it won’t be much longer. He’s in no pain and isn’t aware of what’s going on, and that’s a blessing.

Grandpa Nat cried so whenever Dad left him: Driving out of the airport three weeks ago, after putting my parents on a plane to St. Maarten, he told Grandma Sylvia: “I don’t know what it is, I just miss Daniel so.”

Earlier that day, Grandpa Nat and Mom were taking a walk, and he stopped and turned to her and said, “I love you.” Mom cries now when she thinks about it: “I’ll never forgive myself for not saying ‘I love you, too.’”

This morning Mom asked me if I would write a eulogy when the time comes. She said the rabbis in Miami don’t know Grandpa Nat and they couldn’t talk about him the way I could. I don’t know if I could speak the words, but maybe I could.

The cold I have is just a physical symptom of my anguish: I feel awful, weak, totally debilitated. I’ve got to rest and regain my strength so I can help. It didn’t hit me until last night, but I’ve been totally devastated by this. I keep thinking of those Dylan Thomas poems: “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and “After the First Death, There Is No Other.”

Last night my dreams were horrible: each one was about a death or a funeral. I suppose it’s my brain’s way of helping me cope. I can’t believe Grandpa Nat will be dead soon. He was such a nice, hard-working, generous, excitable man. I don’t know how life will be without him.

Just now, Dad told me that his mother called to say Grandpa Nat actually was a little better today. They took him off the intravenous and he ate some lunch and didn’t throw himself so much.

But I can’t believe that he’ll survive; I can’t let myself believe it because the letdown would be so bad. Can one get used to living this way?

Tuesday, August 2, 1977

6 PM. It all seems very unreal these days. I just wish this ordeal would end already. Grandpa Nat does not seem to be responding, and it’s been two weeks since he had the stroke.

There can be no doubt now that the brain damage which resulted has left him not quite a person anymore. He’ll never be able to resume any kind of a normal life.

It kills me to see Dad so upset. It’s bad enough that he has to deal with the aggravation of splitting up the business with Max, but being here, thinking of his father, praying, despairing, crying – I don’t know how much more he can take.

Everyone’s showing a low profile and trying to help out as much as possible and not add more grief to the situation. My father has had such a bad year; the whole family has.

First Uncle Monty died a year ago, then the business went under, there was all that indecision and discussion this winter about moving to Florida. Everything seems so bleak, it’s hard not to be pessimistic.

I had a very bad night; my cold kept me awake. To be sick and unable to sleep in the middle of the night must be one of the closest things to hell on earth that there is. I feel lost, helpless, totally without direction.

Writing seems beyond my capabilities now. I’m glad I didn’t have to stay in bed today, that I could go downtown and sign for my unemployment check, that I could go shopping for Mom.

I even rode the bike for a few minutes this afternoon. But those moments of forgetfulness are like oases in a Sahara of despair. I wish I could accept things, but so far, I just can’t.

I’m very confused now, so much so that I greatly feel the need to talk to a therapist. I don’t know what I’m going to do about Bread Loaf, and I guess it depends on events. But I can’t psych myself up for going there and I’m unable to deal with my anxieties about it.

There’s no one I really can talk to. My sinuses are killing me. I’m sure this cold stems partly from an unconscious need to cry. But I can’t cry naturally, so in the middle of the night I stick Q-tips up my nostrils to force sneezes and my eyes water and that relieves the pressure in my head for a little while.

Every time the phone rings, my heart beats fast. I feel more sympathy for the young victims of Son of Sam than I ever would before all this. I pump vitamins and milk and soybeans into my mouth, hoping to keep from getting sicker.

I can’t make the slightest plan. Going to the dentist tomorrow seems to be a major effort. Mikey wants me to come with him and Larry to the movies tomorrow, and I’m supposed to have dinner at Libby’s on Tuesday, but I can’t deal with those things now.

I was half-counting on Exotic Beauties Press doing a collection of my stories, but now it looks out of the question. Tessa Marquis wrote me saying the usual things: they’re strapped financially, distribution is a problem, etc.

Harvey says he’s been doing nothing all summer and he’s decided that he can’t write except under pressure in a classroom situation – which means he’s not a writer. I don’t care much about the project anymore.

Gary tried to cheer me up, and he was a good listener, but he’s so depressed himself about not finding a job.

And Betty’s job didn’t work out; it was very unpleasant at that office, and her co-worker, a fiftyish woman started getting very friendly until Betty finally realized that the woman wanted a physical relationship, and that repelled her and she didn’t come in again.

Camus said the best way to make yourself useful in a difficult time is to do your job well. I tried to write a eulogy for Grandpa Nat, but no one else could read it but me, it’s so personal – and I don’t think I could stand up at his funeral, with his body in a coffin in front of me, without getting hysterical.

I’ve never really known death – I’ve been lucky – but I don’t know how to deal with it. My head is pounding. Maybe that’s how I deal with it.

Thursday, August 4, 1977

3 PM. I feel pain and almost nothing else. I don’t even know if this is my life anymore, it seems so different from what I’ve known. Physically I’m a wreck.

At least I was able to sleep last night: for twelve hours, and I only wish it could have been longer. After writing yesterday’s journal entry, the most difficult one in years, I did something I can’t remember ever doing before:

I shut the lights, drew the shades, got into bed, and started crying as best I could. I was so sick with grief that I began tearing the hair out of my head, trying to let the grief overwhelm me.

I think that’s the only thing I can do now: trust my feelings and that I’ll come out of it somehow if I only go with what it is I am feeling. This despair won’t kill me, I know, but at times it’s so overwhelming I’m afraid it might. Or maybe I’m afraid that I’ll survive.

I’m angry too; I recognize that. I’m angry at Grandpa Nat for getting sick and making the rest of us suffer so. It now appears that he’s not going to die immediately. The doctors now say he might not have had a stroke at all, just heart failure and the brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

He’ll never be the person we knew. Aunt Sydelle stupidly asked the doctors if he’ll be a “strong vegetable” – what a phrase. Grandpa Nat eats, but he’s like some animal or primitive savage, grunting, scratching, bellowing.

Oh God, I can’t believe this is happening. It’s something that happens only to other people.

Someone stole our milk from the box again today. When I went to buy cottage cheese, I took it home and found it was sour. More buildings were evacuated as bomb threats came in. Everything in this city is breaking down.

After the blackout, the lootings, the heat wave, Son of Sam’s murders and the bombings, the Daily News editorial said, “We Don’t Deserve This.” The city is dying.

New York always was hellish in August, but this year is the worst I can remember. Everyone’s nerves are raw. From the sagging economy to the energy shortage, it seems that good times are gone forever.

I can’t see the joke in these things anymore, and so I’m becoming bitter and stagnant. I cough, I sneeze, I blow my nose, I rest. It’s too humid to stay outside, and they say the air is unhealthy.

The soap operas go on, interrupted by news bulletins. Maybe if I can get out of New York, things will be better. Maybe if I can go to Bread Loaf . . .

I’ve decided to take the Greyhound bus to Middlebury rather than the car. I’ve been nervous about driving my falling-apart car all that distance, and I’ll be more at ease if I leave the driving to others.

I got a letter from The New Yorker today, not a form rejection but a personal note asking me to keep trying. But I don’t feel very pragmatic anymore. I thought of writing a story about Grandpa Nat telling Mom that he loved her and her not being able to tell it back to him, but I haven’t the energy. I can’t even read a book about Dostoevsky.

I don’t know what kind of dinner guest I’ll be at the Judsons’ tonight, but I’ll go. My head, stomach, chest, throat and sinuses all hurt, and my breath is foul, and I sweat all day. If I don’t go out of my mind, it will be a near-miracle.

If only I could accept all these things that are happening, but I can’t, and I’m scared of how all this will end and I’m very ashamed of myself, too, for being so self-pitying and unoptimistic.

I just have to close my eyes to everything and let it all work me over until there’s nothing more that can hurt me. Did I expect my life would be one continual progression? I’m in a hole here, and I know it.

At least the rain has gone. Perhaps things will be better in a week; if they’re not, I don’t know what state I’ll be in. I don’t know if my fears of having another breakdown are real or if they’re just showmanship.

I finished with the dentist today; he said to take care of my gums, so I’ve begun using dental floss.

Friday, August 5, 1977

4 PM. I have almost no energy now. I’ve been lying in bed for a couple of hours, unable to muster the strength to do much of anything. But emotionally, I am feeling better. I can feel myself wanting to get involved again. Eventually I’m going to get over this cold, and I no longer think I’m going to have a breakdown.

This morning I wrote a story, “Twenty Questions,” and that’s a good sign. My creativity is functioning again, even if only on a minimal level. Perhaps I sapped energy writing the story, but it was worth it.

Last evening Avis called just as I was about to leave for Libby’s house, and I told her I’d meet her there. Helmut let us in with his key. They had a nice trip and showed me their mosquito bites to prove it.

It was a tonic to see them again; they cheer me up so. They went to New Paltz and then to Lake Placid and the Adirondacks, where they hiked and camped out and met middle-American families and camp kids and saw Star Wars, which they hated. After going to Vermont, near where I’ll be in Middlebury, the two of them arrived home yesterday.

On Sunday they’ll take the train to Charlottesville, where they’ll stay with Ellen and Wade for a week, and then the next week the four of them will stay in a rented beachhouse on Cape Hatteras.

Libby had been planning for a quiet dinner for just the two of us in her room, so she was surprised to see Avis and Helmut there. But the food stretched to feed four, all of us helping Libby prepare the meal: zucchini and onions, and creamed mushroom on toast.

We ate in the living room while chatting and watching idiotic TV like The Keane Brothers. Libby had a great time with Mason in New Jersey last weekend. She’s such a sweet, wonderful person I don’t know what I’d do without her.

And Wayne and Libby’s mother are like my second family. Mrs. Judson was the one person I felt I could really open up to about Grandpa Nat. If I ever get any money in this life, I’d like to do something nice for Judsons to repay them in some way for what they’ve done for me.

Helmut, Avis, Libby and I sat on the stoop for several hours. I didn’t smoke a joint with them because I didn’t want them to catch my cold. Helmut and I discussed politics and everything else, and I’ve never had such good conversations. We all had a very pleasant, very mellow time.

I forgot about my depression to the point where I was racing Avis and Helmut down Ocean Parkway; they were going to Avis’s parents’ for the night. I felt relieved of a great weight, and it was such a lovely night, I drove all the way down and walked on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach for a while, feeling much better.

Back at home, I received a call from Harvey, who told me he’s been in touch with Laurie, who’s back from California, and with Ron, and they’ve agreed to set up a meeting next week. No real work on the anthology will be done until the fall, when they have their second-year MFA workshops, but at least we should get something moving soon.

Today I woke up late and wrote the story before breakfast; perhaps that’s what drained me so. When Gary called, as usual, he was very sympathetic about Grandpa Nat.

Gary must be frustrated about his job-hunting, and I’m afraid I couldn’t be as comforting to him as he was to me. Today he was taking the day off and hanging around the house with Betty. I told Gary I hoped to see him soon.

Alice phoned from work, and she was very nice to me, too. Friends are wonderful. There are so many people who’ve stuck by me in these bad times, and I shouldn’t forget that.

Alice is totally disgusted with Kenny; now she thinks he’ll never get moving on the score of the show. He talked big at the beginning, but Alice was more enthusiastic and ready to go than Kenny had bargained for, and now she’s the one pushing him to produce.

If he doesn’t move soon, she’s going to tell him to forget about it. “He’s full of excuses,” Alice said, “and I can’t work with someone who gets discouraged so easily.”

Alice told me Andreas is back and she’s seeing him tonight, but that not much else is happening in her life at the moment.

It’s been raining and lightning and thundering all afternoon. Tomorrow, if my strength is up, I’ll go to the beach with Helmut and Avis. The cold has settled in my chest and is causing this damnable lethargy.

Sunday, August 7, 1977

10 PM. I know I’ve licked my depression because I’ve written two seven-page stories today. One, “A Hard Woman,” was a straight-laced character sketch (using a fairly old-fashioned device to set the “scenes”); the other, “When the Values Go Up, Up, Up,” was zany, probably too immature and satirical.

But I’m writing again, and I believe in myself, and that’s the important thing. I was just reading an interesting article on drama in the Times, about post-Einstein theater.

I think fiction writers can no longer pretend we live in a Newtonian universe where cause leads to effect. No, things just happen today. The other three Great Jews (besides Einstein) gave us this:

Follow Jesus of Nazareth and live a good life and you will be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven; follow Karl Marx and live the socialist life and we will all be equal and happy on earth; follow Sigmund Freud and unearth your past life and things will get better.

But Christianity, communism and psychoanalysis have all been discredited by now. Einstein’s special theory of relativity hasn’t been: things seem to happen at random, for no apparent reason.

Life is much more uncertain and dangerous, but it’s also much more interesting.

I spoke to Avis, Helmut, Libby and Mason in turn today as Avis called from Penn Station on their way to Charlottesville. I hope I’ll see them on the day before Avis and Helmut leave for Europe.

Avis and Helmut have made my summer, whatever else happens. I’m going to miss them terribly.

Last night I had a long conversation with Alice. She’s decided to write a book. June convinced her that they both have power as editors at Seventeen and that they should use it.

Alice figured a book interviewing teenaged models would be a natural for her, so she started calling editors, using her title and telling them her idea. She was surprised at the positive response she got.

Alice had lunch with the juvenile editor at Bantam the other day and will be meeting with others soon. Alice is also anxious to leave Seventeen for greener fields and will be having lunch with Aaron Schindler, the big cheese at Family Circle, to see if he’s got anything (or knows of anything) for her.

Alice has totally given up on her show-writing partner Kenny; she can’t wait for him to get moving on the play, so that whole thing is over. Alice likes writing lyrics, though, and wants to do a musical with someone.

Josh called this afternoon and we went to Kings Plaza for lunch. Every day he works at the hospital, he’s getting more frustrated at his job. He’ll send out a new résumé soon, but he doesn’t have high hopes.

Stephanie, Josh’s 30-year-old girlfriend (she’s got a 10-year-old daughter and a husband who lives with her best friend, “a Norwegian goddess I want to fuck”), is in love with him, and he doesn’t like that.

Today Josh paid me what was for him a high compliment: he said in a way I was more of a rebel than he was. I would never settle for a “straight” job on a magazine or advertising.

When Josh says he’s poor and earning $200 a week, when Alice and Scott and others tell me they can’t be satisfied with their salaries which are more than I’ve ever dreamed of, I get depressed and feel that I’m so far behind other people my age.

I show no signs of upward mobility; I live with my parents and subsist in New York on my five dollars a day. But I wouldn’t trade this life for $200 a week and a Manhattan apartment. Three hundred dollars a week? Maybe. No, not really.

All I really need is the freedom to write. And I have that, largely due to the understanding of my parents. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize how incredibly supportive they are, and how much I owe them.

Now I’m well enough physically and emotionally, to deal with the problems of sex. I realize, on a hot and humid day like today, how much I need to be with a guy. All those muscles and shoulders and chests and legs I see all day: I look at them without any guilt, just simple, uncomplicated longing.

I got a letter from this guy, another Steve, whose ad in the Voice I answered. He sounds really nice: 24, 5’9”, 135 pounds, into Germany, the ocean, writing. I tried calling him several times today but got no answer.

Wednesday, August 10, 1977

5 PM. A strange day. I’ve just come back from making the funeral arrangements for Great-Uncle Abe, who died this afternoon in the hospital. I went with Grandpa Herb and Great-Uncle Irving, driving them in Grandpa’s car to Far Rockaway, to the Riverside chapel.

It was all very matter-of-fact. I was glad to go because I think it’s important to learn how to do something like that. We chose the cheapest casket they had, a plain wooden one, for $185.

I wanted to make sure they didn’t rip off Grandpa Herb, who’ll be the one responsible for the bill. So I told the funeral director we didn’t need a limousine or other frills. He seemed to be annoyed with me for taking charge, and with Uncle Irving for backing me up.

To my mind, there’s no point in spending so much money on a funeral. But still, when they added up all the items, it came to $1,300 and they want Grandpa Herb to give them a $1,000 check tomorrow.

God, it seems so expensive to die. I asked about a less expensive funeral, and the man, a guy my own age, said, “Sure, for $400 we can take the body, put in the grave in a cardboard box. But that’s not a funeral, it’s a disposal.” He said the last word with a sneer.

It was eerie to go down in the elevator, the man, Grandpa Herb, Uncle Irving and I, into this room where all the caskets were. Some were plush and magnificent and cost $1,000.

Grandpa Herb told the funeral director, “Well, it’s his young kids’ money, and we don’t want to take it away from them,” and Uncle Irving said sharply, rightly so, “You don’t have to explain it to them.”

We filled out all the forms: giving Uncle Abe’s next of kin, his parents’ name (I knew Bubbe Ita’s maiden name because of my research on the Katzman genealogy).

Uncle Abe belonged to the Knights of Pythias, and they have a plot for him out in New Montefiore Cemetery, in Suffolk (near where Uncle Monty was buried last year).

Back at the apartment in Rockaway, Grandma Ethel was very upset; it was she whom the hospital called to tell the news to. Abe’s sisters Aunt Tillie and Aunt Minnie were crying, but not as much as Grandma Ethel.

They’d all seen him in the past two days and he was really bad. Michael and Eddie couldn’t be located, but Aunt Betty managed to get hold of Michael’s girlfriend Meryl, who finally called us.

Luckily Michael had planned to come back to Brooklyn tonight; he doesn’t have a phone where he goes to school in Jersey. Eddie is at work, or he was then.

Abe suffered so. He got sick eight years ago, then his wife died suddenly; these last three years were pure hell for him. Tomorrow at noon is the funeral.

Dad just spoke to Grandma Sylvia; Aunt Sydelle came back to New York today, but Grandma Sylvia is managing on her own. A man who also lives at the condominium drove her to the nursing home today.

Grandma Sylvia says sometimes Grandpa Nat makes sense when he talks to her, and other times he doesn’t. He waved to her when she left today and then went back to watching TV.

I feel crushed by the weight of all this pain, but unlike the way I felt a week ago, I don’t feel like giving up. I was looking forward to meeting that guy Steve tomorrow and now that’s impossible. Probably I’ll never get to meet him now.

Tonight I’m obligated to Laurie and Harvey to go to Ron’s house, and I will go but I’ll try to leave as early as I can.

Today was so humid and cloudy. Last night I dreamed Marc and Deanna got married and had a baby. Mom says that dream may come true: Marc’s talking about marriage if he can set himself up financially if Dad’s deal with Jimmy ever comes off.

I think Marc and Deanna just may just be able to have a good marriage. She’s utterly naïve, if not dumb, but a sweeter person one could not imagine. Deanna could become someone like Grandma Ethel, with almost a saintly personality.

Of course, saintly people are prone to headaches, upset stomachs and high blood pressure because they never can express their anger.

I feel so confused. All these unexpected things have happened this summer. Now I’m supposed to be going to Bread Loaf and I’m not sure I want to. But maybe getting away is exactly what I need.

Today I did a self-interview, a half-serious parody of literary interviews. It’s a style – the whole question-and-answer mode – that I find easy to make fun of and work with. It’s just flexing literary muscles rather than literature.

Thursday, August 11, 1977

10 PM. It’s times like this when I feel most acutely the inadequacy of the diary form, and even the inadequacy of words. There are many sense-impressions of today, and I can’t possible write them all.

How can I describe and make coherent, make sense of, the events of today and last night: the meeting at Ron’s house, driving home with Laurie and Harvey, today’s funeral and the people there and all that happened, the news of the capture of son of Sam, Libby’s call, Alice’s visit, the scene at Grandma Ethel’s apartment after the funeral, my inability to reach Steve and the knowledge that now I won’t ever meet him, and Panache coming out with my story?

It’s all too much and too various to be described.

Well, let me try to describe the funeral. I picked up Michael and his girlfriend at Meryl’s house in Far Rockaway; Eddie followed us in a car with his friends as we drove to the chapel. Eddie looks like Michael: ruddy, mustached, but thinner, quieter.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Betty were there already, and soon the others came. Chuck got grey and heavier; he’s a doctor now, I think. His wife introduced me to their two children, Scott and Jody; her oldest son wasn’t there.

Chuck’s sister doesn’t speak to our family, starting with my grandparents, but I did talk to her two younger children, Glen and Tracy, who were cute and tall.

The great-aunts – Betty and Minnie and Tillie and Grandma Ethel – were crying a little, but nobody got very emotional. Outside of Uncle Abe’s four siblings and their families, there were only a few others at the funeral: Grandma Ethel’s brother Uncle Paul and Aunt Rose; Aunt Betty’s sister and brother-in-law; a couple of friends of the boys; Irene Krasner.

In the chapel, I sat next to Marc, who was sort of appalled at the very simple – I guess I should say cheap – casket I picked out for Uncle Abe. But Mom said simplicity was in tune with Orthodox Judaism.

The service was short. Earlier, the rabbi had got all the information about Abe from Grandpa Herb and Michael, and I guess he inserted the names of Abe’s sons and siblings into a prepackaged speech that had all the usual homilies about memory being the important thing and what makes us immortal.

We had a six-car funeral procession along the Southern State to the cemetery. Michael and Meryl rode with me, and we talked about the arrest of David Berkowitz, a 24-year-old Yonkers postman, a psycho who was the .44-caliber killer. (Tonight I was surprised to find the story so played up on the national TV and even in the foreign press.)

The cemetery services were one, two, three – after the rabbi finally found the right funeral, that is. We all drove back to Rockaway to Grandma Ethel’s home to have some food.

Grandpa Herb had sprayed the mirrors with some cleanser, but although they lit the Yahrzeit candles, I don’t think any of them will really sit shiva, having been raised by my atheist great-grandfather.

The Sarrett family members are all a little “off”; even Grandpa Herb, as wonderful as he is (he gave me $15 “for your trip”) can say things that will make your hair stand on end.

Uncle Jack is using his illness in a very crafty way. He pretends not to know people: when he saw Dad, Jack said, “You look familiar,” and I could see Grandpa Herb thinking, Oh my God, my brother’s so sick he doesn’t recognize people.

But I’m sure Jack was just doing that so he could get away with saying the most outrageous things. For example, Jack yelled at me, “Who gave you permission to butter that toast?” and I just chuckled, but people like Arlyne think that he’s senile and out of his mind.

Minnie and Irv talked about their days on the kibbutz, and I chatted with Arlyne, who for a change, didn’t lecture me that much. I felt better towards her because she was telling me about her children’s problems in a way that made her seem fair-minded and compassionate.

Eddie sat on the terrace, very quiet. I guess he was thinking about his father. Abe was the gentlest man I ever knew, and I’ll always remember him fondly. He was Bubbe Ita’s favorite child.

Well, at least all his suffering is over (“He would come right out and say it: ‘I have cancer,’” Tillie marveled) and he’s buried next to his Annette, the “Nettie” of the poems in his wallet.

All through the services, I couldn’t think of the coffin as containing anyone’s body; to me, it just seemed to be there as a reminder. Last night Laurie said the worst part is that the dead person doesn’t just dematerialize, and she told me how she freaked out when a delivery man brought a parcel containing her little sister’s ashes.

I left Grandma Ethel’s at 6:30 PM. Vermont and Bread Loaf seem quite far away right now, but I’ll be there very soon. There’s so much I have to think about.