'And while I'm away
Dust out the demons inside
And it won't be long before you and me run
To the place in our hearts where we hide
I guess that's why they call it the blues'.
Joan Didion has given us her best, she has humbled us with her honesty of her inner world. In this second book after the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne in 2003, after which she wrote 'The Year Of Magical Thinking', her daughter, Quintana Roo, died. How could anyone survive this kind of grief? In 'Magical Thinking' she wrote about her grief and how she coped, but now we know that was just the beginning of her grief. She is now in the midst of her grief for the two beloved people in her life, and does grief ever leave, do you move on and do the memories suffice? Joan Didion shares her experiences.
Joan Didion opens the book talking about the Night Blues. She says, " In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue." It is a period of time to get through, and in this case with Quintana Roo, when someone dies, don't dwell on it. Joan was thirty-one when she received the call that a baby girl was ready for adoption. She and her husband rushed to see her, and they knew immediately that she was the one. They had at one time been in Mexico when they noted on a map, these words 'Quintana Roo'. A place, and they were determined to name their daughter if they had one, that exact name. Quintana Roo grew up to be a very precocious young thing. Ready to do the unexpected at any time. She became an adult, her other family, the other parents, found her and she had a relationship of sorts with them for a short time. She realized she was not capable of this type of relationship and it was short lived. She married and within a few months she was in an ICU fighting for her life. She was in a coma, when her father, John Dunne died. Joan told her daughter about her father's death when she awoke from her coma. And, then, within a short period of time Quintana was back in an ICU dying. Joan Didion remembers her daughter in bits and pieces, telling us of their life together. The memories are everywhere, but they are not enough.
Joan Didion tells us, "I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them. As the pages progressed it occurred to me that their actual subject was not children after all, at least not children per se, at least not children qua children: their actual subject was this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death. This fear." The fear of fragility, the fear of living and the fear of being. Joan wonders, as we all do, was she a good mother, was she enough, did she give her daughter everything she needed? There are no answers, there is only the honesty of her words as she expresses herself. She only knows she misses her daughter, every day, every hour and every minute.
It does not matter from whence we came, we all have the same needs, and we all want our lives to be successful, and our children to carry on. It is not something to bear, that of a parent burying their child. I can only imagine that kind of loss. The fear that Joan Didion speaks to, is the fear for what is still to be lost.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 11-01-11
The Year of Magical Thinking
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction (Everyman's Library)