Antidote to Loneliness

During my week alone I cleaned and sorted and filed all kinds of things and came upon this poem that our Uncle Ed had saved among his papers.

He lived alone for 20 years – more  even.

Ever since 1991, when his beloved wife Fran had to go into a nursing home with her Alzheimer’s, and then for the 12 years after she died and before he followed her into death this past April.

I remember sending him it.

My daughter had sent it to me.

Between me and other family members, we saw him four days a week but I suspect the other days were long indeed.

I hope that it comforted him and that he believed its message. Anyway here it is.

It’s called ‘Everything is Waiting for You’ and it’s by David Whyte.

Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone. As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice. You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into

the conversation. The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last. All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Buried Alive

Grey Gardens boy: I bet I’ve watched both the HBO dramatization and the original documentary about that sad old story a dozen times. There’s something so haunting about the relationship between Edie the elder and her daughter. Poor Edie Jr., 40 years after this picture was taken, walking around with one skirt functioning as a head scarf to hide her baldness and a second upside-down skirt pinned around her torso. Poor both of them, hiding in that bewitched Sleeping Beauty castle of a house, holed up in a single room on bare filthy mattresses surrounded with cat waste. It’s like some nightmare about the future that could fill you with stark terror as you slept.

At one point in the documentary the two are talking of marriage and Edie Jr.’s unmarried state, she who said she could have married any number of men if she hadn’t been prevented by her various dark forces including her abandoning father; could even have married Joe Kennedy and been First Lady like her beautiful cousin Jacqueline. That abandoning father and husband, that Phelan Beale:  listen to what gets said about him by the two and about marriage in general. This is what I copied down from the 1974 documentary and not HBO’s re-creation. It’s Edie Jr. speaking first, in that hoity-toity accent she assumes when she dwells on lost glories.

“My father believed in ruining his children’s lives,” she says. Then, in an odd non-sequitur, “He wanted me to get a Masters Degree.”

“You were scared of your father,” says Edie Senior who with her wispy hair and her ruined partly nude  body seems much more down-to earth. Back to Edie Jr now: 

“He said the only thing to BE was a professional woman. He did say that, didn’t he, mother? He didn’t want me to get married.”

And the mother says, “I don’t think it’s important for people to get married. I don’t believe that at all. Don’t you want some of this butter pecan?[eating ice cream straight from the carton] “Mmmmm!”

“If you can’t get a man to propose to you you might as well be dead,” says Edie Jr. “These women who don’t marry, what are they proving? I think it’s disgusting! They have to go around with dogs or other women… It’s disgusting!”

But dogs are lovely!” says her mother. “I’ll take a dog any day!” She could have been saying all that in this shot here:

Only the whole time neither is looking at the other, or at the camera. The surviving Maysles brothers says in the commentary on the Grey gardens DVD that they often didn’t seem to be even thinking about what they were saying much less listening to each other. It harrows me. When people get marooned and sealed away as the old and the forgotten often do: the thought just harrows me.


 the real Maysles with their real subjects

and below here, the real Edie I think, and not Drew Barrymore playing her