For months, Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update anchor Chevy Chase would look into the camera and announce “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”

Steve and I were high school juniors back in the fall of 1975 when Franco died. We would watch the show each week in his parents’ basement at least through the fake news cast. This line resonated with us.

The line may have been created in reaction to all of those death watch stories where we were told week after week prominent aging or sickly person “is still alive”.

Hearing week after week that Spanish dictator Franco was “still dead” was pretty funny. It was a fact that didn’t need restating. After all, once you’re dead there’s no real need for an update. Things may change about your legacy or former possessions or family and friends. But you don’t have much of a choice. You remain dead.

Except that that’s not really the way it is for the family of a dead person.

After Elena died, friends suggested books that we should read. One of them was Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking.” At one point I picked it up and started reading it. I wasn’t ready then. I’m may be ready now.

This morning, CBS Sunday Morning ran a story on a one woman play based on Didion’s book starring Vanessa Redgrave. The story showed Redgrave on a sparse stage talking about shoes. She just couldn’t give away her dead husband’s shoes. What would he wear when he returned.

And that is the year of magical thinking. It’s what Kim and I have struggled with for a little more than a year now. In the news story, Didion puts words to this vague feeling that Kim and I have not been able express.

“I discovered that, literally, I was holding two contradictory ideas in my mind at the same time. One was that he was dead and the other was that he would come back. And I don’t mean come back in some — I’m not talking about religious resurrection. I’m talking about come back. Walk in the door. Wondering why I had given away his shoes, you know?”

And so thirteen months later, Elena Maxine is still dead. I think, however, upstairs in her closet we still have her shoes.

Published in: on March 25, 2007 at 10:04 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I read Didion’s book about 6 months after Elena died. I’d heard great things about it and was looking for some shred of solace. I found a few passages, like the one you include, that were poignant. But in general, I felt dissatisfied and disappointed when I finished the book. I have an idea why that is. I’d become accustomed to the mix of expressiveness, storytelling, recounted conversations, raw emotion, and humor present in your writing. Love you.

  2. For me, it’s a matter of impulsively (still) wanting to pick up the phone and see if my sister wants to go out for breakfast or go to the mall. I’ve been wondering how it’s been going for you.

  3. Many of us have been wondering. I truly hope you are doing well.
    The first day of the new school year has come and gone. I know you’ve written in the past of school routines, transitions, and changed futures. I hope you were able to find some measure of peace on a day when the absence was (probably) so very palpable.

    Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. ~C.S. Lewis

    Daniel, I’m amazed at the quality and tremendous friendship of the people who surround you. I hope you let them help you when they can.

  4. I’m glad you’re back. I had been checking daily, then weekly and then sporadically, not because I didn’t care, because I had decided that you were “done” with the blog. I’m glad I checked today.

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