from the Old French essai, an attempt,
from the Latin exagium, a weighing
Cynthia Ozick, an American essayist, describes the act of writing an essay as “walking around a thought.” The words of my husband are the thoughts around which I walk. Over the seventeen years of his dementia, Dick spoke or wrote the words that entitle all of my essays. His observations, neologisms, notes, jokes, songs, and anguished cries appear within the essays, as well. I shaped his sentences into some kind of order in the midst of dementia’s disorder. Often, I wrote onto the silence of a blank page in the silence of the night, while my husband slept.
As I worked my way through the essays, I realized that not only are they written about my husband, they’re also written to him. As such, they resemble a literary apostrophe, a passage in a poem or play in which the speaker addresses someone who isn’t present. I’m addressing my late husband.
I wrote to make amends to him, for the unraveling of my patience, for my vexed mutterings, and for my fitful flare-ups, fueled and fanned by fear. I also wanted to declare my gratitude for his steadfastness during our time together—including the years of his dementia. To reassure him that I survived, my joie de vivre unscathed. To say, once again, that our love abides.
Featured image: Raphael. Seated Youth Writing in Book, 17th/18th c. The Art Institute of Chicago
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