My favorite parts of Blue Nights, Joan Didion’s memoir on her daughter Quintana’s death.
Do not whine, I write on an index card. Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.
I have watched tears flood the eyes of grown women, loved women, women of talent and accomplishment, for no reason other than that a small child in the room, more often than not an adored niece or newphew, as just described them as “wrinkly,” or asked how old they are.
It was a time of my life during which I actually believed that somewhere between frying the chicken to serve on Sara Mankiewicz’s Minton dinner plates and buying the Porthault parasol to shade the beautiful baby girl in Saigon I had covered the main “motherhood” points.
The very definition of success as a parent has undergone a telling transformation: we used to define success as the ability to encourage the child to grow into independent (which is to say into adult) life, to “raise” the child, to let the child go.
A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
My mother’s name was already on the marble wall at St. John the Divine.
John’s name was already on it.
There had been two spaces remaining, the names not yet engraved.
Now there was one.
baffle (n.) Something that balks, checks, or deflects.