Pages

Sunday, July 16, 2017

(5) OH-OH. WHAT WERE THOSE FLASHING LIGHTS IN MY REAR-VIEW MIRROR?

June 28, 1988 
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher     
     Since writing my 17 June letter, I have read the section from your discovering at Smith that you are pregnant to your reconciliation with Ed in Florida.  I felt at the end as if I had read Macbeth without the king's murder.       
     You sent me that section, I seem to recall, after I had twice pressed you to explain why you left Ed and went back to your mother in Florida.  The section I have just read does not explain that at all.
     Thinking back over it, the only explanation I can conjure up for your leaving Ed is that he committed one heinous, unforgivable act that you are unwilling to write down.   Further, Ed's persistence in wooing you thereafter seems to me explainable only on the theory that he knows you are deeply  pissed off at one heinous, unforgivable act, and hopes you will  soon see it in perspective.
     I'm less sure, but I suspect your mother's attitude toward Ed can also be explained on the grounds that she knew something I don't know. Finally, I can conjure up only one explanation for your reticence, and it is one I respect and agree with; nothing in this book must demean Ed.
     So what is to be done?
     The problem is to give readers, via a flashback, some sense of how you and Ed reached the point at which the book began‑‑the boat and plane point. I suggest we put that issue off until the end of my preliminary consultant-ship‑‑that is, until I've edited a chapter or two and prepared a Table of Contents.  You may, however, want to think about it in the meantime.
Enclosed:  Preliminary Letter of Agreement
July 6, 1988  
Weymouth                                        
To Ed Brecher
     If I may indulge in an adverbial cliche, your "Preliminary Letter of Agreement" sounds eminently fair.  Ed agrees. He was here for dinner the day I got your letter. 
     Re the added thoughts in your June 28 letter, it is true that I have abridged large portions of my diary, not because of any unforgivable act on Ed's part but because they were poorly written self‑involved, self-congratulatory tripe.  I am much more embarrassed by my younger self than by Ed's.  There were, however, many things about Ed that aggravated me and led me to the conviction that I would never marry him.       
     Perhaps sharing some of my more negative entries will make it clearer why I left Ed.  I was sorry for him, I longed for him physically and emotionally, but I was far from sure I wanted to forget about college and settle for being Ed's wife.  Or, as they would say today, to make a lifelong commitment. In those days commitment was associated more with mental institutions than with marriage. I wanted another chance to see what would happen if I were free again.  Without Mother's support, I would have had to remain in the trap I had dug for myself.
     Ed will be picking me up shortly so that I can accompany him to Massachusetts General for another doctor's appointment.  More tests tomorrow, including a stress test, will help diagnose the symptoms he has had for the past few weeks.  He fainted in Florida last month and has been feeling a tightness in his chest when he walks even a short distance.  This is his second trip north to consult with various specialists.  His heart seems to be fine; his liver we're not so sure about.  It was in bad shape at the time of his prostate operation a year ago, so he reduced his alcohol consumption by a good deal.
     Can you imagine this?  Ed wanted to park his car at a subway station and take the train to Charles Street rather than "interfere with your golf" or inconvenience anyone else in the family.  I finally convinced him I needed to be with him during these worrisome appointments.
     Yes, I love that man and want his warmth at least on the fringes of my life for as many years as possible.
     I'm betting you could write about Sunny Nook's nudist colony if you felt like it.  Your description of your psychotic visitor of a few months ago was masterly; I enjoyed every nuance.  Now I'm curious about those terrible three days that you wouldn't have missed for the world and trust you'll describe them when we meet in person.
July 28, 1988  
Weymouth                                       
To Ed Brecher
     Every time you look for a trickle of insight with your divining rod, you are inundated with a gusher.  Again I must apologize.  As I went through my diaries looking for answers to your questions, I found myself increasingly reluctant to leave out irrelevant material.  I knew that what would be dull to anyone else would someday interest my grandchildren and great‑grand-children. 
     I thought, what the heck, why not go ahead and record most of this stuff while the computer is hot?  One good reason why not is my long‑suffering editor.  I wish I trusted my own editing skills enough to extract what might be useful to you and send it along in a small thin envelope, but I can't guess what portions, if any, will clear up what puzzles you. 
     I confess to an uncomfortable blow‑your‑own horn feeling about many of these recollections but have left them in, counting on your continued tolerance.  Perhaps I can be forgiven such endearments of my mother's as her "dear little head" now that I am half a century older.  In truth, I feel as if I was the mother of my former self, and my daughter had rocks in her dear little head.
     Ed has been at Mass General Hospital for three weeks, a nervous wreck while he waits for triple‑by‑pass surgery to be scheduled.  By his own admission, he doesn't have the resources for such a trial.  I offered to help him pass the time by teaching him how to use this computer, a fascinating invention, but he wasn't interested. He wants only for the damn doctors to get their act together so he can go back to Florida. A nurse said to him, "When is it you expect to have surgery, Mr.  Malley?"  He gave her a wry look and said, "When you're a grandmother."                  
     Aliceann came north a week ago, when we thought he was finally going to have the operation.  Then the surgeon decided he didn't like the look of Ed's carotid arteries report and called off the heart surgery.  Two days of conferences were followed by the decree that Ed will have back‑to‑back operations for both problems tomorrow.  Is there a God who hears our prayers?  Long ago I came to a conclusion that satisfies me:  Who knows?  I'm putting all my faith in the doctors at Mass General and in Ed's stubbornness.  If you don't hear from me within a few days, you'll know he's fine.  
Next day
     Ed called at 9:30 last night to "say goodbye" (no, no, Ed fare well), and to thank me for all the happy years we had together.  I told him I'd just finished writing about our courtship and was more than ever aware of how much I loved him and how difficult I'd been  (Never, he said).  He asked me to pray for him.  I am.
August 6, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     I see no alternative to telling you the truth.
     At 4:00 a.m. on July 3, while a houseguest of my friend Joan in New Haven, I awoke with a pain in my chest which I recognized as a mycocardial infarct—having had similar pains in 1972 and 1980.  I waited an hour to be sure, then wakened Joan and was driven to the Yale‑New Haven Hospital Emergency Room . . .    
     Since then, my friends have been doing their best to kill me off.  Six days after my infarct and two days after my return from  the hospital, a dozen of them turned up to give me a 77th  birthday party, which I barely managed to survive.  The day after they left, a clinical psychologist named Ruth arrived from California for a four‑day visit.  Joan came a day or two later for a family weekend with my three sons and their three women and their twin Golden Retriever bitches.    
     Then on Monday, my beloved Rainbow, whom I almost married back in 1968, arrived from Amsterdam (where she lives on a houseboat tethered in the harbor).  She stayed a few days, then drove me up to Vermont for another few days on Lake Champlain; we said goodbye in Burlington and I drove home (stopping en route to visit Londa, who first seduced me back in 1968 when she was 23 and I was 57; I also stopped by to see Carol, with whom I fell in love on the eve of my surgery for colon cancer, back in 1978).  All of this was punctuated by angina attacks every day or two, and occasionally two in one day.
     On my return home, I found your letter and enclosures.  So far I've read only the letter.
     Please give my good wishes to your Ed, and my hope for our joint speedy recovery.  I'm sorry to dump my troubles on you in addition to his; but c'est la vie.
     As you can imagine, my desk has been piling up while I've been entertaining and gallivanting.  This morning I drafted some testimony on drug laws I'm slated to give in Washington in September and there are a few other urgent matters‑‑but I expect by mid‑August to have an empty house and a clear desk so that I can devote full time to Great White Eagle.  I can't be sure, of course, but I can assure you that I'm chafing to get started and eager to do a good job.
     I have a marvelous internist who was also Ruth's internist during her terminal cancer illness in 1965‑66.  I told him then that if he ever moved away, I'd move with him.  I felt that way again last week when I told him I plan to manage my next heart attack at home in lieu of hospitalization.  Instead of arguing, he wrote me a prescription for nitroglycerin, for use in the event of cardiac pain.
August 11, 1988  
Weymouth
To Ed Brecher                                 
    Torn between Happy Birthday and Speedy Recovery cards, I decided you deserved both.  Your letter was waiting for me when I returned from an early celebration of my 67th birthday‑‑early because a friend was about to leave for Nova Scotia with another friend.  The latter instead went to the hospital to undergo emergency heart surgery.  As you said, C'est la vie.  How do you say Screw the Golden Years in French?
     Have you always celebrated your birthdays with a bang?   Starting when you were thirteen, no doubt.  I suggest that you try taking it easy on your eighty‑fifth, since your infarct episodes seem to occur octennially.  As I'll then be turning seventy‑five, we could toast each other with Postum. Meanwhile, pass the champagne! 
P.S.  Ed was discharged from the hospital last Monday.  He tires easily, still feels weak but hopes the doctor will let him return to Florida on Saturday. 
August 27, 1988   
Weymouth
To Ed Brecher
     Here is a note that needs no answer.  I wanted you to know I'm thinking about you and hoping the worrisome episodes with your heart are behind you ‑‑ for good.  Mom had nitroglycerin tablets tucked away in several places in our Cohasset house and in her car, as well.  I worried about her driving, but she said she had signals she’d learned to recognize in advance.  She always had time to pull over to the side of the road and put a tablet under her tongue.
     Anyway, you have been constantly in my thoughts since your birthday‑bang letter.  Don't feel under any pressure whatsoever on my account ‑‑ your recovery is paramount.
     My birthday was also celebrated with a bang.  Due to an inclination to forge ahead without looking where I'm going, I ran head down into my condo wall (my sister Janeth was with me when I did this).  Got a huge bump on my forehead; the blood from the bruise drained into my eye, and I've been sporting a whopping shiner ever since.
     If I had to get a black eye, I'm glad it was after I had my picture taken at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  On the other hand, if you could see my license, you'd wonder why it mattered.   (See enclosed "Mugshot.")
              Getting Your Mug (and Your Self‑Esteem) Shot at the Registry
      With my August birthday approaching, it was time to renew my license at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  For four years I had been hoping the old one would get lost, so I could replace the photograph with something less humiliating.  No such luck.  Even after my wallet began falling apart and I tacked it together with staples, the mug-shot hung in there, a hateful reminder that I am getting neither younger nor better‑looking.
     When I reached the head of the line leading to the registry  desk, I said to the clerk operating the computer:  "My old license says I'm five feet four.  Can that be corrected?"  
     "Sure, how tall are you?"
     "Five six and three‑quarters," I said, stretching my neck.  (I used to be five seven and a half before I started shrinking.)
     "We can't do fractions," the clerk said tartly.
     "All right, make it five six," I sighed, relaxing my neck.   "That's where I'm headed, anyway."
     I was passed along to the photographer.  Her artillery was mounted at an angle pointing downward toward a chair.  I would perforce be looking up at the lens, chin squared and upper lip elongated.  The registry picture of four years ago had confirmed my belief in an evolutionary link to simian ancestors.  I looked like an ape wearing lipstick.
     If I had to be shot, I wished I could face my fate at eye-level, but no one preceding me had made such a bizarre last request.  What reason could I give for my misgivings about sitting in the chair?  Certainly not the truth.  What cared the registry if the camera angle was unflattering?  How about, "I fell asleep at a nude beach and can't sit down"?  Naw, they wouldn't buy it; how many 68‑year‑olds go to nude beaches?  I was working on something more plausible, like "My religion won't allow me to desecrate the flag by sitting under it" when the photographer motioned me toward the chair.  Flash!  The first part of the ordeal was over.
     The next part was looking at the result.  It happens that one of my shoulders is lower than the other.  This flaw was unnoticeable in the Bachrach studies of twenty‑five years ago.  In the registry's effigy, I look as if I'm dodging a blow.  Or missing a shoulder pad.  As for the simian resemblance, it had increased dramatically.
     What was I going to do with this horror show known as my "identification."  One thing was sure.  No eyes but mine must ever bear witness to it.  If I was stopped by a policeman and he asked if he could see my license, I'd say no.  Should he ask if I'd prefer to go to jail, I'd say yes.  Perhaps there's a method in the registry's candid caricature policy.  It makes very cautious drivers.
Epilogue
     An hour after I wrote the above essay, I was cruising along toward the golf club in my new used car, festive pink ribbons still flying from its antenna.  What a change from my battered 1980 jalopy. I  I felt as if I were floating on a cloud, not driving.
     Oh‑oh.  What were those flashing lights in my rear-view mirror?  A police car?  Surely it wasn't following me.  I had gone through a light that was turning from yellow to red, but otherwise . . . .
     I pulled over and rolled down the window.  My heart and stomach had changed places, but I tried to sound nonchalant.  "Did I make a bad judgment call at the light?" I asked the handsome uniformed man. 
    "No, that wasn't it.  I clocked you at ten miles an hour over the speed limit."
     "No!  Are you sure?"  (He was going to ask to see my license, I just knew it.)
     He was pleasantly sure.  Perhaps he was a reasonable man.        
    "It's my new used car's fault," I explained.  "It has a tendency to go faster than I think it is."               "Could I see your license and registration, please?"
     I decided I would rather play golf than go to jail.  Reluctantly producing my license, I remarked that I had just written an article about registry photographs. The officer promised he wouldn't look at the picture, but he lied.     
    "It isn't any worse than mine," he said.
     I got a written and a verbal warning. 
     "If we meet again," the officer advised, "don't use the same excuse."
     My ill‑timed encounter with the law did nothing to improve my golf swing.  At the end of my non‑existent defense against Warren's wife and her partner, I told Warren the reason for my shaken nerves.
    "Well okay," he said, "but if we play again, don't use the same excuse."
August 31, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher                        
      I had firmly resolved not to write you until I could enclose at least a chapter or two of Great White Eagle.  Your 27 August note and mug-shot parody have undermined my firm resolve.
     The conventional wisdom holds that it takes two months to recover from a mycocardial infarct; four days from the deadline; this appears to be true in my case.  Angina is a sneaky scoundrel, but as I have slowly learned to use nitroglycerin judiciously, he comes visiting less and less often.  Indeed, he has stayed away for three or four days in a row.  I find it hard to believe he will ever pay another visit, but I try to curb my optimism so that I won't be too distraught if my high hopes prove immature.
     A dismal feature of the post‑infarct syndrome is that it concentrates attention on somatic ailments, past, present, and anticipated.  This seriously interferes with intellectual work, except for work directly concerned with somatic preoccupations. So I have been spending my time revising my last will and testament, drafting a "living will" and a "durable power of attorney,"  and reviewing my arrangements for "self‑deliverance" (suicide)  when and if the time comes.  If you have been putting off these chores, let me remind you of an old Judaic saying:  "Repent the hour before your death."
     If all this sounds grim or even gruesome, be reassured, Yelping Hill has long been a combination of refuge and scene of summer revelry for friends I've accumulated through the decades; and they keep coming back and back.  Tonight, for example, Peter is bringing his new woman friend for a couple of days.  Peter is my foster son whom Ruth Brecher and I inherited when he was left an orphan at age 11, thirty years ago.  Tomorrow Rainbow, who spent a week here earlier this summer, is coming back for two nights, followed by Ruth M, who deserves a paragraph to herself. 
     Six years ago Ruth said, "Breck, I've decided to enroll in the Yale Divinity School and become an Episcopal priest."  More amazing still, she did enroll, did graduate, was ordained  (Congregational, not Episcopal), and now has two rural Pennsylvania parishes ‑‑ but she still comes visiting from time to time, including this Labor Day weekend.  My present plan is to stop all this nonsense and really buckle down to Great White Eagle on Tuesday, 6 September.  Your letter assures me that I don't have to ‑‑ but I want to. 
September 12, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher                                  
     I have now begun editing Great White Eagle.  In addition to making marks on the face of your manuscript, my editing will include a series of comments, queries, explanations, and annoyances of various kinds, each one numbered to match a number in the edited manuscript.  Ordinarily each memo will be accompanied by the relevant batch of edited manuscript.  This memo, however, is concerned with some preliminary issues.  If you and I can agree on these matters in advance, it will help. 
     1) Great White Eagle is going to need a foreword explaining what lies ahead.  This is particularly true because the chapters on yachting and flying with which it will begin are atypical of the remainder, which will consider such heady matters as premarital pregnancy, divorce, and so on.  My theory, as you know, is that the later chapters will take on depth if the reader is already in empathy with you and Ed through the yachting and flying chapters.  Conversely, however, I've now discovered that the yachting and flying chapters will take on added depth if the reader knows in advance that they are reading about a marvelously happy couple whose relationship began in high school ‑‑ and who are about to get divorced.  A foreword is the obvious place to supply this perspective. The foreword must also establish you as an inveterate, nay an obsessive-compulsive letter writer.  No doubt it can perform other functions as well; if you have any to suggest, please suggest them.
    You earlier asked if I would write an introduction or foreword.  I will write a preliminary draft, with the understanding that if you or a publisher later has a better candidate, my name or foreword or both can be stricken. The foreword should be as brief as possible -- hopefully two or three typed pages.
     I'd like to start with a very brief reference to the letter you wrote Leslie H. Farber, M.D., and the copy you sent Ruth and  Edward Brecher ‑‑ accompanied by an equally brief reference to my  two or three meetings with you, the first while you were still  living with Ed and the most recent not long after your separation.
     This will both establish your custom of corresponding with strangers, explain my remote role in the story, and put the reader on notice that the first two chapters are an idyll on the verge of a precipice.  It will also give an opportunity for a physical description of you ‑‑ something the reader will want.  The foreword will then note the ten‑year (12? 13?) hiatus in our correspondence, followed by my receipt of your atypically formal letter, my query ‑‑ and my receipt of the entire manuscript.  All in two or three manuscript pages.
     My problem in drafting this foreword is that my memory is shot to hell ‑‑ not since July 3 but since about 1984 or 1985.  I remember you as clearly as I did in 1967 or 1968; but dates and  sequences are dim.  It would be helpful if you could supply me in a few paragraphs with some pertinent details.  When did I first write you?  Did I first meet you and Ed when I called at your home?  (I remember a copy of Playboy on the coffee table, perhaps for my benefit as a writer on sex?)  I also remember our most recent meeting after your return from Turkey; were there any in between?  (I seem to remember one when I lectured at the Sex Information Hotline.)  Please don't make a research project of this; your off‑the‑top recollection is all I need.
     2)  Please take everything in these memos, and all the marks  on the manuscript, as proposals or suggestions rather than  decisions.  This editing process will work best if it is a dialogue.  If you disagree or have an alternative idea, please say so.  Don't be afraid I'll lose interest if you disagree; the dialogue is what will keep me plugging along.
     3)  I now have a confession.  Last weekend I had a yachtswoman visitor, Joan, and I couldn't resist showing her the yachting chapter.  She chuckled repeatedly as she read it, of course.  Being the woman she is, Joan limited her subsequent comments to negatives.  She thought it was too long (agreed).  And she said she didn't believe these were really letters to a stranger named Darrell.  This, you will recall, was also my initial reaction.
     My tentative solution is to make Darrell even more shadowy than he now is, cut his wife and her illness from these early chapters, and let him function solely as a wall against which you bounce your letters.  If it later becomes advisable to bring him to life, we can do it when that time comes.
     Joan explained to me what a Matthews cruiser is; this should be explained to readers.  How long, what draft, designed for what, etc.  A paragraph would help readers.  You can't imbed that paragraph in a letter to Darrell since he already knows.  I hate footnotes; but maybe a few, including one on the Matthews, will help.
     4) My oldest son Earl and his wife Virginia have just bought their first plane and are delightedly flying it around together.   Unless you forbid it, I am going to let them read the flying chapter --  partly because they'll enjoy it and partly for their comments.  I agree not to show subsequent chapters to anyone without your advance consent.
     5) I note that you have thoroughly de-adjectiveized the text; and I agree that adjectives were too freely used initially.  But my feeling is that you've gone too far; I may restore a few unless you feel very strongly.           
     As you will readily perceive, these notes are being written to me as well as to you. 
September 26, 1988 
Weymouth
To Breck: 
     If you have no objection, I shall adopt Ruth M's nickname for you and call you "Breck" from now on.  It will keep me from getting mixed up over which Ed I'm writing to about what.  It got confusing when you had simultaneous heart attacks and hospitalizations in July.  It's a wonder you didn't receive a get‑well card addressing you as "Dearest Ex."  You might have jumped to the conclusion you were no longer my beloved Ed‑itor.
     I'm so happy to know you are feeling much better.  You must be or I wouldn't be receiving memos about Great White Eagle.   That's exciting, but please be assured that your health is far more important than a project that must surely seem overwhelming.  Any time you want to back off, permanently or temporarily, I'll understand. 
     To get down to business, I would want you and no one else but you to write the preface.  I feel unbelievably fortunate that you are willing to do so. 
     As I went through my files trying to pin down Brecher‑Malley dates, I found an instant replay of the 1960's.  Along with the two letters I wrote you in 1968, I extracted several others to my children and Mom that illuminate what life was like before The Letter.  My relationship with Kathie, before and after the accident, is indicated; but I agree she deserves a book of her own. 
      I regard records like these as "emissaries from a former self."  This phrase, which I mentioned to you awhile back, was in a 1960 Reader's Digest article that advocated capturing past experiences by saving carbons of letters; they would thus serve as an improvised diary.
     Some of the enclosed photocopies were written to family members; others, as per my brash but often rewarding habit, to strangers.  They are all skimmable and discardable.  The only page I would like returned some day is the one from my photo album.  The very candid snapshot of Jack examining his crotch gave me a laugh I wanted to share with you.  I had noticed an unusual plant growing by the wayside when we made a stop on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia.  Jack found a tin can, filled it with water, and clutched the plant between his legs as we continued on our drive. Feeling a moist discomfort in his lap, he realized the can was leaking muddy water onto his trousers.  "That's all right," he said in his easy‑going way.  "They'll dry out."
     At our next picture‑taking stop, Jack saw my camera pointed in his direction; hastily and bow-leggedly, he checked the state of his trousers.  Recognizing "the decisive moment" described by photographer Cartier‑Bresson, I snapped the shutter.  That's one of the advantages of being a letter‑ and picture‑saver.  You can laugh again at things you'd forgotten for years.  

     To refresh my memory on Farber, I looked him up in the library and learned that "I'm Sorry, Dear" was a chapter in a book published in 1966, the chapter with which you concluded your An Analysis of Human Sexual Response.  Rereading the piece, I was annoyed all over again by Farber's smug and derisive attitude toward the Masters and Johnson research.  His conclusion was so stupid I can see why I felt compelled to enlighten him.
     It must have been in 1966, therefore, that I sent you and Ruth the copy of my Farber letter.  We exchanged a couple of letters; then I think you visited Ed and me one night when you were in Boston.  This was probably 1967.  You and I had lunch together at a later date.  It was on this occasion that I distractedly presented the wrong book for your autograph ‑‑ Human Sexual Response instead of your analysis of same.  You've always had to be patient with me, I'm afraid. Then there's a gap of several years in my memory and records. The next meeting could have been in the fall of 1972.  Ed and I weren't living together but we were "dating."  I was a volunteer at Community Sex Information ‑‑ and yes, Ed and I drove you to the hall where you gave a lecture on sexuality.
     Your memory is better than mine on our meeting after my return from Turkey. Was that early 1972?  Anyway, I'm quite sure this was the last time I saw you.  We exchanged a couple of letters, then fourteen years or so slid by.
     Memo 2 regarding your showing Joan the yachting chapter:  I'm all for your getting reactions from anyone remotely interested in boating or flying or any other chapters.  Ed felt as you do that Darrell's wife and her illness should be omitted.  It's okay with me for you to make him as shadowy as you like, as long as he doesn't disappear altogether.  He was a vital part of my life.
     A description of the Matthews is on the first page of the enclosed article, "My Unbalanced Budget ‑‑ and Husband."  I'd love to have Earl and Virginia read the flying chapter.  I can imagine what fun they're having with their new hobby.
     Do re-adgectivize wherever you see fit.  I'm sure the poor rejected things will be glad someone wants them.  Alas, I loved them too well.
     Strange Coincidence Department: I recently had dinner with two Weymouthport residents. One of them came back to my condo, and toward the end of a long conversation we discovered  we had both taken the Community Sex Information course.  The training enabled Joan to give a similar course for nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital where she works.  She had witnessed insensitivity during examinations of young women seeking abortions. ("Why so shy?  You got this way by letting him stick it in, didn't you?") 
     Joan has gone to England for three weeks but wants to see my tape of "Sexuality and Aging" when she returns.  I do wish I'd  started taping in time to catch your introduction.  You must have received many compliments on your part in the presentation. 
     Prepare to be magnificently impressed by the enclosed letter to Kathie from President Silber.  She was dazed by the news that she had won Boston University's Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award.
     Goodbye for now, luv.  Take good care of you.                                                  
KATHIE WINS SCHOLAR/TEACHER OF THE YEAR AWARD
September 29, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher                             
     I've now at long last buckled down to the actual editing ‑‑ and I'm horrified to discover that cutting your prose is as painful as cutting my own.  "Boating" is now down from 54 to about 30 pages; but I'm determined to get it down to 20, which means deleting passages that made me chortle when I first read them. 
     Your letter has just come and provides a welcome respite.
     I am returning herewith the fascinating photo of Jack and the letter about Istambul.  I've also instructed my son Jeremy  (my reliable and conscientious literary executor) that one of his first chores in the event of my death is to return to you the box in which all Malley materials are kept.
     I can top Joan's line about "You got that way by letting him stick it in, didn't you?"  A young friend of mine named Chris came to ask me, "Where can I get an abortion?"  The Supreme Court had just decided the Vuich case, so that for the moment, Dr. Vuich in Washington, D.C., was the only doctor in the U.S. who could legally perform abortions.  I made a few phone calls and put Chris on a plane to Washington; my son Jeremy met her at the airport and drove her to Dr. Vuich's office, where he operated without an anesthetic.  When I met her at the airport on her return, she told me that while the good doctor was in there probing around, he asked her, "Tell me about the father."  When Chris refused to answer, he asked, "Ok, how many potential fathers were there?"
     I only wrote once for Playboy.  They phoned and asked if I'd write a piece called ""Sex Is Good for Your Health."
     "Sure," I said.  "What do you want in it?"
     "That's your problem," the editor said.
     So I asked my son Jeremy, "How'd you like to go 50‑50 on a Playboy article called `Sex Is Good for Your Health'?"
     "Sure; what do you want in it?"
     "That's your problem," I told him.
     A couple of months later. Playboy located me in San Francisco and told me to go to their office there and have my picture taken for the author column.  I felt pretty silly in their glamour studio, and the photographer was annoyed.
     "Can't you put some life in your face?" he asked.
     My friend Jan, who was with me, knew just what to do.  She raised her skirt up over her hips; I cracked up ‑‑ and the photographer said, "Thank you very much."
     You were right about Virginia Johnson in your 1968 letter; she's an attractive and articulate woman.  Ruth Brecher and I got to know her and Bill well while we were writing our book about  them; and I was especially touched that they were able to react to Ruth as a writer and human being rather than as a terminal cancer patient.  The first time I saw Ginny after Ruth's death was at 9 a.m. in a medical school amphitheatre with 200 M.D.'s surrounding us.  Affection welled up and I gave her a great big public hug and kiss ‑‑ then pulled back in chagrin over my gaffe. 
     Next time we met in a similar audience, Ginny hurried over to give me a great big public hug and kiss, clearly to assure me that my gaffe wasn't really a gaffe.  
     People used to ask Ruth and me whether Bill and Ginny were lovers.  We developed the perfect answer:  "We don't know, but we hope so."
     By now you will have realized that I'm not going to be done with Great White Eagle by September 30, as projected in our agreement.  On the other hand, I've done enough to be sure I want to continue.  So I plan to just plug along without making any more predictions about completing dates.  I have nothing else scheduled ahead except trips to Washington, D.C. September 28‑29 and October 20‑24.
     I'll finish reading your "emissaries" enclosure tonight.
     Congratulate Kathie for me.
Emissaries from two decades earlier
February 5, 1967  Westwood, Massachusetts To Mother
     My mind is bursting with a nice, long, maybe even funny letter for you, but darn it, I haven't yet had a minute to do anything but take a few notes.  Yesterday, the so‑called day of rest for most people, I drove Ed to Logan Airport so he could fly to Hartford, pick up his airplane which had had its bent propeller repaired, then drove to Framingham to swap cars with Dick (mine had conked out the evening before a few blocks from Kathie's house).  Dick followed me home to be sure the battery didn't drop dead on me again, I washed some stockings and did some sewing for Kathie for the next half hour, then drove to Norwood Airport to meet Ed and fly our new housekeeper, Mrs. White, to the Vineyard to see our house.  At this point, it was only noon!
     When we got back to Norwood at 3:00, I asked Ed if he'd mind driving to Sharon to look at some second‑hand furniture I'd seen advertised in the Ledger.  We got a bit lost before we finally found the house ‑‑ didn't care for the furniture.
     By supper time we were both tired.  Ed has an ulcer, a barely started one that should be healed in a month if he watches his diet.  The doctor said his bad eating habits had finally caught up with him, but fortunately the trouble was diagnosed soon enough to save him later grief.  Anyway, I said to him, wondering what he'd like for dinner, "What can I get for you, and when?"
     "My lost youth," he said mournfully," . . . now."
     Would that I could, and collect my own along the way.  Not that I mind being middle‑aged as much as Ed does; I just wish we had more time to relax together.
     Yes, Sears can go ahead and fix the washing machine.  There will be people visiting the Fort Lauderdale house pretty constantly from now on, so I'm glad you have a friend nearby to stay with.
     I'll try to write one of my old‑style letters later this week.  Quite a few amusing things happened to me lately as I rushed from one chore to another.                                            
Tues. Feb. 7, 1967  
Westwood
To Mother
     I used to scribble reminders to myself about the children's funny sayings and doings, so I could entertain Ed when he got home at night.  The tables are turned.  Kathie has taken to jotting down notes about me -- for Dick's benefit.     
     Last Thursday, to describe a typically traumatic day, I was helping her get ready to come home from a short stay in the hospital (she had developed an infection which is better now).   Since her suitcase was full, I stuffed her slippers, purse, and three or four textbooks into her book bag.  "Okay, let's go," I said, bending over to pick up the heavy canvas bag.  To my surprise, her purse came flying out and I fell over backwards onto the bed.  I had grabbed the wrong handle.
     Back in Framingham, I unpacked the suitcase and the book bag, started a load of laundry, then headed for the market with Kathie's grocery list.  I locked myself out of my car and had to be rescued by the manager of the market and a coat hanger.  This problem took so long to solve, Kathie was beginning to worry about me.
     After I put her groceries away, it was tune for exercises. Kathie's heel tendons have shortened, making it difficult for her to use leg braces.  We spend half an hour a day stretching the tendons by pressing the top half of her foot toward her knee.  While I was sitting on the edge of her bed, working on her right foot, I noticed what appeared to be a small bruise.  I studied it, wondering if I should point it out to her.  "You seem to have -- " I began, then broke off as the discoloration vanished when I pressed her foot in the opposite direction. 
     "Oops!" I said.
     "Oops what?" Kathie demanded, pushing herself up on her elbows.
     "Nothing, dear.  I thought you had a bruise, but it's gone now."
     "Mummy!" Kathie said chidingly, but laughing as she sank down on her pillow.  "Don't ever say `oops' to someone who doesn't feel sensation.  It can give a person quite a turn."
     She continued to laugh so heartily that I couldn't help laughing, too.  She really is amazing.  Circumstances that would make anyone else cry, she regards as funny.  Like the time she was sitting near her professor's desk in front of the class, and a spasm made her feet lift neatly out of her shoes.  Not wanting to distract her classmates or the professor by putting her shoes back on, she simply sat there until he had finished his lecture.  How she giggled when she told me about her "embarrassing experience." 
     Before I left for Westwood, I put a leg of lamb in Kathie's roasting pan and added some water which splashed out when I slid the pan into the oven.  I went to the sink for a sponge, then couldn't find a drop of water on the floor.  Finally discovered it had gone into a partly open drawer containing paper bags, napkins, and other miscellaneous water‑logged goods.
     At home, things were no different. Someone had booby‑trapped the place while I was away.  Why else, when I tried to transfer some dry dog food into a smaller bag, did I end up with an avalanche?  Reinette, Miette, and I had a race to see who could clean up the debris the fastest.  An hour later, I was having hors d'oeuvres with Ed, and my gold inlay fell out.  At 10:00, as we were sitting up in bed reading, the light in my Tensor light flickered and died.  Ed trudged down to the basement, finally found a replacement the right size.  "There you are," he said.  We watched as the bulb revealed its unusual personality.  On, off, on, off, on, off -- it belonged on a Christmas tree.    
    "Well, I can't think of a more economical way to read and watch TV at the same time," I said.
     Huge blizzard today, the worst in years.  Kathie decided it would be wise to stay home, and it's good we did.  Hundreds of cars are stranded and stalled all over the city and on highways.  I had a lovely day holed up safely in my cozy house, catching up on neglected housework, drawing sketches Kathie wants for one of her courses, and writing letters.
March 26, 1967  
Fort Lauderdale  
Dear Vonnie:
     Boy, do you write good letters!  I almost wish I were away from home more often, just so I could have the fun of corresponding regularly with my favorite younger daughter.       
     You'll be glad to know Dad and I are having the best vacation ever.  My concern about ruining a good part of it with a bout of bad‑time‑of‑the‑month blues proved to be unfounded.  My disposition has been so angelic, in fact, that your father is worried about me.       
     "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked me one day when I had maintained my good humor despite various mishaps and frustrations.  "Have you been having any yearnings for strange, exotic foods lately?" he went on anxiously.  "Do you feel all queasy when you first get up in the morning?  Don't you think maybe you should see a doctor?"
     Funny Grandad‑Baby!  If I'm pregnant, what's his excuse for looking so blooming young and handsome all of a sudden.  He's put on some very becoming weight, the lines in his face have smoothed  out ‑‑ wait'll you see him!  He looks years younger. 
November 11, 1967  
Westwood, Mass
To Tim                                           
     As I started reading your letter I thought at first that you were the author of the hippyish‑sounding philosophy.  A few sentences later I decided uh‑uh, I'll bet this was written hundreds of years ago.  What alerted me was Bob Kennedy's  "Contact," which I had heard a few hours earlier.  He started off the program by reading a denunciation of the younger generation, then revealed that its hair‑tearing author had penned his complaint back in the Middle Ages before even I was born.  The quotation was from a book called Wild Kids, by an elderly bearded man named Frank Something, one of Bob's guests. 
     The other was balding, kind‑faced (do I sound like Time Magazine?) Dr. Robert Masland, head of the Adolescent Unit at Children's Hospital.  He looked surprisingly fit, considering he's had only five or six years to recover from his interviews with you and Vonnie. 
     Frank Something's book describes wild kids such as would make those of today suck their thumbs with envy.  In fact, up until a couple of generations ago, there was no such category as adolescence.  As soon as a kid could successfully deal with guns, liquor, and women, he was a man, baby.  Six‑year-old alcoholics were not uncommon in Merrie Olde England.  Of course, as Bob Masland hastily pointed out (he's having enough problems with the junior‑high set), they didn't live very long in those days.  It was a long, long way from May to July, and hardly anyone ever reached September.
     I enjoyed your comment on the Westwood woman's letter to Playboy.  I had already received a fair amount of teasing from Kathie, Dick, and your father.  Whoever would have thought there was a swinger in our quiet, dry little town?  She could be the minister's wife, for all we know.  In regard to her letter's subject matter, I can only say from the standpoint of my limited experience . . . oh, never mind, you're too young. . . .
November 30, 1967  
Fort Lauderdale
To Timmy:
     H‑o‑o‑l‑d everything!  You'll never guess what your father said we might do over the holidays.  Go to San Francisco!   Approximately one hour after he made this exciting proposition, I was reading your news that you were planning to come home.  If you have your heart set on having Christmas in Mass., be sure to let us know immediately.  We can fly out next spring instead.
     I felt a twinge when you expressed so frankly your mild regret at not having a more motherly type of mother (I was a nice mommy when you were little, wasn't I?) but am glad you find compensations in our present relationship.
     For any changes I have recently had in my thinking, Playboy is probably responsible.  Dad has subscribed for years, but it wasn't until I began reading the articles that I enjoyed it as much as he does.  Subjects I once regarded as beyond understanding, I now consider with more comprehension: homosexuality, abortion, pornography, drug addiction, etc.  I believe you can learn more about what's really happening from one issue of Playboy than from twenty of Time.   Playboy has taught me (though I resisted the lessons for many months) mistrust of the Establishment and its spokesmen; mistrust of the false front behind God knows what goes on (what is it with the CIA, anyway?); new respect, via the interviews, for those whom the Establishment has condemned as Communists, queers, or quacks; disillusionment in a society that can preach democracy while practicing murder.
     I wish Playboy would change its name.  With rare exceptions, my friends don't understand my interest ‑‑ the men leer, the women look puzzled.  My friends "have become their parents."   (This last thought was in an article I read years ago, concerning the way, as we grow older, we become less and less the open‑minded, free‑thinking individuals we once were, and more and more our parents.)
     Consider the reaction of my contemporaries to beards and long hair.  Their own grandparents wore beards, mustaches, and hair of every length and style imaginable.  Jesus Christ wore a beard.  And long hair.  No matter how often I remind your grandmother of this, she is still innocently convinced you can tell a nice young man from a not‑so‑nice young man by how often he uses a razor.
     When Grandma was a girl she electrified society by bobbing her hair in defiance of all that was considered proper and normal.  Today she is bobbing it, curling it, dyeing it, and lacquering it while she sits in the beauty parlor and tsk‑tsks over the younger generation.
     My own feeling, though I realize it's irregular, is that I find a mop of hair far more attractive on a man than the chain‑gang "whiffles" of my day.  Dad never looks better to me than when he's complaining that he's gotta get a haircut.   As for the rebellious element in the younger generation, I feel an admixture of sympathy and disapproval, tinged with envy.  I sympathize with many of their causes, disapprove when they over‑react with violence or under-react by giving up and dropping out; envy the freedom enjoyed by both girls and boys, thanks to the pill, to "find themselves" before they are shoved onto the treadmill of family obligations.
     I sent $25 to an organization of Vietnam veterans who protested against the war, in a New York Times ad.  There's a great article, by the way, in the December Esquire, called "Big Brass Lambs."  Did you know there are dozens of well‑known, high‑ranking officers who consider the war a tragic mistake?
     Advice from Dad:  Lay off liquor, screwing, and drugs, particularly screwing ‑‑ that can get you in real trouble, says he, giving me a meaningful look.
April 19, 1968  
Fort Lauderdale
To Ed Brecher
     Ed and I are finally beginning to shed a few kinks and tensions after a hectic and exhausting winter.  About the time we get ourselves pulled together again, our vacation will be over and we'll be back on the job.  If I can hang on until Kathie gets her doctorate, the pressure should ease considerably (such as searching for and bringing her huge stacks of books from BU's  library).  I hope life will get easier for her, as well.  She's the one who has to read all those volumes.
     It sounds as if you, too, have scarcely had time to draw a breath during the past few months.  But as long as you are writing and receiving so much recognition, I know your life must be both fun and fulfilling.
     I thought Playboy's interview with Dr. Masters and Mrs. Johnson was fascinating.  What an attractive and articulate woman she is.  You and Ruth made a great contribution in your interpretation of  their work, using terms a layman can understand.  I see your book prominently displayed in bookstores everywhere, so it must be doing well.
     Enclosed is a copy of a letter from Wendy Wall, a Ladies' Home Journal editor.  I am convinced "Letters from Kathie" came very close to acceptance.  For one thing, an explanatory paragraph I had written about the accident was X'd out.  For another, my telephone number and area code had been jotted down on the top of the title page.
     I decided to call Mrs. Wall and ask for further advice.  She gave me the name of an editor at Good Housekeeping and then went on to say that the LHJ staff had been very moved by Kathie's story.  "At another time we might have taken it."  She asked for Kathie and even said, "How is Dick doing?"  The fact that she remembered his name was evidence that Kathie's letters had made a strong impression.  I so appreciate the help you gave me in editing them for publication.
May 12, 1988  
Westwood
To Ed Brecher:
     As you can see, Good Housekeeping was not as taken with  "Letters from Kathie" as Ladies' Home Journal.  I wish I had a subscription to their magazine, so I could cancel it.  A chicken pox on their publishing house!  (Being a Good Witch, I deal in watered‑down imprecations.)
     You wrote of contacts at McCall's and Redbook.  I would be grateful if you would take this manuscript under your wing, but will understand if it eventually wends it way back to Westwood. "Homing pigeons," as Mom called her rejected poems.
     If it's all right with you, I will keep "Is Sex Necessary?” a while longer.  It is so funny, even Mom might not frown, a la Queen Victoria’s "We are not amused." And I'd like to share it with Ed.  
October 7, 1988   
West Cornwall
Memos from Ed Brecher
       1) You may want to omit from Chapter Two all mentions of your ambivalent feelings about Ed.  Do retain diary entries about losing four years at Smith, and your blighted hopes of becoming a writer.
     2) There will now be a two‑week hiatus in my work on Great White Eagle.  First I have to write a talk to give in Washington  Ocober 21, at the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform,  concerning drug laws and AIDS.  Then I have to write the keynote address concluding the conference on October 22.  Then I have to go to Washington.  I'll be back at Yelping Hill, and back to Great White Eagle, on Monday the 24th.
     3) I'm not ignoring your qualms about privacy, embarrassment, etc.  Let's put off such issues a little longer.
October 9, 1988   
Weymouth
To Breck
     Dec. 8, 1942 excerpt from diary:  A dreadful thing has happened.  Yesterday Japan attacked islands off the coast of California.  America is seething with indignation because this attack came with no warning at all ‑‑ President Roosevelt was still trying to negotiate a peaceful end when the blow came.
    When the President asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress responded with the unprecedented action of voting with no debate.  There was only one dissenting vote ‑‑ Miss Jeanette Rankin, who also voted against World War I.  The Speaker refused to recognize her before the voting began.  I think this was undemocratic of him.  She has a right to express her opinion.
     Listening to history being made on the radio, I couldn't keep from weeping ‑‑ partly at the very awe‑fulness of it all, and partly because we are now in this mess with no backing out. 
     Ed's father says there's going to be a need for war materials, and he's going to get into the business.  Oh, but I hate it!  Anything would be better than war ‑‑ except if we are attacked, as we have been by Japan.  Oh God, what a mess!
October 12, 1988  
Cornwall                             
From Ed Brecher         
     Many thanks for the additional data.  I believe the story is going to work, and that the embarrassment problem will prove soluble without impairing the text.  Especially if we emphasize your dashed hopes for a college career instead of your uncertain feelings about Ed in Chapters Two and Three.    No more from me till after October 24, but I've no objection to receiving mail before then.
October 13, 1988  
Weymouth
To Breck:
     I am awed by what you have accomplished.  You have salvaged from a morass of words an enchanted island ‑‑ Chapter Three. In my opinion, far from botching it as you suggested on the phone, you have transformed it.  The new brevity makes feelings all the more pronounced. I was choked with emotion when I finished typing the last paragraph.
     I liked the title.  I slept on it.  Jeeves, Jr. declined to supplant it with another.  He and I agree that "Bittersweet Days ‑‑ and Nights" describes the period perfectly.
     My disappointment over blighted dreams could be referred to in letters & diary entrees in revised Chapter Two.  I was also aware of others' disappointment in me, but thought I was trapped -- until Mother offered to help.  I am glad, by the way, that no blame has been attributed to her; she was innocent, wanting only to be supportive of my wishes. 
October 14, 1988  
Weymouth
To Breck
     I know you'll be putting GWE aside while you ready your talk and keynote address for the drug conference.  I look forward to seeing copies.
     Ted has copied your video, so I'll be returning it soon with many thanks.  I'm still amazed at how exactly the same you look and sound.
Memo re diary entry
     To safeguard privacy, I was rarely explicit about sexual revelations.  Hence I suggest the following substitution for "No period":  "If my friend would arrive, my bliss would be complete." [followed up with:  Friend still late.  Still late.  Still late.]
     Such "safeguards" were transparent, of course, but that's the way my 17‑year‑old mind functioned.
     Oct. 15, transcribed from 5 a.m. notes  (Jeeves, Jr. has weird sleeping habits)
     Since premenstrual tension was an unrecognized disorder in 1940, I now realize "B.T.O.M." (Bad Time of the Month) would be an anachronism.  On Pg. 12, Chapter 2, a new diary entry could read:   "When I wrote those mean things about Eddie a couple of days ago, I was in a grouchy mood.  He's not so bad.  And when he puts his arms around me," etc.
     I also realize it would be a mistake to add blighted writing hopes to Reasons Why I'll Never Marry Eddie ‑‑ especially if complaints about his scornful reaction to my English theme is retained.  This wouldn't be fair to Ed, who was not only supportive, but the first to laugh at Ed‑based humor in my articles.
     Thank God I have you to steer me away from such blunders.  I figured this one out for myself, but it's comforting to know your keen eye and red pencil are my allies.
     Beautiful day for golf today; I played like a golfer instead of a duffer.  Talk about bliss.  When you do it right, it's almost as good as.  Honest!
     I wish I could hear your talk and closing address at the International Conference.  Maybe you'll be on TV.  I'll be watching.
October 25, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     I was pleased on my return from Washington to find your two latest notes; for they assure me that you and I are engaged in a cooperative enterprise and thinking along converging lines. 
     More delays ahead.  I leave for San Francisco on November 8 and return November 16.  I agreed in Washington to write a couple of Op Ed pieces on drugs, based on my talks there, before November 8.  Thus I may or may not get the next chapter edited before November 8.
     How does this sound for procedure?  Send the four or five re‑edited chapters, with an indication of what the remaining chapters will contain, to my former literary agent, Fran Fallowfield at McIntosh & Otis, to see if they are interested in representing you.   If McIntosh & Otis isn't interested, we'll try Roger Donald, my former editor at Little, Brown.
    Washington was sheer delight and I came home aglow.
October 29, 1988  
Weymouth
To Breck       
     With luggage hardly cooled, you'll soon be off on another jaunt. You are incredible, Ed Brecher.
     My son‑in‑law tells me Op Ed means "opposite the editorial page."  I hope this means your views will be published in newspapers everywhere.  Both your talks were full of common sense.  How can government officials be so stupid?  I was appalled to read about the Los Angeles Board's reaction to the needle‑sharing warning.  I wonder how many deaths were a direct result of this insane decision.
     The irony in "Four Victories" was chilling.  Will anybody listen to your suggested major policy reversal?  Is it too simple a concept for bureaucratic minds?  I can already hear the screams of moralists.  (If all Right‑to‑Life advocates would adopt one or two unwanted children, they would help alleviate another of our social problems.)  Keep dreaming out loud, Ed; maybe the right people will hear you..
     Your editing procedure sounds just right to me.  When the chapters are ready, I will ask my other favorite editor, Kathie, to look at them. 
     I don't dare get excited yet about literary agents and former editors.  If Ms. Fallowfield (perfect name) says, "Sure, why not," then I'll get excited.
     Have a marvelous trip to San Francisco, dear Breck.
November 2, 1988
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     Let's call the next chapter "How to Manage Your Husband After Your Divorce."  This draft can begin:   [Editor's note]:  Barbara divorced Ed on Dec. 7, 1974; but he continued to be an important man in her life.  This long chapter will bring their story up to date.  The excerpts that follow indicate the nature of their post‑marital relationship, and of this concluding chapter.
     Then let's append, at considerable length, the story of the christening at the church, plus the story of Ed's need for a new woman friend and your solving his problem with an ad in the ‑‑ was it the Phoenix?
     We will then have more than a hundred pages ‑‑ enough to try on an agent or publisher.
     It's late and I'm tired.  The concluding chapter will have to wait till after November 16.
November 4, 1988 
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     I have enclosed a one‑paragraph description of Chapter Four -- (1941 to 1971) plus most of Chapter Five, "The Letter, The Loony Bin, and the Trip to Istanbul."  I hope you can find a better synonym for "loony bin."  I shall probably propose adding Jack to the end of Chapter Five (how did you meet him, by the way?); but I haven't time to add him in before taking off for San Francisco and my beloved Jan, Margit, Ruth, Sally, and Sharon, in alphabetical order.  My only current regret is that I have but eight days and eight nights for the whole crew plus the annual convention of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex.
     Do what you must to the Istanbul episode, but I very much hope you won't leave out the essence.  I believe that it is (1) essential for appreciating what a resilient woman the author is; (2) the passage every reviewer will refer to; and (3) your likeliest ticket to the best‑seller lottery.
     What system do you use on your computer?
November 14, 1988 
Weymouth
To Breck
     I think I have learned as much about you from our symbiotic relationship as you have about me.  I know you have a brilliant mind, unaltered by passing decades.  It's fun being a party to the way it works.  Reading your emendations; I recognize their rightness and revel in the way the story flows now, instead of meandering.  I have also discovered through your letters a wellspring of humor that bubbles near the surface of the Brecher gray matter.  Thank you for all these delights.
     Your condensation of the Istanbul episode is so sensitive that I felt only fascination as I read it.  How clever you were to avoid alerting the reader to the impending disaster, thus making its impact more powerful.  I see no need to change anything for privacy's sake.  In this era of openness about sex, I feel comfortable about sharing my cautionary tale with other women. 
     The chapter about Jack gives me pause, however.  I like very much what you included: just enough to make any woman understand Jack's appeal.  But ‑‑ when I made a mental adjustment and read the chapter with his eyes, I squirmed.  I  think he'd be embarrassed.  Yet, I don't want to give him up.  Wouldn't changing his name solve the problem?  Jack wouldn't feel so much like a pinioned butterfly if we called him Jeff or Stan.  He could deny everything, including crawling through enemy lines.
     To answer your questions:  I met Jack in 1972, a year and a half after my marriage broke up.  We could so easily not have met, it scared me.  In those days, Parents Without Partners excluded from membership people whose children were over eighteen ‑‑ female people, that is.  Males, with or without children, were welcome as long as they weren't comatose.  I argued and persisted until finally I was steered toward a PWP branch in Stoughton, which accepted me despite the advanced ages of my progeny.  Could I help it if I'd been a child bride?
     The first social event I attended after joining PWP was a cookout at some woman's house in Stoughton.  We strangers milled around in her back yard, smiling brightly at each other, having nothing in common except our unhappiness.  It began to rain, so we migrated to the rumpus room in the basement.  After a while I noticed we had been joined by a tall, slightly stooped man with gray hair and glasses.  "Well, here's another one," I thought, glancing at him casually. "You looked at me," Jack said later.  He appeared far from prepossessing (interesting word), but that was because I didn't know him. When you're not in love, you can be surprisingly blind.  As weeks went by and my vision cleared, Jack began to look more and more like Paul Newman.
     During our first conversation we had hardly exchanged names and a word or two when a debonair individual with slicked‑back dark hair asked me to dance. 
     "Let's get away from this crowd," he murmured in my ear, tangoing me toward the stairway.  It had stopped raining, so he drew together a couple of patio chairs, took my hand, and began explaining why I was so fortunate to have met him.  I grew restless immediately.  I had the weird but insistent feeling that I was being unfaithful to Jack.  Our relationship was scarcely three minutes old, but I knew he was worried about where I’d gone and what I was doing.  I stood up, told my smooth‑ talking companion I was going back to the party, and left.  Jack was waiting for me.
     Regarding the ads, the first one I composed was for Want Advertiser's "Personals" column. This paper lists used furniture, appliances, cars, and people looking for other people.  I sneaked the second ad into the real estate section of our local newspaper, the Patriot Ledger.
     Re your Editor's note of November 3, the date of our divorce, Dec. 7, 1974, was curiously exactly four years after I found The Letter.
     My word processor uses the Word Star system, but Kathie can make my disks compatible with Word Perfect in her office computer.  We found we could trick her Westwood printer into accepting my disks.  Mine had an attack of flooding the page with XXXXXX’s.  I didn't know it cared.  I hope its therapist can persuade it to forget the X's and stick to the task at hand..
     By now you must be recovering from the pleasure of your beloveds' company ‑‑ at random, in alphabetical order, or en masse.  You do lead an exciting life, dear editor.
November 17, 1988
Weymouth
Memo Breck                                  
     I wondered if the enclosed Christmas letters would be a feasible way to bring Kathie into the story.  The chapter could be called something like "Christmases Past."
     Kathie just called to say her pony is loose, so I'm off for some cattle rustling. . . .
     Rounded up Taffy. Had the treat of hearing Kathie interviewed on the phone by a radio station in California.  (She was quoted in the N.Y. Times Nov.  8th.)  When she last appeared in the New York Times, the same thing happened ‑‑ radio commentators kept calling.  She has to limit her time to no more than two or three such interviews.  Yesterday there was an article in the Daily Transcript about Kathie relearning to ride horseback.  I liked the heading, "She Knows No Limitations."
November 25, 1988   
Weymouth
Memo for Breck:
     I was covered with blushes after calling you Floyd on the telephone.  My excuse:  I have been assembling memorabilia for a celebratory brunch on his birthday, the 27th.  May I say it was a Floydian slip without jeopardizing your recovery?  A lot of people who loved Floyd will be at the party, including the irresistible hoyden he fell in love with, my friend Maggie. 
     Regarding our conversation about Jack, here's why I think changing his name might make my portrayal acceptable:  Much of what I wrote about him found its way into an article called "It's Never Too Late to Live in Sin."  I called him "Don," for his gentle, Don Quixote‑ish ways.  I sent sample pages to a now defunct magazine, Viva International.  An editor responded that she personally liked what she had seen, but the rest of the staff thought readers wouldn't be interested in the experiences of a woman in her fifties.  I sent the entire article.  Received a phone call.  Would I consider letting Viva shorten the article and put it in their Letters column?  For fifty dollars?  I declined. 
     I showed Jack the article  He seemed to be amused, and unconcerned about my trying other magazines.  (It didn't find a market.)  Now he lives in California, where I think the distance from old ties (like a brother‑ in‑law with a fondness for "kidding") -- and a name change ‑‑ would protect him from discomfort if GWE were to be accepted. 
     I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.   I've told Jack I'm working on a book.  Do you think I should show him the part pertaining to him and get his reaction?  Or am I foolish to get into the chicken‑counting business so soon?  What say you, dearest of editors?
December 8, 1988 
Weymouth
To Breck:
     I have been thinking of you with a mixture of love and anxiety.  It is my hope that you are too busy with the Time article and other new projects to drop me a line.  It is my fear that you may be ill again.  Since positive thoughts can't hurt, I will assume all is well. 
     Tomorrow is my 50th anniversary of meeting Ed ‑‑ the anniversary we preferred to celebrate rather than January 1, 1990, the day we married.  I asked Kathie if I should confer with Aliceann about sending him a card ‑‑ sort of get her permission?  Her advice: go ahead and send him the loving message I had found on a greeting card; but send her one, too, reinforcing our friendly feelings. What a wise child I produced!
December 9, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     This will have to be short because I'm just going back to work after weeks of flu.  The ghastly thing about this flu wasn't the ear, nose, throat, lung, and other symptoms but a deep lethargy.
     The day before yesterday, the lethargy began to lift, and yesterday was better ‑‑ and here I am back at the keyboard as you can see. 
     I've just made a list of 17 people I have to write or phone, which should fill today and part of tomorrow.  Then the coast is clear and I hope to stay with GREAT WHITE EAGLE till it's ready for you.
     I'm glad you liked the Istanboul (note the correct spelling of Istamboul) chapter, and enthusiastically agree that it needs a coda, a quote from your subsequent letter to Kathie. Your other comments are stacked in chronological order for use shortly.
     One of the things I have to do is to say yes or no to an invitation to a conference on drugs in Zagret (Yugoslavia) January 11‑13.  I want to say no.  I want to say yes.  To you I want to say, With affection. . . .
December 17, 1988  
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher     
     Here's the last chapter of Draft # 1, still rough but ready for retyping, I think.  The main omission is Kathie.  I agree she should be added in, perhaps after your return from Istanboul (the spelling of which has been changed since I went to school, so I'll have to accept this upstart, Istanbul).  My next chore, starting tomorrow, will be to read through all your comments and make appropriate revisions on the other chapters.  Then I'll send back the whole thing so that you can make such changes as you please and prepare a clean Draft # 2.  If all goes well, we may agree that it is ready to send off.  But if another go‑round seems called for, I'm game.
     If I had known the full story at the beginning, I'd have been even more eager to take this on.
     I'm having two Brecher Christmas dinners, on the 24th and 25th, so that those with two families can spend the other elsewhere.
     It's 1:30 a.m.  Good night, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the year ahead.

No comments:

Post a Comment