Something we’re all aware of, no matter how disconnected you are from the Webosphere or the current electoral freakshow: Gene Wilder passed away last Sunday. That is a terrible, terrible loss, but as it came out, he had suffered from Alzheimer’s the last three years, so, sad as you are, you can say, “Well, at least his struggle is over,” and mean it.
Like a lot of people, my first reaction was, “Aw, he’s reunited with Gilda.” Then I read the family’s statement about his passing, and found out he was happily married for 25 years to a lady named Karen Boyer. A lady who stayed by his side all through those declining three years. I was surprised, but then, I don’t obsessively follow the lives of artists I enjoy, and Wilder was a quiet man, unshowy outside of his performances.
So I felt somewhat bad about defaulting to a memory of a relationship decades old – I felt bad for diminishing Karen’s role in his life, however unintentionally. The “reuniting with Gilda” feeling was so strong and widespread, though, I felt even worse every time it cropped up. I didn’t want to correct those folks – we all mourn in our own way, and it’s a real asshole who tells people they’re not mourning the right way. There have been more and more posts gently pointing out Karen’s importance in Wilder’s life, which is good.
My amended romantic fantasy is that Gene was greeted at the Pearly Gates by Gilda – and Marty, and Madeline and Zero, with a tray of cocktails, and they spent some time catching up before going off to join the most insanely hilarious comedy troupe in all eternity.
That momentary emotional confusion – that my perception of reality was not so clean-cut as I had presumed – is a piece with the rest of my life right now. Three weeks ago I moved my only son into his college dorm, which was an experience even more emotional than you might suppose. I was surprised that there were two days of activities and meeting following that, but I soon found it was a well-practiced process to wean parents and child away from each other. Sure enough, weepy as his parents were, The Boy was ready for us to leave, as he had more activities to get to, and a fair number of new friends.
I always said that when my wife and son went on trips without me, work expanded to fill the void, and that has been truer than ever in the beginning of this empty nest phase of my life. My wife is laboring long hours to get her school ready for the new year, and I have had no lack of City Meetings and Events Which Need To Be Documented. It took two weeks for the two of us to have time to go out for dinner, just the two of us, to mark this new beginning.
None of this addresses the strange malaise that has gripped me. I’ve had the occasional night off, and time was those would be spent watching movies, and eventually I would wind up here talking about them. This hasn’t happened lately. I’m reading a fascinating book (which you will hear about soon), and I’ve been exploring a bewildering variety of solitaire games, but I only recently forced myself to start watching movies again, mainly for the upcoming Halloween marathon.
That was a lamentable way to try to kickstart an old habit, and I was punished in short order when I tried to watch the movie I wanted to write about this week, Elem Klimov’s Agoniya, only to find that my bootleg disc wouldn’t play. I dug out my old DVD player, a robust monster I had repaired by hand several times, and now I may finally get to see it.
But I took the liberty of radio silence last week, and didn’t want to let another week go without some sign of my existence. I had tried to write about this last week, and it turned very maudlin; I hadn’t expected that, because I don’t feel maudlin. Life is different now, but not excessively so. I buy fewer groceries each week, cook smaller portions. I’m the one taking out the trash again. This isn’t a life change so much as a life adjustment.
Next week, perhaps, the adjustment will be over. We’ll have all settled in, and routine will return. I am not a terribly adventurous person, in that respect. I prefer the safety of excitement presented to me on the screen or the page, and the sooner I return to that, the better.