My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral,intellectual and physical education I received from her. ―George Washington
From a pair of Georges come two wonderful quotes, one from the novelist George Eliot, author of Middlemarch, and the other from the comedian George Carlin. “Affection is the broadest basis of a good life,” says one. Says the other, “The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.” Can you guess who said which? I guess it’s pretty obvious. Maybe it isn’t important. They make a nice couple. No matter who said what, they make more meaning together than they do in isolation.
The poet George Oppen was a profound witness to the 20th century. As with my grandfather (George) on my mother’s side, at the end of his rich life, Alzheimer’s overwhelmed him. I learned then that when someone asks, ‘Where’s my wife?’ and he has no wife, you say ‘She’s not here right now’ as a way of going along with the forgetting person’s reality. You accept that nothing you do will bring back their ability to remember. You manage anxiety.
Back then, and finding them again now, I wrote the phrases ‘profound witness’ and ‘disease of forgetting’ in the margin beside the poet’s lines,
And it is those who find themselves in love with the world who suffer an anguish of mortality...