"Some things belonged to both of us from day one"
November 24, 2014 6:46 AM   Subscribe

"A song, a poem, a scene from a film triggers memories. You’re startled, moved, shaken. And you’re faced with two options: 1) engage with the work and the memories it calls up, or 2) retreat, postpone, avoid. Option 2 is very attractive." Matt Zoller Seitz remembers his wife Jennifer, who would have turned 44 today.

Seitz is the editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com.
posted by jbickers (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is from 2010, she would have turned 44 today, per his tweet.
posted by leesh at 7:18 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Sticherbeast at 7:18 AM on November 24, 2014

I mean, it's still an incredibly moving piece, I'm just being pedantic.
posted by leesh at 7:18 AM on November 24, 2014

(I've asked the mods to fix it - my bad.)
posted by jbickers at 7:20 AM on November 24, 2014

Oof. Brutal.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:22 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh god, that crept up on you. One second you're reading cute anecdotes of pop culture exchange and disconnect and the next you're crying like a tiny baby. Beautiful piece.

posted by Phire at 7:47 AM on November 24, 2014

Yeah, this hit me right where it hurts. I recognise so much in his descriptions of not being able to face a particular song, or not wanting to see that one special movie.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:01 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like it when writers that you've formerly written off as [fill in the blank put-down here] surprise you with something personal and powerful like this. I'm very much not a fan of MZS's criticism, but wow argh this is beautiful/brutal.

If I wrote this it would be all about Kenny Chesney, Super Mario Bros and Papa Johns though. Not that I want to contemplate that. Bleh.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2014

I get terrified when I think about what my daughter and I would do if we lost my wife (and I've thought about it a bunch). Then I read articles and reminiscences like this and I get more terrified, as I hadn't thought about what I'd do if one of her favorite songs came on the loudspeaker at the drugstore. I can't imagine that I'd be up for Option 1 for a very long time.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:26 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm seeing this from a different side. My wife was widowed. There are things that make her choke up and cry. Songs and movies and sometimes i just tell a joke and it's just like he would have (I knew them before they got married - if I had been a little faster I might have married her earlier instead).

And all i can do is take her in my arms and let her cry it out. Sometimes that doesn't feel like nearly enough.
posted by mephron at 8:26 AM on November 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

welp, now i'm crying

posted by sonic meat machine at 8:32 AM on November 24, 2014

Ugh, I can't even imagine. My wife was my high school sweetheart. We've been together more than half of my life. We have shared so much that I'm not even sure how I would function.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:59 AM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Love MZS. Ebert chose well, he's probably my favorite film critic right now.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

*tears* What a moving testament to what it really means when you love someone enough they become your life.

Someone once told me a mark of self-strength is the realization that independence is actually kind of immature: maturity is the acknowledgement of how dependent you are on other people, and how much the people you love form part of yourself. Too immature at the time to understand, I thought independence was the stronger of the two states and they just were making self-excuses for some kind of self-weakness.

Of course I have a lot of memories of life before my husband. Memories, culture that seemed important at the time, life experiences. But the longer we've been together, the more those memories fade or disappear; all those other things become less important...and it was kind of frustrating, because that was my life, my identity. (And of course, as MZS wrote, many of those things became part of our identity through sharing.)

It took a long time to realize those memories and cultural experiences fade because they're just. . .not as important or meaningful as compared to everything that happened to me after I met the partner I love so much. Now I understand what confronting your dependence and the impact of the people you love on your identity means.

But reading or hearing about experiences like this make me acknowledge there's a whole other level of realization and confrontation of this idea, that perhaps I still only have a dim idea of what it really means to have someone actually be your life. . .because you can't truly know until you lose them. And if the mere thought of that happening fills me with heart hammering fear and wild grief. . .

. . .how strong and brave MZS was to write this piece.

And holy crap, I shiver to think the contempt 25 year old, independent me would have upon hearing that. Aw, 25 year old me, you don't know shit.
posted by barchan at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Great comment, barchan.

I'm certain the piece is incredible, but I just can't handle reading something like that at the moment.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:58 PM on November 24, 2014

My wife and partner of 10 years died almost exactly a year ago. I've found myself experiencing many of these same things in slightly different ways. I'll often go towards them. I'll sometimes be taken by surprise. I don't often avoid. I suppose there must be things I *do* avoid though. They do get to me. I don't stay upset long. It passes, though it comes for a little while most days.

What's struck me - more in the comments here, actually - is the relationship to *memory* for the survivor. The "us-things" are almost all just that. Things, practices, objects. There's been a sort of second death of the nearness of memory, for me. The detailed "texture" of memory, the haptic memory of being with her, the subtleties of feelings; these have been steadily erased by the tide of days. What remains there are seem increasingly like symbols of memory. Not the real thing. Yet they conjure a feeling if consulted. There are songs, there are movies, there are places, there are practices (recipes, ways of keeping house, turns of phrase we'd use). They all seem placemarkers now. A lot seemed lost. Well, a lot is lost

But I realised at one point that there were things I could no longer feel as being there because they were no longer 'out there' - they were inside me. They were too close to see. So *I* inhabit the gestures, the practices, the ways of being, the songs, the movies, the life. Because now they're me. I'm kind of okay with that. She'd have liked that outcome, I think.

Remembering - an active thing, seems different to me that simply gardening a whole world of memory. Remembering is, for me (and to use a metaphor use to use together) "using the plates". Don't keep the best china in a cupboard. Use it. Wear it out. It'll get smashed up. No matter. Use it. I keep trying to.
posted by aesop at 4:06 PM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

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