It has been several years since I’ve read any of Lee Smith’s books; I have missed out – it has been my loss. Her latest book of short stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger is delightful.
The following is from the short story “The Happy Memories Club.”
I may be old, but I’m not dead.
Perhaps you are surprised to hear this. You may be surprised to learn that people such as myself are still capable of original ideas, intelligent insights, and intense feelings. Passionate love affairs, for example, are not uncommon here. Pacemakers cannot regulate the strange unbridled yearnings of the heart. You do not wish to know this, I imagine. This knowledge is probably upsetting to you, as it is upsetting to my sons, who do not want to hear, for instance, about my relationship with Dr. Solomon Marx, the historian. “Please, Mom,” my son Alex said, rolling his eyes. “Come on, Mama,” my son Robert said. “Can’t you maintain a little dignity here? Dignity, said Robert, who runs a chain of miniature golf courses! “I have had enough dignity to last me for the rest of my life, thank you,” I told Robert.
I’ve always done exactly what I was supposed to do–now I intend to do what I want.
“Besides, Dr.Solomon Marx is the joy of my life,” I told them all. This remained true even when my second surgery was less than successful, obliging me to take to this chair. It remained true until Solomon’s most recent stroke five weeks ago, which has paralyzed him below the waist and caused his thoughts to become disordered, so that he cannot always remember things, and he cannot always remember the words for things. A survivor himself, Solomon is an expert on the Holocaust. He has numbers tattooed on his arm. He used to travel the world, speaking about the Holocaust. Now he can’t remember the name of it.
“Well, I think it’s a blessing,” said one of the nurses — that young Miss Rogers. “The Holocaust was just awful.”