I have finally, I hope, convinced my husband to make a will. We’ve gotten as far as lawyers conferences and the list. Men, I’ve learned, are far more resistant than women to making wills. Our own lawyer didn’t make one he confessed, until he had a heart attack. I can think of all sorts of reasons why this is true. Women used to die in droves in childbirth not all that long ago. We are usually the caretakers of the ill and the dying. Not to mention the young and the helpless. We are used to the idea of death, vulnerability, and life on the brink– ours and everyone else’s. At least that’s what I’m guessing.
I left what money I have and what money I might make in the future should some brilliant person decide to make a movie out of one of my books, to my son. That’s a no brainer. I left my wooden statue of Jesus to my shrink who likes folk art, an angel to another friend who has always wanted it; some jewelry and other things to my niece and her daughter. Henry if he’s still alive and there’s no one to take care of him goes to Lupe, my great friend and his dog nanny who lives around the corner from us in LA. I also left a hunk of cash to take care of him. And EEEK if all of us die, I left my hunk to yet another friend whose name I won’t mention because she’ll be embarrassed.
Pull the plug. That’s the main message of my last wishes. Give my son my money and pull the plug. This is also, on inquiring, something women almost always say they want, to “pull the plug.” Men are either unclear about this or adamant “keep me alive whatever it takes!” I won’t go into particulars.
I want to be cremated. Very un-Jewish, but I have never been very Jewish in life, so why should I be in death? And I would like my ashes scattered around a Japanese maple tree I caused to be planted in front of our house in East Hampton some years ago. The tree was very expensive. In fact, other than my car, it’s the most expensive object I’ve ever dared to desire. That’s a terribly, entirely true, very revealing admission, now that I think of it. Making one’s last will and testament, with instructions to pull the plug is very intense. Intense and highly satisfying. I hope my husband will continue to cooperate so I don’t have to deal with this any more.
I also requested after the requisite spreading of ashes, that the poem, The Well Dressed Man With A Beard, by Wallace Stevens be recited. My son, who knows the poem by heart, or used to, will I imagine, do the reciting. When I thought of this, when I made my list some hours ago, it wasn’t my tall, handsome well dressed son with a five o clock shadow who recites the poem after the ashes are spread, around the red maple tree. It’s my son when he was ten. When we didn’t have the tree. And I recited the poem to him for the first time. And he got it. He got it right away. And thinking about that—not being dead and missing out on the all the fun—made me cry. I hope I live a good while more in great good health, before I encounter what James referred to as “the distinguished thing.” And I hope before I go up in smoke, I visit several more foreign places, cause to be planted two maybe three more mature Japanese maple trees, write five more books, one decent poem and buy a trampoline.
And perhaps a ping pong table.
The bucket list goes on and on. It can never be satisfied. Which is why perhaps I taught myself to be very choosey about wanting a long time ago. Or perhaps I was just cooperating with other people’s desires for me and I’m as rapacious and everyone else.
I’m thinking of Kafka now, the hunger artist who starves to death in his cage, but not before whispering, “if I found something I wanted to eat, believe me, I’d stuff myself like the rest of you!” Then he died. And I bet, being a man, unmarried surely (you never hear a word about his wife) he didn’t leave a will.
The Well Dressed Man With a Beard
After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
If the rejected things, the things denied,
Slid over the western cataract, yet one,
One only, one thing that was firm, even
No greater than a cricket’s horn, no more
Than a thought to be rehearsed all day, a speech
Of the self that must sustain itself on speech,
One thing remaining, infallible, would be
Enough. Ah! douce campagna of that thing!
Ah! douce campagna, honey in the heart,
Green in the body, out of a petty phrase,
Out of a thing believed, a thing affirmed:
The form on the pillow humming while one sleeps,
The aureole above the humming house . . .
It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.