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My thoughts on “About Alice”

Below is an essay I wrote as part of a writing program a friend of mine designed for me. It’s about the book, “About Alice,” a short tribute that I enjoyed. I encourage you to read the book and read the essay, if you’d like. Thanks.

- Jonathon

The stains of Calvin Trillin’s blood must have been washed and removed from the pages. His editors had to have grabbed cloths of microfibers and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed until Trillin’s blood no longer remained on  “About Alice,” his tribute to his late wife, Alice, who died on Sept. 11, 2001, after lung cancer had weakened her heart 25 years earlier.

That is the only situation my mind can comprehend, because it is clear Trillin ripped out his heart and left it on the 96 pages of his book, never to be used in the way he used it with Alice ever again.

In his love story, Trillin recalled decades of moments to show the world, to show his family and to show himself how much he loved Alice.

In simple, crisp prose, Trillin describes what we all long for – someone to share our life with, someone we would die for and someone who loves us even as our hair grays and our skin wrinkles. With compelling details, Trillin introduces us to his wife, to her personality and to how much she cared for their children.

He shares the countless times Alice placed their children above everything else in their lives, as every parent should do. He tells us how she was not only a model human being, but also a caring parent and an ideal wife.

But what I find most intriguing about Trillin’s essay is why he wanted to pen these pages, why he wanted to bring up these joyful memories when there is no chance to create new, similar moments. Why stir the finally calmed pot of death with memories of a woman who’s gone forever?

I suppose the better question is, why not? Why not let the world know how lucky you were? Why not let her life live on for years in the form of a book? Why not tell others not only how a marriage survives, but how it prospers and how you fall more in love with your spouse every day?

Trillin did us a favor, yet this was not a project made solely for us. His tribute to Alice was something he needed to do as well.

He had to give words to his emotions of love, sadness and despair. He yearned to express his own feelings in the most personal of ways – writing.

The most telling part of “About Alice,” is the final paragraph. Here, Trillin is most honest, and because of that, we learn the most about him and his wife. He does not spin this story as a sad tale of death, nor does he conjure up an “everything is swell” fable that so many people do when dark moments unexpectedly shield the sunlight of life.

Throughout this tribute, Trillin is brief and honest, and no more so than with his final words:

“The doctors said that her heart had been destroyed by radiation. In other words, you could say that she died of the treatment rather than the disease. Presumably, though, it was also the treatment that, against horrifying odds, gave her twenty-five years of life. I know what Alice, the incorrigible and ridiculous optimist, would have said about a deal that allowed her to see her girls grow up: “Twenty-five years! I’m so lucky!” I try to think of it in those terms, too. Some days I can and some days I can’t.”

There will be no second marriage for Trillin. He will never touch a woman as he caressed Alice. And he will never long for a person the way he desires her today.

He will never love like he loved Alice.