I don’t know much about Sarah Siskind. She is a country-ish singer who seems to have gained some fame once Bon Iver started covering her song “Lovin’s for Fools.” She tells a pretty interesting story about how he came to learn her song (by looping it–thereby missing out on the words to the second chorus. And yes she did wonder why he didn’t play that chorus).
She plays three songs in this Concert. I like her guitar work, especially on the first song, “Falling Stars.” But there’s something about either her voice or her delivery that I just don’t really like. I’ve listened a few times ow and I have grown to appreciate her style, but it’s just a matter of personal taste that I don’t really care for her.
Listen for yourself.
[READ: January 17, 2014] “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”
One thing that I like so much about Alice Munro is that her stories are so timeless. This story was originally published in 1999 (wonder why they didn’t re-publish that first story which I wrote about yesterday), but there are no real indicators of when it was written. (There are some clues to the time frame of the story, but it was clearly not set in the late 90s).
This is a straightforward but fairly complex story, with a lot of emotional heft. A married couple, Grant and Fiona, have been together for a long time. Fiona had always written notes to herself, but Grant sensed recently that the notes were becoming somewhat alarming. Instead of books to read or appointments to keep, she was writing “cutlery” on the kitchen drawers. Then she started forgetting normal things–like how to drive home or that something which she thought had happened last year had actually happened 12 years ago. Not major problems, but causes for concern.
And so, Fiona was sent, at first temporarily, to Meadowlake. And Grant was not to show up for the first month–they found that patients settled in better if they were not reminded of their house and old life. After a month of wondering about her and thinking about her, Grant goes to Meadowlake, excited to see Fiona. But when he arrives she is not in her room–the touching reuniting scene will not be enacted as he pictured. And the nurse seems rather impatient with him when he asks where she is.
It turns out that she was in the common room. The nurse told him to say hello and try no to startle her. And then he saw her, watching men play cards. He resisted the urge to wrap her in a hug, especially when she politely said hello to him and asked if he wanted tea (something he never drank). Then she introduced him to Aubrey, the man sitting next to her. And then she tarts talking about things, things that he either knows a;ready, or which she’s getting wrong. Grant is annoyed by this. And Aubrey seems to be getting agitated by Grant’s behavior.
Finally Grant asks the nurse if Fiona knows who he is. And the nurse admits that she might not. Not today anyway. So Grant is faced with the decision–how do you care for the woman you love when she doesn’t know who you are. And every time he shows up, she is sitting with Aubrey. So he stopped going as often, but made sure he went at least twice a week.
There is a lot of story about Grant’s past–the things he thinks about when waiting to go see Fiona again. These show that Grant was no angel himself. But I’m focusing on the more pressing concerns of the story. How do you deal with a loved one when she doesn’t remember you?
Munro could have left it at that, a compelling but devastating story. But then things change.
Aubrey’s wife decided to remove him from the home. When Grant showed up the next time, Fiona was inconsolable. She still didn’t remember Grant, but she remembered that Aubrey wasn’t there anymore. Which must have been devastating for Grant. Then Grant decides to go the extra step to try to talk to Aubrey’s wife.
This gives the story an entirely unexpected third act, in which Grant tries to determine what is an acceptable thing to do for your wife. But it also turns into a question of bonding with another person in the same situation. And perhaps more.
The story left me with so many uncomfortable questions. And it was so well written.