Mom loved adages, quotes, slogans. There were always little reminders pasted on the kitchen wall. For example, the word think. I found think thumbtacked on a bulletin board in her darkroom. I saw it Scotch-taped on a pencil box she'd col- laged. I even found a pamphlet titled think on her bedside table. Mom liked to think. In a notebook she wrote, I'm reading Tom Robbins's book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The passage about marriage ties in with women's struggle for accomplishment. I'm writing this down for future THINKING. . . She followed with a Robbins quote: "For most poor dumb brainwashed women marriage is the climactic experience. For men, marriage is a matter of efficient logistics: the male gets his food, bed, laundry, TV . . . off- spring and creature comforts all under one roof. . . . But for a woman, marriage is surrender. Marriage is when a girl gives up the fight . . . and from then on leaves the truly interesting and significant action to her husband, who has bar- gained to 'take care' of her. . . . Women live longer than men because they really haven't been living." Mom liked to think about life, especially the experience of being a woman. She liked to write about it too.
In the mid-seventies on a visit home, I was printing some photographs I'd taken of Atlantic City in Mother's darkroom when I found something I'd never seen. It was some kind of, I don't know, sketchbook. On the cover was a collage she'd made out of family photographs with the words It's the Journey That Counts, Not the Arrival. I picked it up and flipped through the pages. Although it included several collages made from snapshots and magazine cutouts, it was filled with page after page of writing.
Had a productive day at Hunter's Bookstore. We re-arranged the art section and discovered many interesting books hidden away. It's been two weeks since I was hired. I make 3 dollars and thirty-five cents an hour. Today I got paid 89 dollars in total.
This wasn't one of Mom's typical scrapbooks, with the usual napkins from Clifton's Cafeteria, old black-and-white photographs, and my less-than-thrilling report cards. This was a journal.
An entry dated August 2, 1976, read: WATCH OUT ON THIS PAGE. For you, the possible reader in the future, this takes courage. I'm speaking of what is on my mind. I am angry. Target — Jack — bad names, those he has flung at me — NOT forgotten and that is undoubtedly the problem — "You frigin' bastard" — all said — all felt. God, who the hell does he think he is?
That was it for me. This was raw, too raw. I didn't want to know about an aspect of Mother and Father's life that could shatter my perception of their love. I put it down, walked out of the darkroom, and did not open another one of her eighty-five journals until she died some thirty years later. But, of course, no matter how hard I tried to deny their presence, I couldn't help but see them resting on bookshelves, or placed underneath the telephone, or even staring up at me from inside a kitchen drawer. One time I began looking through Mom's new Georgia O'Keeffe One Hundred Flowers picture book on the coffee table, only to find a journal titled Who Says You Haven't Got a Chance? lying underneath. It was as if they were conspiring, "Pick us up, Diane. Pick us up." Forget it. There was no way I was going to go through that experience again. But I was impressed with Mom's tenacity. How could she keep writing without an audience, not even her own family? She just did.
She wrote about going back to school at age forty. She wrote about being a teacher. She wrote about every stray cat she rescued. When her sister Marti got skin cancer and lost most of her nose, she wrote about that too. She wrote about her frustrations with aging. When Dad got sick in 1990, her journal raged at the injustice of the cancer that attacked his brain. The documentation of his passing proved to be some of Mom's finest reporting. It was as if taking care of Jack made her love him in a way that helped her become the person she always wished she could have been.
I was trying to get Jack to eat today. But he couldn't. After a while, I took off my glasses. I put my head close to his, and I told him, I whispered to him, that I missed him. I started to cry. I didn't want him to see, so I turned my head away. And Jack, with what little strength remained in that damn body of his, took a napkin from my pocket and slowly, as with everything he did, slowly, so slowly, he looked at me with those piercing blue eyes and wiped the tears away from my face. "We'll make it through this, Doro- thy."
He didn't. In the end, Mom took care of Dad, just as she had taken care of Randy, Robin, Dorrie, and me — all our lives. But who was there for her when she wrote in a shaky hand: June 1993. This is the day I heard I have the beginning of Alzheimer's disease. Scary. Thus began a fifteen-year battle against the loss of memory.
She kept writing. When she could no longer write paragraphs, she wrote sentences like Would we hurt each other less if we touched each other more? and Honor thyself. And short questions and statements likeQuick. What's today's date? Or odd things like My head is taking a turn. When she couldn't write sentences, she wrote words: RENT. CALL. FLOWERS. CAR. And even her favorite word, THINK. When she ran out of words, she wrote numbers, until she couldn't write anymore.
Excerpted from Then Again by Diane Keaton. Copyright 2011 by Diane Keaton. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.