|Joyce Carol Oates (center red coat) dancing at her wedding celebration|
One turned out really well. At a dinner party in August, a night when she thought she hardly had the energy to eat less converse, she met Charlie Gross, a professor and neuroscientist at Princeton University where Oates also teaches. During those dog days of summer, when the campus was nearly empty, the couple--both in their 70s-- began to spend time together, hiking and taking long walks together. In late fall, they eloped to Maryland. At a celebration the next month with colleagues and friends, author Richard Ford acknowledged in his toast that he didn’t get to give Joyce away “since the bride and groom already ran off like sex-depraved teens and got married in secret across the state line where officials don't pay any attention to how old you are.”
|Author Richard Ford (far right) toasts the newlyweds Joyce Carol Oates and Charlie Gross.|
Since marrying, she and Charlie sold their Princeton houses and bought a new one together, have traveled extensively abroad, and currently are spending a sabbatical semester teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. "With Charlie, I basically just say yes," she says of her hyperkinetic husband. She has added an epilogue to her memoir updating her marital status but said she regrets not including another chapter: "Just Saying Yes". A Widow’s Story remains less a prescription for the next stage of life than Oates's journal of the early, startling days of grief that she had hoped would spare others the shock of loss. “The fallacy of that thinking is no one reads these books ahead of time.”
Post script from Caryl: There is one book published in 1987 that has shaped my thinking from my twenties to the present on how the most painful events of life are the most critical to moving forward and living purposely. Written by Judith Viorist, also a celebrated children's author, Necessary Losses outlines “the loves, illusions, dependencies, and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow”. If you are looking for a guidebook to the second life, definitely say yes to this one.