NOTE: THIS IS THE LAST INSTALLMENT UNTIL NEXT WEEK ...
From then on, our correspondence almost always had a personal dimension.
On October 21, for example, she wrote to tell me that her sister-in-law was in the hospital; that same day I told her I’d been to Massachusetts to see my dad three times in the previous two weeks—twice via car. At this awful hour, I wrote, I think of MWS , sitting with Godwin in his last hours ….
On Halloween I wrote to tell her about the doings in our neighborhood. I’m sitting now at my desk and looking out at the little goblins, etc. parading around the neighborhood collecting calories at each door. I have a Frankenstein’s monster mask. I should answer the door with it, thereby saving much of the candy for myself as the little critters scatter ….
When I was teaching my eighth graders about Frankenstein (late in my career), I sometimes used to feign an excuse to go out in the hall, where I’d concealed the rubber mask I’d mentioned to Betty, then dart back in with a monstrous roar. Lots of satisfying screams …
Nowadays, though, with actual gun-toting monsters sometimes showing up at schools, it would be a very bad idea to frighten youngsters—in any way. Actually, it was probably a bad idea then, too … but I always did have a streak of carelessness in me.
My birthday—November 11—arrived, and I got a Frankenstein gift from my son and daughter-in-law—a fairly large doll of the creature. Betty was intrigued. Who made the large one? she asked—and I knew she was going to try to find the same one for her own massive collection. I had told her that I was feeling dreary about my birthday (it was number 55—seems youthful to me now: as I write these words, I’m a few months short of 70); Betty said, Enjoy your birthdayness—(consider the alternative) ….
And then, November 29, 1999, I wrote Betty the worst news: My father passed away this morning at 11:15. I’ll be back in Massachusetts this week for services.
Her reply: I am so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you.
We did not write again until January 2000, more than a month later.