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Cruelest Month Part 3: Sorry Grateful | MZS

Ella, Phoebe, and James helped me with the cleaning process, just like Nancy helped me go to the closets at the old place in Brooklyn after Jennifer’s death. Come to think of it, I think this was perhaps the first time that I had truly appreciated Nancy as her own person with a sensitivity, proudly distinct from that of her sister. There was nothing sentimental about this weeding process. It started with me holding blouses, pants, jackets, sweaters and shoes and Nancy saying “Keep” and “Toss” and “No, no, no” and “Oh my God, no, what was thinking? -it?” Then Nancy took over, throwing bundles of clothes into a basket to be taken to the nearby church. His hands were blurry. Throw, throw, throw, keep, throw.

Nancy was tough. Nancy was quick. Nancy was elegant. Nancy loved to dance and sing. She danced and sang around the house while she cooked, cleaned, or spoke to customers on the phone. She even danced a bit behind the wheel as she drove, singing along to recordings from the cast of “Ragtime,” “The Music Man,” “Oklahoma!”, “Guys and Dolls” and Sondheim’s favorites list, including “Sunday in the Park with George”, “Follies”, “West Side Story”, and of course her favorite, and mine, and her sister’s: “Company”.

I think a lot about Sondheim’s “Sorry-Grateful”. That sums up my relationship with Nancy. And Jennifer. And my dad, my mom, and my mother-in-law, and everyone I’ve lost that I miss dearly.

The hyphen in the song’s title says it all. You are never only sorry or grateful to people like Nancy. You are always both at the same time. It was terrible and wonderful. She was one of the worst things that ever happened to me, and one of the best. The two ideas will remain linked. There is no contradiction.

You are always sorry
You are always grateful
You always wonder what could have been
Then she enters

And you’re still sorry
And you are always grateful
And you still wonder
And you still doubt
And she goes out

Everything is different
Nothing has changed
Only maybe slightly rearranged

You are sorry-grateful
Regretful-happy
Why seek answers
Where none occurs?

You are always
What you have always been
Which has nothing to do with
Everything to do with it

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