Appreciating Janice’s way

Janice died six months ago last weekend, and not long ago I was listening to a sound file I made last summer of her and me talking in the back yard. I have to stop here, because “her and me talking” sounds wrong.

I say “her and me” are objects of the preposition “of” and deserve to be treated like objects, and we forget their status at our peril. All the while, something about “she and I talking” is awfully attractive because it feels right for sturdy, useful “talking” to be associated with movers and shakers like “she and I.” It sounds right, and it isn’t. “Her and me” is.

So this recording of us talking in the garden started with Janice saying, “It’s pretty common. We create a package of expectations for people. You and I have done that to each other. I guess that’s the work, unraveling all that.” I’m leaving out my grunts and squeals as irrelevant.

Later, after a son came over and we had sat a while with nobody saying anything, out of the blue she said to us, “Cremation, and ashes in the wind. Got it?” That was Janice all over. Right to the point, always, especially the one on top of my head.

Janice was smart and loving and generous and compassionate and not the least bit nice. She never faked a smile or an attitude. I always knew what was going on with her and where I stood in her world. I didn’t always like my status, but I always knew what it was. Next to Janice, many seem insincere and deceptive to me. I’m hoping that’ll pass.

Habits are tough, though, and this one is many years old. I’m used to the absolute bald truth, along with relevant candid opinions, as a given. I tend to take people at face value and expect them to act the way they feel, no matter what they think I want, and I’m adjusting as fast as I can.

I have reason to believe that Janice’s verbal edge came from her mother. My source is unimpeachable, and I think Janice got her tendency to allow all and sundry to know how things differed from her ideal from her reputedly sharp-tongued mother, whom I never met. So Janice drove me crazy, and I tried to shut her out the way I shut my mother out, which of course was no help at all and useless with Janice Lee Perry, Miss Persistence of 1953.

We found our balance, though, and eventually I gave her all my attention and effort and she accepted them gratefully without comment. We both came a long way, and it seems I have a ways yet to go.