The Cruelest Month, Part 3: Sorry-Grateful | MZS


Ella, Phoebe and James helped me with the cleaning process, just as Nancy helped me go through the closets at the old place in Brooklyn after Jennifer died. Looking back on it, I think that might’ve been the first time I truly appreciated Nancy as her own person with a sensibility, proudly distinct from her sister’s. There was nothing sentimental about that weeding process. It started out with me holding up blouses and pants and jackets and sweaters and shoes and Nancy saying, “Keep” and “Toss” and “No, no, no” and “Oh my God, no, what was she thinking?” Then Nancy took over, tossing bundles of clothes into a hamper to be taken to the church next door. Her hands were a blur. Toss, toss, toss, keep, toss. 

Nancy was tough. Nancy was fast. Nancy was elegant. Nancy loved to dance and sing. She’d dance and sing through the house while she was cooking or cleaning or talking to clients on the phone. She’d even dance a little bit behind the steering wheel as she drove, singing along with the cast recordings of “Ragtime,” “The Music Man,” “Oklahoma!”, “Guys and Dolls,” and the list of Sondheim favorites, 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 about Sondheim’s “Sorry-Grateful” a lot. It sums up my relationship with Nancy. And Jennifer. And my dad and mom and stepmother, and everyone I’ve lost that I miss dearly.

The hyphen in the song title says it all. You’re never just sorry or grateful for people like Nancy. You’re always both, at the same time. The last few years with her were 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 entwined. There is no contradiction.

You’re always sorry
You’re always grateful
You’re always wondering what might have been
Then she walks in

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

Everything’s different
Nothing’s changed
Only maybe slightly rearranged

You’re sorry-grateful
Regretful-happy
Why look for answers
Where none occur?

You always are
What you always were
Which has nothing to do with
All to do with her.

You can view the original article HERE.

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