June 23, 2007

About Alice
Calvin Trillin

Love Letter – I’ve attended three funerals in the past six weeks: 89-year-old Carl Marx Shier, union organizer and beloved rabble-rouser, buried with a Socialist flag draped inside his coffin and saluted by a crowd singing “Solidarity Forever;” 82-year-old Hugo Underhill, ex-Marine and phone company retiree whose service was presided over by a Baptist preacher and a Marine Color Guard unit that played "Taps" and presented a crisply folded U.S. flag at gravesite to Hugo’s widow; and 92-year-old Tom Ayers, former CEO of Commonwealth Edison, a giant of Chicago industry, a pillar of our town’s civic life and the patriarch among a huge family of activists and reformers. Mr. Ayers’ life achievements were commemorated at The Thorne Auditorium of Northwestern University’s downtown campus. Funeral as rally. Funeral as ritual. Funeral as celebration. Each of these three men – different in so many ways yet similar in several fundamental traits – lived long, good lives and, in the end, crowds gathered to say, quite simply, I love you. Calvin Trillin’s slim, good book celebrates the joy of his life, his deceased wife, Alice, by saying, quite simply, I love you. Memoir as love letter. Memoir as tribute. Memoir as an epistle of devotion. When someone dies, we say I love you as a way of saying good-bye – and, yes, as a way of hanging on, for another moment more.


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