Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir

Penelope Fitzgerald writes:

Great sobs shook him. His whole body seemed buffeted, as in a gale at sea. Leaning back against a far bench, his head jerked down on his breast: ‘It is my turn to cry now,’ he cried between deep-rising sobs. My turn. My turn. My turn to cry. And I think my tears will never stop.’

I rose and flew to him, all but carried him to the armchair… Above us was a kitchen ceiling-rack on which May-the-maid had hung socks to dry … With the damp woollen things I wiped his face – cheeks, eyes, matted hair – again and again; and then my own; our tears mingled in the damp wool. And soon I became aware that the pounding heart was quiet; tears continued to ease themselves from under the closed lids; but – he was asleep.

(LRB 7 October 1982)