I recently posted a review over at WLA of Patti Smith’s book Just Kids, her memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s a lovely book. I won’t repeat myself (and you should read the book!), but I’d really like to share how moved I was by Ms. Smith’s treatment of her husband Fred Sonic Smith. Indeed, I was so struck by this quoted passage in a review, that I put it on my list despite knowing little about any of these artists:
“Of the man who was to become my husband, I wish only to say that he was a king among men and men knew him.”
That’s some gut-punch-good writing. After reading the book and looking up details online, I learned that Mr. Smith died quite young in 1994. Ms. Smith’s words about her husband were written sixteen years after his death. Last love.
“Know that your first love will only be the first.
And the second and third and even fourth
will unprepare you for the most important:
The Blessed. The Beast. The Last Love,
which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.”
My grandmother lived a devoted widow for twenty years; when someone suggested she date or remarry, she twisted her wedding band around her finger and said, “I made a vow, till death.” She never said it in words, but I know she thought my grandfather a king among men (he was), and that was all she needed to say, as well.
But certainly times changed between my grandparents’ 1941 wedding and Patti Smith’s wedding to Fred and even Rachel’s naming of her last love. My grandmother would not say she “wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men”. She had no one to whom she could compare my grandfather. But in each of these loves holds a small universe of possibilities, and a fierce choice in the final, the mature, the last love.