activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

Health and Writing Again

August 1, 2016

Tags: health, writing

Midsummer has come around quickly, and I’m still optimistic, though I have not had another diagnosis beyond A-Fib, and though I now own two “walkers”—machines on which I can lean as I walk. One of them, a three-wheeler with a bag for some carrying, Elyse Hilton found on Amazon, and set up for me when it arrived. The other was a surprise from my darling and intrepid daughter-in-law, AnnJ, who found a small, two-wheel walker that folds into a small unit that could fit beneath a theater seat. I was set to surprise her with the three-wheeler, but she really knocked me over with the one she had shipped to cousin Lori here in New York to present to me.

My friends know that I’ve been staunchly opposed to moving beyond the cane, seeing walkers as a negative signal one step from a wheelchair. But I was wrong, and now I know it. It was all probably vanity. I want my health (and even my youth)—who doesn’t? And I must learn to deal with reality. Aging is tough, on bodies and minds. It’s not for the faint of heart; it’s not for those who prefer living in delusions.

So, yes, I am grateful for work that interests me: for the volume to be called What I Left Out, I’m making progress on the difficult essay about my brother who committed suicide in 1985, and about whom I had little to say in my memoir. It’s always been difficult even to talk about him, and it’s one of the areas of my life I can honesty claim not to “know” or “understand.” I say that also about a number of things in my life. But of all of them, this is an old and life-long puzzle—and perhaps you have one in your life: How could two children, brother and sister, three years apart, be so different, never become friends, never share any of life’s views or values? I’ve assumed for years—yes, I’ve been trying to write about this for years—that I was probably guilty for not doing something to change the way we grew up and became adults. Hubris? Probably. Not for the first time in my writing life, I am discovering that writing helps to unlock mysteries in one’s own life. I’m discovering once more that writing stirs my memory. August 1 was my brother’s birthday. He would have been 85. He killed himself in 1985, when he was 53.


  1. August 1, 2016 3:06 PM EDT
    "I’ve assumed for years—yes, I’ve been trying to write about this for years—that I was probably guilty for not doing something to change the way we grew up and became adults" Ouch. Me, too, my brother, in 1979, I have tried to write about it; we were very close. I appreciated your comments abut Ishiguro, who I'll try again. Thanks for writing this, Florence.
    - Gayle Greene
  2. August 1, 2016 7:11 PM EDT
    Just the reverse: never close and a brutal closing at the end when he committed suicide.
    - Florence Howe
  3. August 7, 2016 9:14 PM EDT
    You couldn't do anything different to change your relationship with Jack. He always felt your Mother loved you more. Sorry we were not able to get together because I could fill you in but you are not well and neither am I. It would be very difficult for you to come here or for me to come in to NY. If you have any questions you can email me.
    - Goldie
  4. August 8, 2016 6:22 PM EDT
    Goldie, how do I reach you?
    - Florence Howe
  5. August 10, 2016 7:33 PM EDT
    You can email me at sgengel@aol.com or call me at 609 395 9665. Don't blame your self for any part of your relationship with Jack. He had problems and wouldn't go for help. The Doctors at his base felt he needed help but they couldn't do anything but suggest. I had a copy of the leetter but I don't know if I still have it. If I find it I will forward it to you.
    - Gildie Engel

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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