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Like others, he has vanished into the past & I am emotionally free of that, thank God.”65 There was also a story of his having an affair. The underlying problem, very likely, was her incessant drinking, which led her to neglect other things, like eating, taking care of an increasingly derelict house, and earning a steady income. Aside from the drinking, she seems to have been something of a hoarder, slightly obsessed with the care and preservation of the past. In 1958, she told an interviewer: “Ever since I was a child, I’ve held on to every scrap of paper I owned.”66 Of a recent effort to take hold of this problem, she told Sheaffer in 1960: You would never never believe the amount of mss. newspaper clippings , photos, etc etc. that have been taken out of bureau drawers, boxes, the attic and “the incubator house,” & put into paper “storage boxes.”—and also thrown out. Cess-pool, plumbing, gutters, drainage, oil-burner, radiators—all need, or needed, renewal or repair . Don’t ever get involved in a house. Or a son, or a wife, or a lover. My lesson must have been that I was—or am—dedicated to “something”—but not that. Your dedication has come before those involvements , so you are safe.67 Her dedication, indeed, came after, and she never lost sight of friends, family, grandchildren, despite the fact that the course of Shane’s life went from bad to worse during the 1960s, with his deepening addiction, legal troubles, and divorce. He had resilient children, who managed somehow to succeed. His wife, Cathy, separated from him in 1966 and later remarried , but she was there, at his deathbed, in 1977, after he had flung himself from a fourth-floor apartment window.68 Agnes and Mac visited Oona in Switzerland in 1959, and were urged to visit again, the following year, in Spain, but that trip never took place, or any other. She described the 1959 visit in an article for Redbook magazine , giving a sense of how strange, and yet delightful or even magical, her daughter’s life had become, with six children (eventually there would be eight) and a beautiful estate on Lake Geneva. Much of the article attended to the remarkably bright grandchildren who “enjoy the kind of home Charlie and Oona never knew.”69 Oona saw to it that her mother had sufficient means, but she was far away and consumed with many responsibilities . Then, too, the legal furor surrounding Chaplin’s semivoluntary self-exile from the United States made it problematic, if not impossible , for them to visit. His advanced age, too, was becoming a factor; he was three years older than Agnes and already weakening noticeably in 230 • Another Part of a Long Story the 1960s. For these reasons, Oona did not come to visit her mother for some fifteen years, not until 1967 when she got word that Agnes was nearly dead from malnutrition. Agnes had apparently attempted to dwindle away or vanish, displaced by the calamitous son, the distant daughter, myriad striving grandchildren, a dozen or so stray cats, “whom she cared for better than herself,” bottles of champagne, and diverse parts of a long story of romantic expression, of which the dead Eugene O’Neill was the quintessence and the antithesis.70 She became reclusive and detached. After she divorced Mac, a man named Silvio Gregorio did handyman work around Old House. Perhaps he was a drinking buddy; some said he was a schemer and was preventing visitors from seeing Agnes. She turned seventy in 1962, and thereafter led a more and more reclusive life. The drive to write carried on, or carried her on. Her granddaughter Sheila recalled that Agnes had a secretary who came almost every day to help her with the book, the remaining portion of Part of a Long Story: “As the secretary typed, she would tell Aggie to get rid of some of her cats or she would not work for Aggie anymore. She did come back and work with Aggie for the next two years or so. But Aggie never finished her second book before she died.”71 She broke ties with Sheaffer and others whom she tied with O’Neill. In effect, she cut herself off from her own life. When, in 1967, in a state of near-starvation, she recognized Oona beside her hospital bed, she looked her in the eye and exclaimed: “I NEVER want to see another O’Neill...


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