I grew up in a small New England town next to Mr. Updike's small New England town. Much of what he wrote personally resonated with me----the essay about the commuter train to Boston, the girl in the AP story who everyone claimed was their sister. His characters were often so familiar----his scenes so famliar----that I turned to his books during lonely times in Africa. When I finished my thesis for Columbia, my gift to myself was his book, In the Beauty of the Lilies. That was the sweetest gift I've given to myself, come to think of it. I loved him so much that I even forgave him that weird habit he had of describing the slightly sagging flesh of women's upper arms and knees...
The moments I actually saw him were magnificent. At the country club dining room one Saturday--he must have been playing golf. This was ten years ago. I remember his ears mostly, they were sort of glowing red in the afternoon summer WASP-y light.
And Christmas several years ago, after the Christmas Eve church service. His wife was in charge of something or other, and had brought a basket of individually wrapped cookies to hand out to the congregration as we left. It's a tiny church in our neighborhood, Mr. Updike didn't attend often. His wife---one of those compact, efficient wives he so often rendered in words----had hooked the basket of cookies over his bent elbow and (I imagine) instructed him to stand there. He did it with a combination of humilidity and amusement, standing outside the door in the icey New England cold, holding his Easter basket of Christmas cookies. He was rather shy standing there---too shy to push the cookies on people, so you had to be brave to go up and take one. Then he smiled nicely, and even apologetically, as if to suggest he wasn't really the best man for the job, but he was trying his best.
(The image is of John Updike. See http://www.illoz.com/arichardallen/)