The words Papa chooses for his dismissive diary entries -- whether he writes "dull" or "not important" or "unimportant" or "empty," as he does today -- always strike me as pointed and loaded with hidden emotion. To sit down, take pen in hand, and write "empty," as opposed to one of a thousand other ways he could have described his nondescript day, recalls his earlier, anxious discussions of his life's "emptiness" and the loneliness he's struggled with all year.
Papa is idle, on a long, forced break from work. He lacks the money to do much more than ride out to Coney Island every day and wander, by himself, among the happy, thronging couples. He remains without romantic companionship. But perhaps his most difficult struggle is with a new form of homesickness grown thick and tangled since his father's death. He no longer experiences ordinary longing for the old country, but instead faces the yawning absence of what he hoped to recapture one day with his family. He is awakened, after eleven years, from the sweet dream of safety and belonging and ease made possible by the prospect, however remote, that he might see them all in one place again.
For those of us following Papa's diary, the word "empty" is anything but empty. It is a one-word poem written in longing for some relief. It is really true, can we really believe, that what came later would make him forget what it meant to him in 1924?
It seems that way. Papa, this is you: