"How did the book come about?"
"Ray asked me to write it in 1972. He sat me down in his study at our first home in Cupertino, California, and told me to write our story. He said that people were going to be interested in him and what his life was about, and that he wanted me to be the one to write our story because we'd done it together.
"I worked on it off and on -- more off than on. Then, in the '90s, I got serious about it. But it was a difficult and emotional book to write. Some of the coming to terms takes time."
"You end your book with the end of Ray's life. What have you been up to the past 20 years?"
"Well, I don't want to say it's a tough life, but the fact of the matter is, everything that's in that book -- those were my glory years, by comparison.
"I've substitute taught over the years, from computers and orchestra to science labs -- things I know absolutely nothing about. I hated it at first. As a substitute, you're like a ghost. You go into the faculty room and the other teachers are talking. They acknow-
ledge you, but barely. Afterwards, I'd have to go sit in a brightly colored Mexican restaurant for a couple of hours and get over the sadness of what my profession had come to."
During the '70s, Ms. Burke Carver taught English at Los Altos High School while she and her husband lived in California.
"Then, I took a break from substituting. And, as I've returned to it the last little while, I find that I love it again. It feels like, now that I'm 65, I've got it down.
"I had a firewood operation on my farm from 1984 to 1987. During one of the last conversations I had with Ray before he was diagnosed, I said that I was like Scarlett O'Hara. With my second marriage I started a lumber business.
"I waitressed again from '87 to '91, and then, as I said, I did a lot of writing in the '90s. Right now I work in a health food store three days a week in Lynden, Washington.
"I've got another book written that goes into detail about the '80s. My plan is to write another one that would take my story up through 2003 or so. That would give me 50 years of a documented life.
"It's tough for me to narrow myself down, though. Ray was a man of few words. But for me, I have to curb all this verbiage. Although, you know, one time we were out driving and I was quiet, and Ray said, 'I'm just going to turn the car around right here if you're going to be morose.' I realized that he counted on me to be verbal and enthusiastic. He counted on being entertained, and I wasn't meeting my part of the bargain, so he was going to turn around and go home."
"You are very forthright in the book about some difficult times. How did you resist the temptation to make things prettier than they were?"
"Well, Ray was the great example. We used to laugh about the double entendre when we'd discuss it, but part of the reason that people loved Ray was that he dared to expose himself. People are drawn to that kind of honesty. What comes out of it is the real, universal human condition. In a way, all our secrets are the same -- as Gorgon Lisch once titled a book.
"What are your children doing today?"
Maryann chuckles, "They're both such good-looking children, if I do say so myself.
"Vance, who was at the reading last night, is heading to Baltimore next week to take a position at a private Catholic boys' school. He'll be teaching two classes of German and three classes of French.
"Chris, our daughter, is a happy girl in a lot of ways. She has her dad's dark humor, though. She can see something funny in even the most god-awful circumstances. It's just Ray all over again, and it's delightful.
"She was a single mother with three children when she went to college. I'm so proud of her. She was a year and a half through a human services program when she had her last baby. She gave birth on a Wednesday, and the following Saturday she took the baby along on a planned field trip. For a whole year she took the baby to school with her. She was incredibly courageous. Then, after the baby was walking and could go do daycare, Chris went on and finished school.
"Since that time, she has hurt her back and can no longer work in human services. So now she's starting a screenwriting program at the college near her home in Santa Maria."
"What in your childhood made you the tenacious 15-year-old we meet in the beginning of your book?"
"It was the women in my family. My grandmother was a teacher -- a pioneer with five little children. She was a Victorian lady who never said a negative thing about anyone in the whole time I knew her. My mother and her sister went through college together and were both teachers, too. My father had three sisters, two of whom were teachers and the other was a nurse.
"My Aunt May ran a farm, single handedly, and wrote for five different newspapers for 58 years.
"All the women in my family were well educated at a time when most men didn't go through the eighth grade. None of these women had money, either. They all worked to put themselves through school."
"How do other women respond to your having stayed with Ray during the years of drinking and the difficult times?"
"When I did the reading in Portland, a woman made a snide remark about codependency. The fact of the matter is, codependency hadn't been coined as a term when we were going through all this in the 1970s. The ethos when we were young was that you got married 'till death do you part.' I especially felt that way because my own parents had gotten divorced, and it caused such terrific pain in my life. I determined early on that divorce wouldn't happen to me and my children. And, the truth of it is, they were both through high school before we did finally go our separate ways.