Monday, 15 August 2011
A difficult time.
These are a few of the books belonging to my husband. I don't want to say 'late husband'. He was a carefully punctual man. I don't want to say I have 'lost' him, which is a term used by many who don't like to use the word 'dead'. I have not lost him, nor is he late. He died but the evidence of his past life is here, in our home, and the memories are everywhere.
Nearly five years after his death his books are boxed, ready to go to a new place. I am grateful to have found an appropriate home for them; a home that wants the complete collection, and where they will be kept, still under his name. A glance at the titles may indicate that this is a specialised collection, mainly of theology, with some philosophy and a great deal of devotional material. Not everyone would want them but for those who do they are a great resource.
I live through the paradoxes of death and bereavement. Nearly five years, and yet I still have the feeling that he'll be furious when he comes back and finds his books are not here. Not if, but when.
There is no sense in this, and I know it. Yet it happens, this bizarre fusing of reality and complete illogicality, not just to me, but to many who lose a husband, a wife, a life-partner.
The worst thing that people say to me is that they are sure that my husband is watching over me. It is said with the best intentions of giving comfort, but it's bad because I have that feeling anyway, and I know, in my practical, common-sense way, that I must work hard to create a new and different life, to stay positive, not to be a nuisance. In doing that I know that I'm doing things that would cause him annoyance, anger even; radical surgery on his favourite tree, throwing away boxfuls of old newspaper-cuttings and now, worst of all, giving away his beloved books.
If I believed in any sort of after-life I would not find it comforting, for with his deeply held religious convictions he will have streaked ahead in the spiritual race to sanctity, while I will be floundering about on some dark and indistinct shore-line, and this is somehow an even greater separation than death. Few things make proper sense in widowhood, except for simply getting on with it.
Widowhood is a shockingly different country. After the inevitable drama of death the reality begins to hit, but it may take years, or it may take forever. You do not 'get over' the death of a life-partner, but you do learn to live a different way. You simply have to do so.
Marriage was the country where I lived for nearly thirty years, secure, happy, busy, fulfilled, engrossed, irritated, exhausted, light-hearted, miserable - the whole spectrum of human emotion experienced when living with another. I find, somewhat to my surprise, that somehow I can accept the huge changes, but it is the trivial losses that hit hard. Every time I asked if he wanted a drink my husband would respond by looking at his watch or asking, 'What time is it?' It drove me mad, but now I find myself thinking, if not actually doing the same thing.
Widowhood happens in a second. That second when the breath and heart of another person stop, and from that second you are changed. You are perceived differently. Externally, nothing much has changed for me. I have the same address, drive the same car, use the same shops, the same library, and yet everything is different.
At first I was beguiled by busy-ness, keeping the bleakness at bay with a host of distractions. Now my life seems to have become focused into islands of silence, peaceful silence, balanced by the voluntary work I love, and times with people I am lucky enough to love too, in person, by telephone, by e-mail.
I send this out into space today, because my husband's books go tomorrow, and it seems, once again, like an ending.
I send it deliberately for others feeling the bleakness, and it goes with the message that endings can often be beginnings as well, and life in this strange place goes on.
Sunday, 14 August 2011
This waterlily in my pond is shown in loving memory of a dear, clever friend with whom I had a tremendous relationship many years ago. The memory is triggered by the latest post from my nephew 'pohanginapete' who so often proves inspirational from whichever corner of the earth he happens to be. The glazed smile on the face of the glistening pig in his photograph put me so much in mind of my dear Piggo that I had to go and sit by the pond for a little quiet contemplation.
Piggo came to me as a gift from a farmer friend. He (the piglet) was the bullied runt of the litter and was not expected to survive en famille so moved in with me. I was teaching small children in a slightly unorthodox situation (weren't they all in pre-OFSTED days?) and we all thought this could be an educational opportunity for pigs and people.
Within days Piggo proved himself to be the ideal pupil. He snoozed loudly in a box under the table until it was milk-time (yes, small children had free milk at school in little bottles with straws) when he would trot out for milk, biscuits, a few pig-nuts and a scamper round outside. The process was repeated at lunchtime and mid- afternoon break, and then he would clamber into the back of the car and come home for a good meal and a bit of television.
More easily trained and cleaner than a dog, Piggo had few bad points. Short-sightedness went against him. He loved television but liked to sit within a few inches of the screen, so that it was difficult for anyone else to see. He loved the car, but again short-sight meant his snout was constantly against the window, which became a little smeary. Well very smeary, actually.
He loved routine, and in a school situation this was ideal, but weekends were boring for him without the regular interjections of milk and snacks. He pattered about on his little sharp trotters, looking for biscuits and would dig in the garden in an attempt to find them.
Sadly yet predictably, his downfall was his growth rate. On a regular diet and generally enjoyable regime, with both mental and physical stimulation, he grew at a prodigious rate.
He went back to the farm. He probably did not know he was a pig at that stage, although I'm sure the realisation came when he met the family again. My farmer friend was particularly compassionate, at least as far as I knew. Piggo continued to watch television, and retained his enthusiasm for car travel. If anyone left a car door open in the farmyard they would find Piggo in a passenger seat. The way to get him out was to turn on the television in the farm house.
I did not want to know of his ultimate end, but like at least some of the pigs in Ecuador, his early life was full of cheerful interaction and piggish enjoyment.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Friday, 5 August 2011
Once upon a time, sixty years ago to be precise, I was asked what I would like if I passed the Eleven-Plus Exam, this being the test that sorted out the Grammar School entrants from the Secondary Modern, the potential learners of Latin from those doing Domestic Science.
Savage, life-changing stuff.
Archaic stuff that formed one's destiny at eleven years of age.
One's parents were naturally anxious and prepared to bribe.
I said I wanted a Scottie dog.
For years I had wanted a Scottie dog.
I had a stuffed toy one that I used to haul out for walks on a real lead and who was distinctly the worse for wear as a result.
Of course I wanted a Scottie dog.
This was not what I was supposed to say, and it was suggested that I would like a new bike, or even more ballet lessons, or a toy theatre with real curtains and lots of glove puppets.
Tempting, but no.
Only a Scottie would do. He would be a boy called Mac, and he would have a red collar and lead.
So it was (reluctantly) agreed.
I would practise the intelligence tests, be sensible about vocabulary (sharp is to knife as sour is to honey/lemon/bread 'Yes, I know you can say lemon is sharp, but stop trying to be smart!'), learn, really learn all the tables including the nine and the seven, brush up on long-division of furlongs, write proper essays about A Day in the Life of a Sixpence, pass the Eleven Plus.....and have a Scottie! Oh, yes, and go to the Grammar School.
I passed, but I did not have a Scottie. My parents put up a raft of excuses about incovenience and not being able to find the right dog, and the upshot was that I ranted about their failure to keep a promise, and thoughout the next sixty years I have obviously told and retold this tale of cruel injustice, childhood disillusionment and parental infidelity.
I must have told it more often than I realised, because this morning a Scottie arrived, and you can see him above, clearly on guard in his red collar.
He is beautifully made, in classic Scottie pose, by Jane whose wonderfully crafty and artistic blog is here: 'Jeeandme'
And just to drive home how often I have told this tale, here below is another Scottie, minutely cross-stitched into a tiny cushion in my dolls' house (which is another story to be told).
So thank you so much, Jane and Beth, for using your skills and humour to make a sixty year old promise come true!