Today would have been my dearest's 84th birthday. But he died when he was still 83. Eight and three make eleven, the number of mastery. And he had mastered his life by its end. He had mellowed considerably from the lovable but exasperating little dynamo he so often used to be. He had absolutely entered into unconditional love. Sometimes, from dementia, he was like a child. But it was a light dementia, and even at his most confused moments he knew how to be loving, and was most concerned that I should know I was loved. (I did know. I do know.) He was like that in his many lucid moments, too.
Bit by bit this place becomes right for my needs. I could have sat here on the old chair if Andrew was still alive, but I probably would have wondered if I was preventing him from doing so. Or he would have been watching TV just inside the door, and I wouldn't have had this peace. I certainly would not have had this more comfortable chair, nor this iPad!
Hebe has put me in a bower of green and purple, the colours of feminism — in gentle tonings, leavened with white and accented with wood. There are plain, thin frames of dark wood around the windows and the built-in wardrobe. The bedside tables and the small semi-circular shelf in the corner are of blonder wood. The ceiling, the ceiling fan, and the wardrobe doors are white. So is the background material of doona cover and curtain. But the predominant hues are the soft green walls; the green leafy pot plants, their leaves ranging from dark to almost transparent; the pretty purple flowers on curtain and doona; the blown-up colour photo on the wall, of a spreading bush of mauve bougainevillea. The whole effect is of light and softness. I feel sheltered and expanded at once. I begin to imagine I can smell lavender.
This bed I have never shared with Andrew. Nor this bedroom. It is a place where I can just be me without the memories, just for a few days. I would not want it to be like that all the time — I would not wish to be cut off from the memories — but it's good to have a short space in which they do not HAVE to be there. In my bed at home they are unavoidably ever-present. It's good to get away these few days. I do remember things while I'm here, too, of course, but only as they arise; they are not inevitable. Here I am predominantly myself, not first and foremost Andrew's widow. I am the self I have always been, underneath all the vagaries and vicissitudes of life. I like the experience. It's like a renewal. And I like this me.
from 'Stones for the River'.
She knows my husband died only five days ago and thinks it would cheer me up.
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