Monday, 31 October 2011

Letter to a Dead Husband.



I thought of you as I photographed this, and I said to our elder son, 'Dad would have loved this'. He said, 'Yes, he'd probably have fallen out of the cable-car trying to see it better'.

It's the beginning of a new shed, half way up a mountainside in Kazakhstan.
You never went there. You never knew that your son lives there now, although you visited him in Moscow where you were entranced by the drainpipes, great gleaming drainpipes that disgorge snow and slush over the pavements.
You liked drainpipes and sheds and the practicalities of building useful structures.
Especially sheds.
You would have really enjoyed this one. You'd have been determined to get up the ski-slopes for a proper look, and you would have have wanted to join anyone who was building it, to see how they make the logs interlock securely.
These things mattered to you.

I think you knew that our younger son would become more like you, become something of a Shed Man, an enthusiast of alternative energy sources. We had to dissuade you from attempting to colonise the nearby railway embankment with wind turbines based on old bicycle wheels.
You never knew that this son is married, has been for over a year, and that you have a beautiful daughter-in-law.

You were the ultimate recycler. Your garden structures are still safely here, built of old railway sleepers, recycled carved stone, and a vast range of materials pulled from roadside skips.
Oh, how you embarrassed me with your inability to pass a skip without removing something from it. But your buildings are still here, uniquely so, and, dare I say it, improved by my ministrations? I keep the stained glass windows free of cobwebs, I have stained the insides in subtle National Trust colours, I have put in rattan furniture and cushions and I hold tea- parties in there. You would be rather disapproving I'm afraid. The sheds have lost their masculine edge. Some things have changed because they have to.

Exactly five years ago, almost to the minute as I write this, you died.

It was a morning like this, with hazy sunshine and glorious glowing autumnal colours.
For me I think it felt like the peaceful end of a life richly and unconventionally lived; an appropriate end to a period of confusion and distress. But I am looking back over five years of a different life, and my perspectives have changed. It really may not have felt like that at the time.

For you, as one of the most devout Roman Catholics ever, it was miraculous timing. You would be up there for the greatest annual heavenly celebrations, All Saints on the first of November - the great get-together of those purified and safely arrived.
If, by any chance, you had been delayed there was another celebration on November the second, All Souls, for those on their way, but not yet fully purified.
I have the strongest possible feeling that your time with us would have provided valuable if somewhat unexpected elements of purification. That's what marriage and parenthood do for us all.

As well as our thoughts of you on the mountains, your son and I lit candles for you here:



(Cathedral of the Ascension, Almaty, Kazakhstan)

You would have been totally captivated by this wonderful building. It is made entirely of wood.
You are with us in our thoughts, in places where you have never been as well as in all those you knew and loved so well.

18 comments:

gz said...

It is the time to be thankful that we knew them, to be happy in that, and their spirit will be happy too.
Hawthorn's eldest has written some good words and they are on her blog.

http://hawthorntime.blogspot.com/2011/10/verdict-and-other-waffle.html

the verification word is rented.

Yes, they are rented to us...then we are rent apart.

Relatively Retiring said...

gz: rented is a great word-verification. Unfortunately I can't access from that link - is there another way?

Jenny Woolf said...

What a beautiful tribute of a latter.

Anne said...

A beautiful letter, full of life and love. I am following your travels and your nephew's travels with such pleasure.

Mouse said...

I have no words of wisdom.
The loss of a loved one leaves us diminished, tonight I will be lighting a few candles of my own and sitting with my memories

nasmaste

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: thank you for your comment.

Anne; thank you, too. My nephew is being somewhat amazing, not to say alarming (but it makes for very good photos, doesn't it?).

Mouse: sometime I may take issue with you over that word diminished'
but for this evening I'll just wish you peaceful memories.

Molly said...

I think I would have liked your husband---a reader and a thinker, and a build and do-er too. Sounds like he got a lot out of life. You must miss him. May he rest in peace.

Fire Bird said...

I feel very moved by this post - thankyou for inviting us into this very intimate remembering

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: thank you. I realise that a good portrait is emerging from my various fragments, although that was not my intention.

Firebird: five years seemed an appropriate time for such a letter, although I have written many others (and burned them).

Isabelle said...

I'm blinking away tears. Lovely tribute.

gz said...

"May the change into darkness bring you light
may your memories keep you strong
and remember the coming winter is the beginning of the year
and not the end"

pohanginapete said...

I would have liked to have spent time with him one more time. But there's always one more time. Too much else to say, prompted by this wonderful letter, but I don't know how to say it.

Looking forward to seeing you (more than just one more time :^)).

Leslee said...

Brought tears to my eyes as well. But yes, a lovely emerging portrait of your life partner.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: thank you for your comment. I hope things are becoming a bit easier for you.

gz: thank you so much - those are lovely thoughts.

P.Pete: yes, sad that you did not have more time to discuss infinity and the relativity of time, but I always have your portrait of him, which shows him beaming at you. It's a lovely reminder of a relationship.
That last sentence sounds remarkably like a promise?

Leslee: it's so interesting that a sort of portrait is emerging, although that was not something I thought possible, given the complexity of my husband. Perhaps written portraits need to be approached from a very oblique angle?

mm said...

Ah, this is beautiful RR. What a tribute. Like others, I feel I know him a little now.

And I have a pleasant memory of a certain tea-party in one of the garden structures!

Relatively Retiring said...

mm: it's so good to see you back. There's always room for another tea-party.

aubirdwoman said...

hello I visited you from Molly.
What a wonderful letter. Its good to remember.
my dh does not want any service. So I have told him when he is cremated I will buy the finest lidded jar I can find and he will then sit on the dining room table...a captive audience, for me to talk to him every day.
hugs from downunder, keep the memories.

Relatively Retiring said...

Aubirdwoman: many thanks for your comment. The jar sounds a very companionable idea - have a look at some of the beautiful pottery made by GZ.
Are you having your own jar as well?