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Monday, February 08, 2010

A Departure

The first wife of my Spouse died early yesterday morning. Second Stepson (their youngest child) phoned us. I greeted him joyfully, then, hearing his tone of voice, said, ‘What?’ — knowing already what it must be. She had been ill for some time. She died at home, peacefully.

We offered to let his brother and sister know. These were all, of course, distressing phone calls. As it turned out, they involved breaking the news separately, ourselves, to Grandson, who is in his late teens and was very close to that grandmother. Everyone’s upset of course, and everyone’s coping as best they can.

Spouse was grumpy all day yesterday. He’s a bugger sometimes for not admitting to his feelings. I asked what was going on, having a darn good idea. He responded with the usual ‘nothing’ and ‘I don’t know’ and got even angrier. Finally, last thing at night, when I told him off for avoidance and for going crook at me when it wasn’t my fault, he looked within and admitted it was as if part of him had gone too. She was his first love, the mother of his children; they had shared things with each other that no-one else now will ever know. Even though it’s many years since he had feelings for her, they were strong once. It‘s as if some aspects of his past just got wiped out.

The strange thing is that he slept most of the day before she died.  I put it down to his being 81, and having just had two big days. We went out for lunch on his birthday, then saw Avatar in 3D, which meant travelling for 45 minutes each way.  That was Thursday. Friday was our day at the WordsFlow writers’ group, now half an hour from home; also we spent some hours before and after sorting out his medications with the old and new pharmacists and doctors, as there had been some kind of a glitch somewhere in the transfer process.  All that running around, I thought. He usually has a daytime sleep, but not all day! Even odder, he was not wide awake all night afterwards, but slept peacefully as if he had not already spent most of the day sleeping, with brief interruptions for meals.

We didn’t know then that First Wife was busy doing her dying. I am thinking now that perhaps his energy was being drawn on. It tends to happen with Reiki Masters.  Perhaps, in this case, Spouse had some soul agreement to do this. We were on amicable terms with First Wife, and she knew of our healing work. She knew we were willing to send her energy during her illness. Perhaps on some level she reached out for support to the man she once relied on.  Or perhaps Second Stepson was sending out an energy request unconsciously, to help cope with his mother’s departure.  Maybe, on the other hand, the Universe simply arranged for Spouse to have extra rest so as to cope with his own emotional reaction. It just seems too much of a coincidence to be coincidental, that’s all.

He was loving and grateful last night, after I finally got him to talk it out a bit.  Today he’s bad-tempered again.  I fantasise about a swift kick, but instead suggest he writes out his feelings about First Wife’s death. ‘It’s our therapy, after all,’ I point out. ‘We are writers.’ He mutters that he supposes he could do that, and doesn’t.

Soon he’s spoiling for a fight. His voice is full of accusation.

‘If I’d known you were going to do washing today, I’d have put my shorts in that are so dirty.’ (Wearing them.) ‘Anyway you haven’t mended the others.’

I remind him that I do washing every second day, and that ‘the others’ have a zip which is stuck tight and needs to be professionally replaced.

‘What are you proposing to do about lunch?’ (Oh here we go again, I think, with the ’no food in the house’ paranoia.)

Me: ‘Could you take the anger out of your voice?’

Him: ‘Well you seem to have completely lost the plot about food.‘

He gets the fight.

Me: ‘For God’s sake, you’re a grown man. We’ve got this, this and this in the fridge. Eat it! Feed yourself! Don’t worry about me, I’ll have something later.’ Plus a few choice words about the fact that he never does the washing nor works out the menus. He storms out and buys us some takeaway salad. I complain when I find out it’s a chicken salad, and I needn’t have cooked eggs to go with it. He sighs. I tell him not to start things he can’t finish; two can play the blame game and I’m probably better at it than him.

The woman whose death sparked this charming scenario kicked him out when their youngest was seven, and hooked up almost immediately with the man who was to become her second husband. He, long deceased now, was abusive to the kids, I gather. Anyway Second Stepson begged to go and live with Spouse, who was working full time and didn’t see how he could manage a seven-year-old, but they became very close as a result. The older two also left and came to him eventually. They were all grown up and independent by the time I came on the scene.

By the time I met First Wife, she was single again. Spouse loved to recount the story of how knocked out by her beauty he was when he first saw her, and how assiduously he had to court her before she finally agreed to marry him. I was secretly gratified to discover that she was older than me, and no beauty any more.

At a family party, I heard her discussing politics and loved both her ideas and her way of expressing them.  She came across as vibrant and dynamic that night.

‘How could you leave this wonderful woman?’ I asked Spouse.

‘Hey, don’t put that out there!’ admonished a friend. (But she needn’t have worried.)

Later, First Wife confided how embittered she felt, having been left with only $11,000 from her second marriage.  I bit my tongue. I had recently come out of my own second marriage as a bankrupt. I thought what a lot I could have done with $11,000. Nevertheless we quite liked each other, or so it seemed to me.  She asked me for a psychic reading as to whether she would ever meet another partner and be happy. I told her she needed to learn to relate happily to herself first, and indicated some ways she could go about it. I refrained from saying that I didn’t see much chance of this happening. It didn’t.

Spouse and I moved interstate, and saw her seldom thereafter. I think she went off me when I avowed a warm friendship with a family member she had no time for. She became suspicious of both Spouse and me. We never did work out what her fear was, but things she said about us got back to us (people are so kind, aren’t they, passing on such remarks?). But when we did meet at family events, we greeted her normally and were soon on friendly terms again. 

I get on very well with two of her children most of the time, and with the other all the time. Her grandchildren have never known Spouse and me except as a couple, so to them I’m ‘Nana’, a third grandmother. I’ve seen more of the little girls — who are also geographically distant — than she did, and Spouse and I are probably closer to them than she was for that reason. She and Grandson, though, saw a lot of each other from his infancy and were, as I said, very close. I think he was the light of her life.

I have the impression that she experienced her life as predominantly sad, and I’m sorry about that, as I would be for anyone.

Really, I hardly knew her.


  1. I'm sorry to hear this. Even though you didn't know her well yourself, she has clearly touched your life significantly. Best wishes to your family.

  2. attachments get a final loss. hope his roller coaster flattened out. that on top of the move must have taken extra oomph out of his energies too.

  3. Everything settled down, the funeral (attended by about 50 people) was described as having gone well — and ageing forgetfulness is a great thing. His best friend, who knew of the circumstances, phoned at the end of that week to ask him, 'How has your week been?' He replied enthusiastically, 'I've had a great week! I had a big breakthrough in the novel I'm writing.'