You know those moments when time seems to stop?
When you’re a kid and you get caught in a lie,
When you ask that girl out and she hesitates before answering,
You’re cornering too fast and the front wheel slides away,
Your first baby is placed in your arms and you look into her eyes,
The plane hits turbulence and drops like a stone,
Well, I had one of those moments today, and it belongs on the list.
The doctor says that your friend and partner, sometime wife, probably has three months left to live…
My mind runs back over the nearly fourteen years since we got married, the first thing that comes is her constancy. At no point in those years did I ever feel that she would leave me. My behaviour has often been contemptible, my lack of consideration nearly legendary in scope. Arrogance in the certainty that she was mine characterised that time.
I remember the happy and light-hearted person I met all those years ago in Phnom Penh. I admired the fire in her, while in awe at the subtlety she was capable of. She did things without fanfare that I, in my ignorance, assumed were my due, when in fact they were acts of enormous generosity of spirit. We fought from the moment we met, two strong-willed people who wanted their way to prevail. My strength was backed with the brittleness of insecurity, hers had no flaws, and when she gave ground it was another show of generosity, the point of which I, predictably, missed.
She has given life to three lovely people, all of whom demonstrate the strength and determination of their mother
Throughout the indignity of her recent illness she has shown humour and care for her family. She spent her time arranging things for me so I wouldn’t be stressed when she went back to the hospital, for the third time. No self pity displayed, and when the doctor uttered the words she sat quietly and absorbed the information. Calmly assessing the situation afterwards, she started to make plans with her children in mind.
When I look at her now, in action again, I wonder why I thought I should leave her. Obviously I remember the difficulties we had, and I know about the way I felt living that way. Now I remember the way her solidity enabled me to fly, the way she created a stable environment in which I could provide for my family. She has her flaws, as we all do but her life was me, and I failed to get that.
She says, don’t think too much, someone else said, read each page and don’t skip ahead, all good words. Me, I prefer to wallow in pathos. I envisage life in a world where she is no longer there, I look at the things she chose and dredge up emotion. The house we bought together is stamped with her, her fecundity is apparent in the abundant greenery everywhere. Everything she planted grew with abandon, it used to bug me but now I see the beauty of her soul in every shoot. The Jasmine tree she has lovingly tended for years looks sadly neglected, I’m hoping it’s not a sign.