Saturday, 3 July 2010

Last chapter

Thoughts of absence, partings, the ends of marriages, dog me every hour. We have to prepare ourselves. I'm packing. This weekend, we must go back to Northumberland. We can't put it off.

An elderly relative died. He leaves scatterings of family across the country, two daughters in middle age, an elderly wife, Min. She is frail and tiny, so very fragile tiny, to no more than my shoulder height with her whitened hair, blanched face, bending frame, thin and veined fingers.

Min will make it alright. She'll find the nervous energy to continue through these days. She's strong in that tiny frame, and behind those dark tired eyes, still very beautiful in her self possession, her dignity. To us, she'll never confess her fears, or her solitude. She'll smile in welcome, clasp papery hands, nod in accord. She'll make everything alright for family, friends, wellwishers.

I liked him. He was grumpy, stubborn, awkward. Over the years he retreated, becoming reclusive, avoiding people, shunning visitors who make a fuss and come with needs and expectations.

Now everything he hated will happen. The house will be under siege. The doors unlocked. The windows wide opened. Guests to be fed. I'll be awkward, like the rest, while we tramp through the tidy kitchen and neat sitting room, rattling tea cups, spilling cake crumbs. But by Tuesday everything will be over, and the house can return to the quiet.

I imagine in my twilight years, as the light fades, so will go too my capacity to cope, like Min.