Yesterday I went mushrooming. The warm wet autumn rain has provided an abundance. All varieties of mushrooms abound; even the poisonous ones. I’m now a sprightly seventy, but my grandfather taught me when I was a kid how to tell one mushroom from another.
“Don’t touch these,” he would say, “they’ll kill you if you eat them. These ones here look almost the same but they’re not white on the underside; they’re pink. You can eat them.” And so on. Thanks to my grandfather, I reckon I’m a world expert when it comes to eating fungus. There’s nothing about mushrooms I don’t know; the ones to eat, the ones that numb your pain, the ones that make you high, the ones that kill you in your sleep…
I met my wife while gathering mushrooms. Her family had come to stay on a neighbouring farm. They came to visit us. “Why don’t you two go out and collect mushrooms?” said my mother. And we did.
I showed, as had my grandfather, how to tell the poisonous from the edible. We collected lots. A bucketful! I can still picture her gliding in her white dress over the green green grass, with the blue bucket full of mushroom! We were only seventeen. We’d been married fifty years last month.
Collecting mushrooms was an annual ritual in our married life. Every year in the autumn we’d go out with a bucket and gather mushrooms. And the bucket had to be blue! Always blue!
My wife has been bed-ridden now for several years. She’s often in great pain. I would end it all for her as she often wishes, but “Don’t you dare!” she would say. “You’ll spend the rest of your life in prison!”
So yesterday I went mushrooming on my own. We had mushrooms for dinner! It was almost like old times. We laughed as we remembered two seventeen year olds gambolling through a green field, one in a white dress, gathering mushrooms in a blue bucket. “Thank you for the lovely times,” she said. “Thank you.”
These were her last words. Last night, of course, she died in her sleep.