Tag Archives: wife

1940. How a little lake could hold such joy

There’s a little lake at the back of my property. It’s surrounded by trees. Sometimes I think I must be the only person who knows the lake exists. I’ve never seen anyone there, and it doesn’t appear to be on any map I’ve seen. Mind you, it’s not a big lake.

That lake gives me a lot of pleasure. In fact I have a green plastic chair I leave down there and often I’ll sit for a quiet, reflective time. Sometimes there are a few wild ducks swimming about. Twice now I’ve seen a couple of blue herons fossicking in the shallows. But it’s the stillness of the lake that fills me with the greatest joy.

I’ve had this property for about forty years; about thirty of those I suppose I’ve been going to the lake on a regular basis. Goodness! Thirty years since my wife died! I didn’t go to the lake hardly at all before that.

I still can’t believe how placid and calming that little lake is these days. Contrast that with the tumultuous clamour my wife made when I threw her in with concrete blocks tied to her knees. She was flaying about like an octopus caught in a net. Such a hullabaloo! Such a racket!

Yes indeed. I never knew before then how a little lake could hold such joy.

1906. The old shrub

That hideous shrub, that camellia you planted near our front door, is thankfully dead. You’ve no idea how pleased I was. I’ve never liked the thing as you know. It flowers white with dribbles of pink, like God had been cleaning his teeth and dribbled pink toothpaste all down the front of His white shirt. It’s always been bordering on the grotesque. And now thankfully it’s dead.

I never had the heart to chop it out. You planted it, and liked it, and when you passed away I thought it could stay there as some sort of memorial. Every year, for the past fifteen years, I thought, “That goddam thing is in flower again”. Well! It died, and without any help from me. At last I could dig it out and plant something – in your memory of course – in its place. Only yesterday I went to the plant shop and bought the most beautiful rhododendron. It’s white with a pink throat. I intend to plant it in the same spot. I shall call it “My beautiful rhodo”.

You’ve no idea the trouble I’ve gone to rid myself of that old camellia. The trash collection no longer accepts “garden waste”, so I’ve had to cut the shrub into tiny bits and hide them in black plastic trash bags. It’s amazing how much wood there is in an old camellia shrub. It’s taken four weeks of trash collections, but at last it’s gone except for the stump and roots which I intended to dig out and trash today before planting the rhododendron.

Except this morning when I went out to begin the task I saw the stump had sprouted. I’m sorry, my dear.

It’s gone.

1886. A small tragedy

(Dear Friends – a footnote at the top of the page! All my poems in the past have had an audio except for “Self-portrait in landscape” which was promulgated the other day. I’ve fixed that omission, so there’s now an audio of me reading it if anyone is interested. None of this has anything to do with the following story!)

When Charmaine was peeling potatoes she accidentally cut off her baby finger. Her mother had always said, “Charmaine! Don’t peel the potatoes with a sharp knife! Peel the potatoes with a proper potato peeler!” But you know young people. Charmaine knew better. It was inevitable that one day she would cut off a finger with the knife.

It wasn’t just the tip of the baby finger; it was the whole hog; the entire pinkie on her left hand.

Part of the tragedy was of course that Charmaine was a fabulous concert pianist. What a fabulous concert pianist was doing peeling potatoes I have no idea. Nor did her mother, my wife. Naturally, her hysterical mother phoned for an ambulance after wrapping the little finger up in several pieces of paper towel, the roll of which sat on the window sill above the kitchen sink. There was blood on the cutting board and kitchen bench and everywhere, and the couple of potatoes that had been already peeled were ruined.

I said to Charmaine that I wouldn’t mind paying a famous composer to write a piece for piano that used only nine fingers, and she said “Don’t be silly Daddy. How would a famous composer know it was my pinkie on the left hand that was missing?” I wouldn’t have thought that such things mattered.

And then the ambulance, while turning off the road into the driveway, missed and drove into the ditch. It was stuck. And what is more it was blocking the gate so that the next ambulance (that my wife had called for immediately) couldn’t get in. To add to the inconvenience, the ambulance personnel got the stretcher through the gate, but with Charmaine lying on the stretcher they couldn’t squeeze it between the stuck ambulance and the garden wall. It simply wasn’t possible to turn the stretcher on its side. Not with Charmain in it.

The ambulance crew tipped Charmain onto the grassy verge and managed to get the stretcher through the gap. They then had to get Charmaine through the gap and onto the stretcher and into the usable ambulance.

That is when I said, “Look Charmaine, I can tell the famous composer which finger is missing when I commission the piece.”

And Charmaine said, “Oh Daddy, it’s not the same.” I didn’t have a clue what she meant. She can be so obtuse at times. But anyway, before long the ambulance was on its way and I followed (with Charmaine’s mother as a passenger) in the family car which fortunately I had parked on the side of the road outside the gate. Somehow the ambulance got through all the heavy traffic but we got stuck. We were sitting on the road in the car halfway to the hospital, and I said “Well at least the right vehicle got through”, and my wife said “Yes, but I have her finger in my purse. There’s no hope now.”

I said, “That settles it. I’m commissioning a piano piece for nine fingers from a famous composer. I’ll do that tomorrow.”

That is when Charmaine’s mother’s phone rang. “Hello? Hello?” The batteries went flat. The phone was dead. Now it’s going to be hours before we find out what the lottery numbers are.

1880. No bucket list

How pathetic is that? Caleb had been given six months by the specialist, and he didn’t want to make a bucket list. How backward is that? It’s not as if he was incapacitated. It would be a while before that happened. The disease would slowly work its way towards completion. There was plenty of time to write a bucket list and see the list come true. Provided it was practical.

But no! Caleb would have none of it. “Why on earth would I want a bucket list?” he said to his wife, Leticia. Leticia had been the one who carped the most about his creating such a list.

Why don’t you climb that mountain? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you go to visit the Soda Factory Museum? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you take up golf? You’ve always wanted to.

It seemed that Leticia had made out a bucket list for him. Of course, it was her way of coping with the impending doom that waited down the track. She was doing her best, and perhaps some of these things on the list they could do together – and for the last time. Perhaps they could make a few more memories.

In the end, Leticia won the day! Together they climbed the mountain, both physically and figuratively. “It was very satisfying,” said Leticia. “We’re both feeling pleased with ourselves! The view from the top was stunning. And such a happy memory!”

Together they went to the Soda Factory Museum. “We’ve always wanted to do it,” said Leticia. “It’s so silly really, because the Museum is just down the road. Only twenty minutes away by car. So at last we’ve done it and it was fascinating to understand the history of soda manufacturing.”

Together they played golf. In fact Caleb and Leticia went to the golf course once a week. It was a measure of Caleb’s health and strength. At first they played eighteen holes; later, fifteen holes was enough. Still later it was nine holes; then four. After that, they never went again. “But it was such fun,” said Leticia. “It was something we did together that we both enjoyed.”

The sad day arrived. Caleb passed on. No matter how prepared one is for the death of a spouse, it’s never at all like one imagined.

Cleaning out his things Leticia came across a small piece of paper tucked away as a bookmark:

My bucket list:
To make Leticia happy.

1860. An obsession with porn

Neville knew all the online addresses of porn sites. At least he thought he did; only the free ones, mind you. He wasn’t going to pay for all that rubbish.

His wife of course had no idea. She thought he was engrossed in a computer game, or maybe some intelligent reading. After all, he was interested in animals, and when he could drag himself away from the internet he would watch National Geographic on the television, especially if it was about animals that weren’t so common. Every second animal program was about lions or elephants or giraffes. He wasn’t that interested in that sort of program. Those programs were so common they had become boring. His interest lay in the less common fauna on the planet. The program on the Australian Gulbaru Gecko for example was fascinating.

“You’re addicted to the animal in you,” his wife joked.

For a while Neville thought his wife had caught him watching the porn on his computer, but thankfully she was talking about his choice of television watching.

As time went on, things began to creep up on Neville. Was that a touch of Alzheimer’s? Was senility starting to set in? Indeed it was, and in the end rather quickly. It wasn’t long before his wife was at the end of her tether. He had to go into an environment that was both safe and secure.

In the Care Centre Neville’s lifetime obsession with porn became apparent. Looking at porn sites was all he did. Everyone could see it. It’s all he would talk about. His wife tried to get him to take some interest in the Australian Gulbaru Gecko, and other skinks, lizards, and geckos. All to no avail. For Neville it was porn or nothing.

Until the day he died.

1845. To find someone nice

Destiny said she didn’t marry her husband’s job; she married her husband. Quite frankly, she hated her husband’s job; cows, cows, cows. All he did every morning was milk cows. All he did every afternoon was milk cows. Was there ever time off?

Roman was doing his best. He’d grown up on a dairy farm. Dairy farming was all he knew. He’d worked hard throughout his teens. His father left Roman the farm. He built a special house on it for his widowed mother. He met and married Destiny. That was about his life.

Destiny didn’t merely love Roman; she fell in love with the prestigiousness of his habitation. How wonderful to live on a farm! How wonderful to have all this space! A house! A garden! Some chickens! A pet calf for the children when children came along! Fresh milk! All her friends married labourers of one sort or another; plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers. They lived in hovels in town. She lived in a mansion; more of a manor. She alone had married into proper bliss.

Can’t you take some time off so we can get away? asked Destiny.

The cows can’t not be milked.

Pay someone else to do it.

We can’t afford to do that yet.

Since a while Roman’s mother cooked one decent meal a day and brought it over. Destiny has gone off somewhere in pursuit of happiness. It’s all over. Roman wished he could get out sometimes and perhaps meet someone nice. If only he could find someone to milk the cows say one night a week.

Success! He found Ned Burton’s daughter from up the road to milk the cows on Thursdays. Betty knew the ropes; she was brought up on a farm. In fact, Betty helped milk the cows twice a day every day of the week. And on his day off Roman would give her a hand to milk. He didn’t need to look too far to find someone nice.

1842. A garden makeover

It was possibly the most exciting thing that had happened to Clarence in a long time. It had been a terrible year; a terrible, terrible year. And now this happened! How wonderful!

In January his wife had died after a long and painful illness. He had nursed her over the weeks. It had brought him to the edge of life. The only thing that kept him going was the thought that if he went there would be no one left to care for his wife. Their only child, a daughter, had long disappeared overseas in pursuit of an alternative lifestyle.

It’s amazing how sometimes lifelong friends abandon you in times of need. Only a few came to her funeral. Friends over the years had drifted away during his wife’s illness and proved themselves no friends at all. That hurt Clarence more than anything. In fact he had trouble drumming up enough pallbearers to carry the coffin.

Clarence thought that the only solace would be in his garden, but that had gone to wilderness during his wife’s illness. Somehow, after the funeral, the heart had gone out of the garden. Clarence tried to tidy it up a bit but he didn’t make much progress. And then he entered a competition for a free garden makeover. There were a number of conditions; the garden had to be substantial in size; the owner had to go away (all expenses paid) for a whole week while the garden got its makeover; the owner had to trust the garden designer’s ability to come up with a creative concept. Clarence thought he fulfilled all the conditions.

The phone went. It was the television company. They were to record the makeover. Clarence’s garden was on the shortlist. Would he mind the television cameras coming to film the garden before anything was done?

Next, a garden designer visited in person. She interviewed Clarence. What would Clarence like to see in the garden? Did he want a water feature? A patio/barbecue area? Trees to block out not the sun but the neighbour’s prying eyes?

Clarence said he’d like to be surprised. They could do with the garden whatever was creative, whatever would make it lovely. He had just the one request; his late wife’s name was Iris. Would it be possible to have a garden bed of irises in her memory? Of course it was! What a fantastic idea!

Anyway, Clarence’s garden wasn’t selected in the final choice, so none of the above mattered.

1832. A spoonful of sugar

Craig’s doctor had said he was to go easy on the sugar. “You’re getting perilously close to being diabetic.”

The only occasion that Craig used sugar directly was coffee. In the mornings he had two cups of instant coffee, black, with a heaped spoon of sugar. His wife, Tracy, was the same – instant and black, with one heaped teaspoon of sugar.

Of course, Craig didn’t tell Tracy about the diabetes. He didn’t want to worry her. He ever so quietly simply gave up putting sugar in his coffee.

A week or so later, Tracy seemed to be in one of her moods. It was not an uncommon occurrence. Every now and again nothing in the world was right. Craig couldn’t hiccup without it causing a tsunami.

“I’ve been meaning to say this all week,” said Tracy. Her matrimonial corrections always began that way: “I’ve been meaning to say this all week…”

“What is it this time?” asked Craig.

“I’ve told you time and time again not to use the same spoon in the sugar as you use in the instant coffee. There are granules of instant coffee in the sugar bowl. It’s disgusting. Before long everything that has sugar in it will start tasting of coffee. Use a separate spoon.”

“I’ll do my best in the future,” said Craig.

Some lines of conversation are best not pursued – especially if down the line one is hoping to spend a little of the housekeeping money each week on a new fishing rod.

1827. A dear husband’s passing

John always ate like a pig. He’d stuff food in his mouth and swallow it with barely a chew. That’s why after forty-two years of marriage Bernadine wasn’t the slightest bit sad when he choked to death on a pork sausage.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Bernadine mourned his passing. Her sobs at the funeral practically drowned out the droning of the vicar. At the graveside they had to hold her back from throwing herself into the hole. At the attorney’s office where the will was publicly read, Bernadine became hysterical with anguish. As one of her friends remarked to another of her friends, “It’s exhausting being around Bernadine these days as she becomes the living embodiment of grief.”

On the evening of the day of the funeral Bernadine nonchalantly dropped a delectable-looking pie into the trash. “Saved by the seat of my trousers,” she thought. “I just hope the pie doesn’t poison too many rats in the town landfill.”

1821. Mine garden

Colin always walked gingerly through his garden. Years ago (in fact it was getting on for a century ago) the site of his house and garden was an old munitions storage during the war. Colin always imagined that one day he’d step on a mine or something and be blown to smithereens.

Naturally the site had been cleared by professionals a long time prior to his even buying the land and building a house. But the thought didn’t go away. In fact, the old man who ran the local knick-knack shop told Colin that he didn’t reckon the land had been cleared properly. There were old mines scattered all over everywhere just like this one. And he showed Colin a real live mine that he had found and kept high on a shelf out of reach in his store.

Life trundled on. Colin’s wife thought Colin was silly. “Why walk gingerly through your garden when you know it’s cleared of mines? It’s time you grew up and got over this childish nonsense.”

Anyway, Colin got tired of the constant nagging. Which is why the mine kept high on a shelf in the knick-knack store came in handy.