Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memento Mori

What does one say?

The card lies flat on the table.  The pen poised above it.


A late in life marriage for him, when he retired, having spent many years travelling for an international company, she was twenty years younger. They were married eight years. He died yesterday, aged seventy. A long slow process of cancer, eating his blood, then a lung, his facial skin. This cancer ran in the family. It had a complicated name.

He had a life most of us can't even imagine. His father died suddenly at forty leaving five children and a mother with a nervous breakdown (Oh, this happened a lot. I know. I've seen it.) All the children put into care. Mount Cashel Orphanage  for the boys, Littledale for the girls. Horror stories abound about these places where children were so casually abused. I wrote about a Newfoundland orphanage victim here.

Glen (pseudonym) always maintained that he was treated like a prince in Mount Cashel. And insisted, almost violently at times, that he had never even seen abuse. One of his sisters suicided. Another has an extreme case of obsessive compulsive disorder - a frantically hygienic woman, twenty four hours a day. Exhausting to watch her. Another sister is alienated from the family and his brother, an artist,  reinvented the past so as to delete Mount Cashel completely.

Patricia, his wife, has her own issues revolving around food and semi-starvation. She is terrified of a complete meal and only likes tiny portions on those wee plates you'd see at afternoon tea at a grandmother's. She has no friends and tolerated Glen's. Barely.

I think about all these things as I stare at the card on the table and ponder on what to write. Words come easy to me. Normally. I find it easier to write all this down here than to write a few words on the card. I'm not one to ever trivialize a card with cliches. Never have. Never will. And I'll face the funeral home tonight. A card is de rigeur, especially for one who will not be buying a mass for the deceased parish committee president.

I lit a candle for him over the last few days and reflected on the parts of his life that he had shared with me. He loved poetry. He was an amateur astronomer and if he could have afforded it, would have played golf every day at dawn.

A horrible time for him was when his new wife had found an old diary of his and read it. And didn't speak to him or look at him for a week after. He told me he was so terrified he felt like a little child again. He burned all his diaries after that.

We were alone in his SUV when he told me this, driving for a good hour over the barrens. I let the silence float around us in the vehicle. Waiting.

But he never told me what was in that diary that was worth a week of freezeout.

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Blogger One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

This story
speaks to my heart.
At a loss for the words
to comment on this life.
But I do know ~~ you
are truly a talented

Thu Nov 29, 05:17:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Oh my goodness, OWJ, you flatter me.

Almost unseemly.

But I'll take it and thank you for it!


Thu Nov 29, 05:59:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Twilight said...

I agree with the first comment, WWW -you are able to write things most of us would balk at - and make them beautiful.

Condolences on loss of your old friend.

Thu Nov 29, 09:17:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Thank you. I've always found it easier to write than to speak of such things.

I went to the funeral home tonight and talked to his wife for a while. He had arranged everything down to the well-thumbed book of poetry in his hands.

I was glad to see it so well attended and to not feel like a stranger.


Fri Nov 30, 01:13:00 AM GMT-3:30  
Anonymous Grannymar said...

I love the way you see the world and the people inhabit it. I have no doubt the words came when needed.

Fri Nov 30, 12:04:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Yes they flowed, I recalled how respectful and loving their relationship was and how lovely it was to be in their company.
And made a donation to a homeless hostel.

Fri Nov 30, 01:53:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Anonymous nick said...

A lot of sad stories touched on there. Including Glen's, despite the few things he greatly enjoyed. Like you, I wonder what was so shocking in his diary that his wife cut him dead for a week. A mistress maybe.

Fri Nov 30, 02:14:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Hattie said...

You have a lot of compassion for people I tend to avoid because they are so neurotic. It helps to understand why, doesn't it.

Fri Nov 30, 04:03:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I had a very strong feeling of conflicting sexuality issues. But who is to know?

Fri Nov 30, 04:20:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I think there are always underlying issues to people's idiosyncrasies and addictions, etc.

The real story lying beneath.


Fri Nov 30, 04:21:00 PM GMT-3:30  
OpenID blackwatertown said...

Very sad and such tough lives.

Fri Nov 30, 07:00:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Secret Agent Woman said...

So much sorrow for the children of orhanages. Have you see "The Magdalene Sisters" - a true story? It rips your heart out. It's not about an orphanage, but a Catholic home for "wayward" girls, who were basically indentured servants. So sad.

Fri Nov 30, 09:33:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I think he was quite content in his last few years until The Lad got him.

Fri Nov 30, 10:02:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

One of my cousins was a nun in such a place and the nuns were incredibly frustrated in that their gifts were removed (in my cousin's case her music) under pain of eternal damnation and then forced to work in the laundries supervising the girls.
I was at the premiere through the kindness of a friend and talked to the cast and crew.
I truly believe that all such abuses continue in so called "Third World" countries.

Fri Nov 30, 10:05:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Anonymous Stubblejumpin Gal said...

This kind of entry is what online journalling is all about.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on your blog, and for its consistent excellence.

Sat Dec 01, 02:33:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Anonymous Stubblejumpin Gal said...

Secret Agent Woman probably is well aware of Joni Mitchell's song, The Magdalene Laundries, but just in case not, I'll throw that in. It's a heartwrenching song ... and the lyrics!
"They wilt the grass they walk upon ...
They leech the light out of a room"

Oh I could go on, but I won't. The song, and the story, are so sad.

Sat Dec 01, 02:37:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Ah thank you SJG for your so very kind words - the benefit of being anonymous lets me write freely.

Yes I know the song but I also know the stories of some of the nuns who never anticipated this kind of work.

I think I did a post about it, I must dig it out.

I think it was 1990 when these hell holes closed down. Unbelievable.


Sat Dec 01, 03:26:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Friko said...

One says very little to the point. On these occasions the formal words are the ones I choose.

A letter, a bit later on, depending on how well I know the family, is something I fret and worry over, but it will get written.

This life is just one life of many; there are few of whom it can be said s/he had a good and peaceful life.

Sat Dec 01, 04:03:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Anonymous Rummuser said...

I find it extremely difficult to condole. I usually say the accepted words and scoot. How can one say or do anything to ease the pain of the mourner? I try and be available for whatever help that I may be able to extend and say that and come away.

Sun Dec 02, 12:11:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I have my own blank cards which I design so it leaves me with the message I need to put that bears som relevance. the words flowed easily when they came.

Sun Dec 02, 03:53:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I also offer something I observed about the deceased (nice, obviously)and help if needed in any capacity they need and i can fulfil.

Sun Dec 02, 03:55:00 PM GMT-3:30  

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