Thursday, November 29, 2012
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.