He was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow (coined from Cassandra Austen speaking of Jane two days after she died)
Charlotte Rampling (she was a favorite actress for the Admiral) in Sous la Sable, a film club choice (which I saw some 14 years ago but have not forgotten), about a woman who wakes from a nap on the beach to find her husband who she last saw going in to bathe gone …
Dear friends and readers,
Some people take showers; I do water therapy. This month hits hard since during the first 3/4s of it last year (I can date the first day of doubt, July 17th when he had a mysterious pain on his side), we thought he was getting better and would live for a few years yet — maybe in my deluded hopes more.
Living through it again the time presents itself as the first July without Jim here by my side, or, as twice happened, when he went to England for a few weeks, emailing me on and off during the day and the phone call each morning as he drove to work because once he was let into the compound no phone calls out were permitted. (Yes he could drive on the left; he was working for NATO.) How affectionate were his emails, how relieved I would feel each morning to hear his voice. He has departed and left a deserted sky.
Cassandra’s well-known words capture that intense lack I feel. Only someone who has lost someone genuinely beloved — can know how just about every moment, everything I do is changed, felt differently, quite apart from all the many things changed to become difficult or quickly fraught. Yvette and I did think maybe to go for 3-4 days to New York City this middle August, but after sitting in front of our computers and considering it, we put it off to mid-November. It will be cooler, New York City is now lovely in November, she will be able at long last to go inside the Metropolitan Opera for real, good plays are on, and it’ll be near Thanksgiving so maybe when that arrives, we will at least have been taken out of ourselves just before.
I am just now reading two excellent books on the reform movement in later 18th century England that was ruthlessly crushed by those running the English parliament, those in charge of local counties, those with power and influence to get many others to destroy people’s lives directly and indirectly: Albert Goodwin’s Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution. Were he here I’d have talked with him about it, how so many of the ideas and needs voiced in the 19th century by the chartists (universal manhood suffrage, equal representation across boroughs) are right here, and he’d have been able to tell me so much more than I know as I read for he knew a lot about this era, from Burke to Paine, to the kind of skullduggery politicking followed by Charles James Fox and the ruthless war-mongering of Pitt the Younger, his equivalent quiet Reign of Terror and starve them out politics. Jim would have supplied quips, jokes, made the reading so much richer and I could have told him things he was interested in and would like to know. Maybe he would have looked into John Bugg’s Five Long Winters and the remarkable M. Ray Adams’s quietly prophetic Studies in the Literary Background of English Radicalism, with special reference to the French Revolution. In 1947 Adams wrote of the vilification then of Enlightenment thinkers and their legacy and the real world results of this then and predicted more was to come. I’ve been reading reviews of John Barrell’s Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s: where Princess Diana’s successful attempt to be familiar (though she could not take care of herself when divorced from the protections of the monarchy) is compared to George III’s failure, the problems of taxing hair powder, and where John Barrell in his Dark Side of Rural Landscape talks about the smooth erasures of museum policies which refuse to recognize how the poor are depicted in Gainsborough, Morland, John Constable. I could have showed Jim the pictures too: he loved to look at and understood the pictures the way I do.
He liked 18th century poetry!
We’d have laughed together; and noow there is no one to talk to of this with even minimally, only silence.
Owl by Robert Mezey
Nightlong waiting and listening, being schooled
To long lying awake without thoughts,
I hear him calling from the other world.
A long silence, and then two flutey notes-
The cry of nobody, but urgent, cool,
Full of foreboding. He’s in the cedar tree
Not twenty feet beyond my window sill;
The other world is very far away.
When, towards morning, he ceases, the
More visible, although it’s not yet light,
The black sky drained and all our
Fading into thought. Lord of the night,
Thy kingdom in which everything is one,
Come, speak to me, speak to me once again