Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Little Pick-Me-Up

I was feeling more than a bit melancholy this morning when I walked the dog, despite the sunshine and the greening trees. The second anniversary of Lisa’s death is fast approaching, and I just couldn’t manage to ignore it any more. It was exactly the sort of morning on which she would have been up at 6 and off with the dog to walk along with river; exactly the sort of day she’d spend emailing me about plans for the garden; exactly the time of year she’d be downloading past performances and calculating imaginary Derby bets, and not having her here to do any of that is still shockingly painful at times. I had Justin Hayward’s Forever Autumn running through my head - “you always loved this time of year” - and there was a single crow, one for sorrow, staring at me from the fence by the ballfield.

And then, wonderfully, one of the neighbors pulled up alongside us, and rolled down the car window to say hi and to share a silly, stupid joke. I giggled, we chatted, and I felt - lightened. Grieving still, yes, but it wasn’t the burden it had been. It’s still a Lisa sort of day, and spring days like this always will be, but I can see a time when that will be more joy than sorrow. And that is a gift worth celebrating.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Memory Trouble

The other day, I was sorting through things to go to the recycling, and came across one of the many equine supply catalogs that I get because Lisa used to get them. This one had a photo on the cover of a horse in a fly mask, and all of a sudden I remembered visiting a very nice, very good racehorse who had worn a great fly mask that had green lenses on it, just like sunglasses. But I couldn’t remember his name.

One of the things about being in a long-term relationship is that you (or at least I) ended up off-loading a certain amount of memory. The names of actors, for one: Lisa had genius for remembering them. Where to find certain recipes. Song titles. Plays and playwrights. Horses and horse stories.

I stared at the catalog. We’d seen the horse at Saratoga, Sean Clancy took us to meet him on the backstretch, the same trip that we met Beautiful Pleasure.... Nothing. I got up, went to the bookshelves, and, after about an hour of skimming through various books, I think I have the answer: John’s Call. Who, if I remember correctly, began as a flat racer, didn’t have much success, and was switched to steeplechasing. At which point, he fell on his head, and became a very good flat racer indeed - perhaps so he would never have to jump a hedge again.

But I’m still not sure.

These days, when I run across something that falls into the “Lisa handled that” category, it makes me melancholy rather than miserable, which I guess proves that I’m healing. But I wish I could remember that name!

Thursday, April 03, 2008


It’s rare that I don’t finish a book. I read quickly, and I read constantly, and if I don’t finish a book, then I have to find something else to read that much sooner. The obvious corollary to this is that I read a lot of reviews, and keep a list of books to watch out for when I go to the library or the bookstore. I’ve been in Victorian mood lately, at least as far as fiction goes, so when I saw reivews of The Sonambulist, it immediately went on the list: right period, it was about a stage magician (though very few novels about magicians match JB Priestley’s Lost Empires), got good reviews — what’s not to like?

In a word, milk.

The title character drinks milk the way private eyes in the pulps drink cheap whiskey, guzzling it by the gallon, chugging it before every action, carrying it with him when he can’t finish his tipple in the bar or at home. And I really hate milk. If I’m not very careful with it, it makes me sick; more than that, though, I don’t like the way it tastes. It’s always sour-ish, no matter how cold you get it; it’s a thin, nasty flavor except when it’s so rich it gags you. It leaves a gross film on the dishes, dries to disgusting flakes — in short, I find milk completely revolting. Every time the Sonambulist chugged down another pint of milk, I got a little more queasy, until finally, about two-third of the way through, I had to stop.

I had just settled down to supper (yes, I read at meals, and I feel a little frisson of satisfaction every time I do it, having been forbidden to read at the table most of my childhood) and opened the book — to yet another description of milk-drinking. This time, the Sonambulist had spilled some down his shirtfront, and it had dried, and I just couldn’t go on. I put that book down, picked up another, and had my supper in peace.

After supper, I stared at The Sonambulist for a while. It was an interesting story, and I did want to know what happened; however, I’d been skimming the milk-drinking episodes for quite a while, and I was still reading more of them than I wanted. It was time to give up. On the next morning’s walk, I dropped it into the library’s return box.

Next in my stack was a biography of John Dillinger: badly written (“providential” used in place of “provincial” — that kind of error), poorly attributed (too many “facts” come from mysterious papers collected by an ex-cop, and then lost in an attic for years), but still infinitely preferable to another glass of milk.