la pareja

2 12 2008

img_3824La pareja – the pair-a him and a her.  In Spain that could refer to two kids – a boy and a girl- deemed the perfect family set-up. It also means a married couple, like this little duo that was waiting for me at a flea market in southern Portugal years ago. 

It’s hard after 60 years of being a pareja to not think of yourself in those terms.  She has struggled in these three months every time she has signed a birthday, anniversary or sympathy card.  Her hand just automatically writes “we” – then she starts to cry.  This week she’s been working on Christmas cards – at least addressing the envelopes anyway.  She will have to be fully present and thinking when she gets to the point of signing just one name.

Last week when she was here for Thanksgiving, there was an afternoon that she was snooze/reading on the couch while I was quietly working on my computer.  Suddenly she startled awake and looked at me quizzically.  “What’s the matter, ” I asked.  “Oh, I was just thinking that this was a long time to leave Dad alone in the house.”  Then we half laughed remembering how back when they could still travel, they would leave their ancient dog in the basement with food and water for days on end.  Skye was happier there, knowing they’d come home – then she’d eat like there was no tomorrow after she was “rescued”.  

But the “she” of the pareja always remembers that the “he” is so much better off where he is…thinking that he probably doesn’t even care about all this any more and is having so much fun with his extended clan of family and friends that beat him to the punch.  Sixty years is a long time to walk beside someone and suddenly turn off the internal radar.  I’ve gotten the strangest looks in the evening when we are in her space watching TV and I’m in his chair…the other day I cleared my throat or coughed or something and caught her staring at me. Almost like the lights behind her eyes weren’t quite on.  I sat there a moment waiting for her to speak but the look on her face said that she couldn’t even find the words.  Finally it came out that whatever noise I had made – sounded just like him. 

If you’ve ever had a pet for years and suddenly they’re gone – you know the experience of thinking they are in the room or will be there at the door when you come home.  Few of us have had a pet that lasts 16 years, let alone a partner for 60.  

So if you get one of her cards and it looks like she has tried to re-write a portion or has crossed something out – I hope you’ll understand. I don’t even do Christmas cards so my hat is off to her for even attempting to put herself through the exercise of signing a single name that will stab her heart with each stroke of the pen.  But I dare say this is all part of the process…it will become the new norm with a little bit of practice.

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