Most often I begin my day, now comfortably retired, living with Josée, my wife of over 50 years, right here in Tampa, by reading the news of the world (always looking for something? what?). Always I begin with what I call the world’s newspaper, the New York Times.
Today I read a piece called My Husband’s Things. And it got me thinking along the line of after I’m gone what will happen to the things I leave behind, how might they still touch someone, even perhaps favorably influence the lives of my three grandchildren.
Well that someone or my grandchildren would have to read my blog posts, that’s what I’m mainly leaving behind, nearly 1000 of them as of today. In my own lifetime there were few who read them and unless I do something to make them more accessible there’s probably little chance they’ll ever be read, let alone survive me and touch the lives of others, in particular my own grandchildren.
At the present time, except for my blog posts, my writings are not very accessible. They are scattered about, mostly on present and past computers, hard disks and floppy disks, where? I’d have trouble locating them myself… Then in addition too much of my writing is without beginnings and endings (I should have written a book!), and all hopelessly intermingled with the writings of others that I’ve enjoyed and held onto, first in hard copy and more recently as e-texts, especially all those from the past some 30 years of so, the time after our leaving the school and mostly these writings are probably mostly unrecoverable in their present form.
But getting back to, “My Husband’s Things.” Regarding my own writing it has been invariably in response to something I had read. And in fact most everything I’ve written is terribly derivative. Without something coming to me from the outside world (actually we probably all depend on the outside world for stimuli, without which we would probably all be dead) without especially someone else’s idea there for me to comment upon or develop and intermingle with ideas of my own, without that kind of stimulus my own mind would probably remain a blank slate, they’d be nothing there, as there was nothing there to start with.
This is probably that which most separates me from the great men and women who have lived and who seem to have created their own, non derivative works. But maybe I’m wrong about this, and maybe everything we do as individuals, even the great among us, is derivative, that is, not issued by a bank but derived from the work and ideas of others. “Standing on the shoulders” of those who came before, as they say. And maybe it’s true that the work of every writer owes most to the work of others, at least to start with.
But getting back to the article, My Husband’s Things. The writer, the woman’s husband, tell us that he left behind multiples of many items, nail clippers, staplers, rolls of tape, that sort of thing (almost as if he had lived in the Soviet Union where such items were not to be found)…. not to mention shoes (30 pairs)… Yes, I note, he did leave a lot of stuff, a lot of things, and in addition he left instructions for his wife on his computer, to be heard regularly, “Please water the blueberry bushes, or please pick the tomatoes.” Or in early September his recorded instructions might be, “Time to turn the mattress and change the water filter in the refrigerator. Thanks.”
But that was for the time immediately after his death. I’m thinking about a time much further along, when doing as he did wouldn’t make any sense. I can’t leave a note to water the cabbages as if one of you children or grandchildren will be living in our house and growing cabbages, because I have no idea if that will ever happen. Btw, cabbages do great in Tampa! In any case this husband left phone and video messages for his wife, but I’m not going to do that for you.
The wife, the author of the article, says of the two of them, she and her husband, “There can be no doubt that we were polar opposites.” She doesn’t say on what she bases this, most likely she wouldn’t have kept the kind of things her husband had kept. What would she have kept? She doesn’t say.
But she was most likely referring to other things. As I read her article I said to myself that Josée and I, in a good many respects, as probably all good married couples, are also in regard to many things polar opposites.
In fact, my own granted very limited experience I’ve never found a couple, married or otherwise, who were much alike. Why is that? Is it because we’re simply attracted to opposites, as plus to minus? That’s odd, isn’t it, that we choose to live a lifetime, as I have, with someone who is plus to my minus, opposite poles. Then when those differences come to the fore, usually from something unimportant, not at all “grave,” we argue, although in my own case, even at these times of dispute, I’ve never stopped loving my wife, no less than on the very first day I met her on a train going to Paris from Le Havre.