Sunday, 20 December 2015

Home (Part II)

His shakes are more violent today than the last time. The Parkinsons' acting up he says, brushing it off. It's been a while since the last time we met. Every time I promise to come back soon, I never do. Life gets in the way.
My kids keep digging at my conscience, asking when was the last time I saw my old friend. As I've said before, we raise them. They teach us.

Trevor is a jolly kind, he always was. You can see that. Jolly and adventurous. To him getting called out to join the army at 18 was more of a break than a dread. Although an only child, from a loving home in Leicester, he couldn't help but cease the opportunity to explore new horizons. That was around the early 1950's and the chances that came by for such things were limited. He travelled to Germany, went on to Austria and was on his way ahead when he met Lilly.

Nights are often the best part of the day, he says to me. In his dreams she seems so real, he can almost smell her. When he wakes up, she's gone and he's alone again. Her last few years were ones of intense care. She was wheel chair bound, almost invalid. Years of anxiety medication and high blood pressure had got the better of her. Giving her care, had filled his days. She had been the homemaker through their 5 decades together. Caring for and loving him and the two boys. When it was she who was the baby, he had applied himself with dedication and tenderness. Having learnt well from her example.
On some unkinder nights he wakes up in a cold sweat with a pounding in his chest. In his dream he's wheeling her, chatting and laughing along the way, only to bend down and find no Lilly. The wheel chair empty.
Still, he likes the nights. For the times he's with her and life is complete again.

Complete, like he had felt in Vienna with her toddler on his shoulders and Lilly by his side. Only just into adulthood himself, there was a lot of cautioning about a woman eight years his senior, with a child of her own. It didn't deter him. He had wandered off far from where he belonged. With her he was home.

His face lights up as he tells me this, just like it does when I walk into the restaurant - his dining room for the past six year. The same time, every day of every month of every year, he's here. Right at this very table by the window, on his own. Just where I first met him. The way it's squared off with an old broken piano against one wall and his wheel chair by the other, you even play into his imagination of this being his home. Since Lilly has gone, he uses her wheel chair as a walker for himself. It doubles as a ready respite when asthma leaves him heaving for air on the short walk over. 'You know where to find me if you're looking for me', he jokes in his mails as he gently prods for a visit, saying his fingers are too old for typing - they just won't tap dance the way they used to! Trevor has clearly always been the people's person. He has a timeless charm about him, and a stunningly graphic memory that shames me. I have lists for everything. I have lists for the lists I have everything for. All my memories are replaced by tasks, jobs on the lists of lists. 'Visit Trevor' is the one I'll be checking off today. Between the mechanics of life, we lose sight of living it. What's your strongest memory I asked him. The answer took about twenty seconds in the coming. One pouring autumn evening in the early phase of their dating, Trevor was miserably late to meet Lilly. He played the Clarinet at a band. That night they were held back for a few extra pieces. When his Taxi finally pulled over by her building, she was waiting in the rain. As he got off, she ran out to hug him. 'You came' she had said in joyful disbelief, 'You came!'

We stay in that moment for a bit, smiling to ourselves. What's your strongest memory, he asks me. What moment in your life left a most striking impression?...I look at him and think. I'm still thinking.

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