On a fine woman, swans and a moment long ago.
My mother passed away suddenly but peacefully in January of this year. It didn’t make the Times obituary columns, so I’ll do it for her but in my own way, which helps me take my leave, though she and my father, as the greatest influences in my life, will always be with me. I was fortunate to spend the last afternoon of her life in conversation with her and as usual, it was a pleasure.
If there is a Heaven, then a river runs through it and there’s a bend in it that looks a lot like Kilbride in the 1940s. It’s a fine Summer’s day. There’s a man and a woman having a picnic. She’s been watching him fish and he’s very good, she can tell. She’s an astute and accomplished person who notices things like that.
He’s worried. She’s young and beautiful. He loves her and knows this simple fact but he’s a good bit older than her and there are other problems too. She comes from money and he doesn’t; the youngest son who inherited no land, so he’s having to work hard. From a standing start, he’s doing well though and knows he’ll do better. He’s hungry, got brains and is not scared to build a business, which he will do. There are some things in his past but none he’s ashamed of but they are there. He’ll be a good provider for her he knows and wants a chance to prove it.
He first saw her driving past in a car, a red sports car, which was highly unusual for the times; a young woman who could drive, never mind the sports car, red or otherwise. He asked a friend he was with at the time, who she was and his friend told him her name. His friend asked him why and he responded that she was the woman he was going to marry; it was as simple as that. She was the one.
He was working hard to impress her and acting a bit foolishly, as all people in love do. He even lit a cigarette using a magnifying glass just to show her that though he might not have been to college, he’d read books and knew things. He loved books and would share and impart that love generously.
He was wasting his time. She loved him the first moment she saw him and everything since had just confirmed that feeling. She lay on the blanket and watched him fish and liked the shapes his body made as he cast the fly. He was beautiful.
She liked the way he’d tied a piece of string he’d brought along around two bottles of beer, before placing them in the stream, so they’d be cold for the picnic. Considerate and thinks ahead. He caught a lot of fish but only took the two best ones and waded ashore with them. He cut a square of grass out with his penknife and dug out a shallow pit in which he started a small fire with dry twigs. She knew that square would be put back when they’d finished. The fish were impaled on two sticks and cooked in minutes.
He pulled the sticks out of the ground and handed her one. He opened the skin of the Trout and started to pick morsels of flesh off with his fingers, showing her how to do it. Yet another surprise; typically and amazingly him – no forks then. She’d never eaten with her fingers in her entire life. It was the most delicious meal she’d ever had. She made the decision then that she would give herself to him and make him hers and they would spend the rest of their lives together.
They did and their lives together were truly extraordinary. Good times and bad times, they’d face them together. Swans mate for life.
So that’s the way Heaven should be. The one perfect moment in your life, which stretches into the perfect afternoon and then the perfect Summer evening and then on until all the mountains are ground down to dust and all the rivers run no more and then on and on, until the end of eternity.