Dear Phlip - May 18, 2010
May 18, 2010
I suppose one of the better things about being dead is that you will never get any older. Not that you really worried much about your age.
Well, to be honest, you found 60 one heck of a hurdle - and that birthday will long live in my memory as one of the worst days ever. Now that you aren't around to see it and feel like I am being disloyal, I might tell others the story.
You were in Australia when your colleague Maureen called me to tell me she had decided to throw a surprise 60th birthday party for you the weekend after you returned. She intended inviting all your previous graduate students - you had had over 50 by then, and many of them were living abroad. She wanted my help in getting together addreses, and although I couldn't get into your computer, I could look through your hand written filing card system, and provided her with a few. She was very successful, and about 40 of them had agreed to come - along with lots of your current students and various colleagues. She ordered the food, hired one of the huge halls at the University, and got all excited about it. But she made me promise not tell you, leaving it up to me to find a way of getting you there.
You were immediately suspicious when I suggested we go to Manchester for a meal for your birthday - and you didn't want to go. When I more or less insisted, you wore me down until I admitted that there would be a surprise gathering of your students. You were enraged - and stormed off. I called Maureen to warn her that the secret was out, and that you weren't happy, to say the least. I think you were afraid that you wouldn't remember the names of the students - or that they would get a strip tease artist in, and that would embarrass you. But Maureen promised that it would just be nice and friendly fun, and she provided you with a list of those going. But you presisted in feeling agrieved, not only with her, but with me, for allowing her to do it. You told me that if I hadn't admitted it before the event, it would have been a matter for divorce. When the time came, you made us sneak in the back way, so that we could see who was there before they saw you. Outwardly you were friendly in a very detatched way - but you refused to eat or drink anything, or cut the cake. You avoided speaking to Maureen and left her feeling very let down. When you got home you threw the book of photographs of the students with you over the years in the garbage. I rescued it and hid it, but you found it again, and destroyed it.
But after a few days, you felt like you should apologise to Maureen and bought her some flowers and chocolates. You took me to Amsterdam for a long weekend. But while we were there, you tried to drag me to a live sex show, and when I held back and started crying, you said, "now you know how it feels to be forced to do something you don't want to do." We didn't go, but somehow the apology seemed less believable after that.
Anyway, back to today. It was bright and sunny when I woke up although it is a bit cloudy now - and after Keep Fit, I drove to the cemetery to pay my respects. I took a bunch of crab apple and cherry blossom from the garden with me, to scatter on your grave. Woodland burial sites don't allow flowers - either planted or even just propped on the grave. But your land was covered with flowers. I know that you won't mind that they were dandelions - as we regularly used to have disagreements about leaving them in our garden.
I have ordered your memorial plaque, but it hadn't arrived by today. Yours will be next to a man called Tom, who died in 2008, although there were screw holes next to him, so maybe somebody's plaque was removed for some reason and will be returned. There are only eight names on each of the three stones that the plaques are put on, so you will be the 25th to be thus remembered. Nobody has been buried there in the six months since you were. I noticed some very pretty wild iris a few yards away. I hope they will spread and make it to your grave (and mine eventually) as they would dress the place up no end.
Well, I guess that is about all. Just wanted you to know we haven't forgotten you.