A tear was trickling down his cheek. He had clasped his hands and then wound then together tightly. I didn’t really want to disturb him, but I needed to rest my weary arthritic knees. I looked over towards him seeking to share his bench. He looked over to me reading my thoughts and he nodded, but did not move. He had been listening to a gentle chorus of birds hidden with the trees.
‘Peaceful,’ I said.
‘Yes she loved it here.’
I hesitated realising I had interrupted a tender moment.
‘How long ago? I asked.
‘Today, last year,’ he croaked.
‘I don’t want to disturb you.’
‘Not a problem, perhaps you’d stay and listen for a while?’
‘Tell me about her.’
‘She was the kindest, gentlest woman you could ever wish to meet. She organised me from the day we got engaged. She kept house, did the budgets and the cooking.’
‘But you helped? By providing the funds?’
‘Yes that’s what we men were for in those days. Then she bore the children.’
'Just two, one of each.’
‘But you helped?’
‘Yes of course. But whenever they fell or got bruised or scratched it was her warmth that mended them. She used to say, “There you are, mummy mended it.” They’d recover as if by magic. I taught them to read then listened as they read to me. I did sums with them – fractions they always found difficult, but not decimals later.’ He raised his head and looked into the distance. ‘Now they’ve both gone away.’
‘Australia and New Zealand.’
‘Do they come back to visit?
‘Only for the funeral,’ his voice croaked again, ‘they stayed for three weeks to help me sort things out, then left’
‘Do you want to be with them?'
‘Difficult, I’d have to be sponsored at my age. Besides, she’s still here with me, not out there.’
Trying to hide a frown of not quite understanding, I asked, ‘but do they want you to go?’
‘No I don’t think so. They only think of the future, not the past.’
At that moment, he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. There engraved on the bench were the words, ’in loving memory of Amy.’ She had been sitting on his shoulder the whole time,
‘What else do you do with your time?’
‘Not much I don’t know what to do without her.’
‘You were obviously very much in love.’
‘I loved her more every day.’
‘Can I make a suggestion?’
‘A friend of mine decided some years ago that he knew nothing of his parent’s family or any of his antecedents, so he decided to write a book about himself for his children and their children. He did it all the way from junior school to retirement.’
‘Oh I couldn’t do that.’
‘If I said that the most touching part of the book for me, when I read it, was the story of how he met the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. Right from first meeting, to falling in love and realising that they were soul mates. It was a love story that brought a tear to my eyes. What would you say to that?
‘It sounds a nice story.’
‘All your readers will learn just how much he loved her. He tells me it was a joy to write. Did your grandchildren ever meet Amy?’
‘No they stayed with the other grandparents for the funeral.’
‘Then why not write something for their sake. I am sure you have pictures too?'
He nodded. ‘Do you know I think that I quite like that idea? We got a computer some years ago to stay in touch by email. My son recently introduced me to Skype. He calls me every Saturday morning at ten in the morning, so it must be the same out there only at night. Thank you for talking to me. Shall we stay in touch?'