One staple of meals with my life mate/soul mate were salads. During our decades together, we always tried to eat plenty of raw vegetables, so our salads weren’t puny affairs with a few bits of vegetables and lots of iceberg lettuce. We used as many colors as we could — red tomatoes, purple cabbage, yellow squash, orange carrots, white cauliflower, green leaf lettuce. Since the salads were a time-consuming affair, we usually worked together, he washing the vegetables, me cutting them up.
I don’t remember much of the last year of his life (except for the last six weeks — those I remember). After he died I was in too much pain to recall that year, and now it’s too far in the past to recover the details.
But I do remember a time when I came in late from my walk, and he’d already fixed a salad for us. This was shortly before he got too sick to do anything but try to stay ahead of the pain. I don’t understand where he got the energy to fix the salad — his poor body was so ridden with metastases, it must have taken everything he had to do the simplest task, and yet, the salad was waiting for me when I got in.
Yesterday I mentioned how I carelessly let that last year slip by, how I didn’t hang on to his every word, but I was careful that day and took a photo of the salad, perhaps the last one he ever made for me. I wanted the picture because the plate was beautiful, not as a memory of him, but still, it showed I was paying attention to the good things in our shared life.
It seems impossible that he’s been gone for almost three and a half years. Seems impossible that our salad days are over and all that remains is this simple photo.
(Incidentally, “salad days” comes from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. At the end of Act I, Cleopatra says, “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment.”)
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.