Thursday, June 09, 2005

Laying Ghosts

Five years ago, June 9 was a Friday. The school year was just about over, my son was home from his first year of college, and the children were sleeping late in the house in Maadi. Five years ago I decided to slip out of the house early to go take my favourite mare for a ramble in the countryside since the desert was going to be much too hot, so I got up early, stopped by Greco for a latte, and drove out to Morad's place where my horses were stabled then. Some of my neighbours had gone out into the desert (yes, mad dogs and horsemen!), and were meeting for breakfast at Morad's aunt and uncle's house down the road, so I let myself be distracted by good company and laughter over a leisurely breakfast with friends. A country breakfast of fava beans, boiled eggs, salty white cheese, bread and coffee can last for hours and by the time we'd finished the sun was fairly high in the sky. Magdy and Janie had people drop by and the morning moved on into afternoon as we sat in the shade in their garden gossiping, chatting over the news of the day, planning equestrian events, and doing autopsies on events just past.

Around 3 pm I decided that if I was going to ride, I'd better get busy and I walked back to the stables at Morad's to get Dory ready to go. We started out alone and headed north along the canal in the shade of the huge eucalyptus trees that line the road. The dusty road was almost empty at that hour on a Friday. Friday is the main day off work for people in Egypt, and 3 pm is prime siesta time on a Friday afternoon. Dory and I had the world to ourselves. The kingfishers divebombed fish in the canal while the cattle egrets and the white egrets looked up at us on the trail occasionally as they gulped down minnows and frogs from the banks. The crows only grumbled quietly in the tops of the eucalyptus trees. Even the birds were taking time off. Sleepy village dogs couldn't be bothered to jump up from their shady spots to bark at us and just barely lifted their heads to growl.

In the heat I chose a path that kept us in as much shade as possible so we worked our way north along the canal to the asphalt road that goes from Shubramint to the desert dump for Giza. Even on a Friday the enormous trucks were moving in and out of the desert carrying the waste for the city out and bringing sand and gravel for construction in. The intersection (if it can really be called that) of this road and the Mansoureya Road is always crowded with vehicles and workers. Some enterprising individuals have set up tea shops along the road under the trees where drivers can stop for a cup of the black baladi tea and something to eat while they stretch their legs out on the woven mats that mark the area of the "shop". Some horses would find making their way through the trucks and cars intimidating, but Dory doesn't find anything intimidating anymore. She does her own looking at oncoming traffic and responds to the slightest touch from me to adjust her path around these enormous vehicles trailing streams of sand and dust.

Just before we arrived at the intersection, I placed a call to Germany. My husband had flown his Beechcraft C90 there the day before and was planning on returning that evening. I caught him as he was on the tarmac in Augsberg doing a final check on the plane before taking off. We chatted, the usual sorts of things said between people who have been partners for about 25 years, and then I asked when he expected to arrive in Cairo. I was to have the driver go to the airport at about 11 pm unless I got a phone call from Greece where he might stop to refuel if necessary. Yes sir. No problem and have a good flight. Be careful. He'd been working much too hard lately and I was happy to hear that he'd slept late that morning. Dory and I negotiated the traffic as I finished my call to Germany, and we headed on down another shady dirt road on our rather indirect way home.

That was the last time I spoke to the man that I loved more than my own life. The next morning I was a widow facing challenges that I could not even imagine at the time and my children had lost their guide, their protector, their tyrant, their father. The greyness that I remember of the morning of June 10 might not have been there in reality but it was so much there in my being that the shreds of it linger today. Five years ago I had no idea that I would be plunged into financial and corporate chaos so horrific that I wouldn't even have a moment to consider what his loss meant to me as a woman. Five years later the chaos is down to mere confusion at times, I'm out of the corporate quagmire for the most part, and I've had time to consider my loss in the peace of my home in the country. That isn't really such a blessing, I guess.

I woke this morning to the calling of the parrots and the crowing of the rooster who shares the flight cages with his little harem of hens. One of the dogs was barking at someone passing by on his way to the fields and the sparrows were arguing as usual outside my bedroom window. I shoved a dog off my foot and recognised the enormous crater where my heart used to be, and I realised that I have to come to terms with my life alone. I've had to make a trade for the quiet of the country that I love for the excitement of never knowing what fascinating plan that man would come up with next. My life now is much calmer, less stressful, but I miss the electricity, I miss the confusion, I miss the anticipation that was so much a part of it before. I miss waking up next to a large warm body that isn't a Great Dane pup who has sneaked onto the bed at night.

My life goes on. Friends have asked after me and pointed out that I've been alone for five years. Isn't it enough? Have I thought of moving on, of finding a new partner? I've realised over the past few weeks as I've reflected on this anniversary that I haven't been ready for anyone new in my life. I still haven't said good-bye. When I finished my phone call to Germany, I said "I'll see you soon." I think I've been expecting to all this time, but I know now that it isn't going to happen. Yes, I need to finally say good-bye. I need to let it go and perhaps the empty place inside will fill again. But it is so terribly hard to say.


Anonymous said...

A very touching story. May your husband rest in peace, and I hope you find happiness despite your terrible loss.

Sincere best wishes,

Colleen said...

you are a very strong and wonderful woman. i have faith in you.

kenju said...

I cannot imagine what you have been through. May both of you rest in peace and contentment.

Jessica said...

I often wonder how I would cope if such a loss like yours occured in my life.

At first, the understandable feelings of anger, deep sadness, and fear are all.. crippling. -- I cannot imagine how the reality of that is for you.

The very fact that you have made it this far and still seem to savor the small joys of life and respect the world around you tells me that you are a strong woman indeed.

Thank you for sharing your writings; it is one of *my* small joys. Keep it up.

DNA said...

As we say in Egypt:

'Inah lelah wa ena elayhi raje3oon'

(i.e. To God we belong and to Him we must return)

...I look over your posts and I wonder how you can continue to be so resilient. I am humbled by your honest and strength.

Shari said...

Oh, I just want to hug you. My deepest sympathies to you for your unfathomable loss... may God heal your heart.

Mia said...

Well said.. you've touched my heart.

I am planning a trip to Egypt in September, God willing. It feels like destiny.. and the time is finally right to make the trip.. I'm so excited!

Anyway, I only got to browse for a moment today, but I'll be back to read much more. You seem to be a very interesting, caring and compassionate woman... very interesting blog!

Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

Having recently suffered some sudden losses in my own life, both lives and a love relationship, I understand the emptiness where your heart used to be. I call this "The Brick," the weight on your chest that you have when you wake up, when you know something is very wrong but are not awake enough yet to remember what. I wake up every morning with The Brick, and I know what it feels like. I cannot tell you how glad I am that your brick is finally starting to lighten.

*~Ange~* said...

you made me cry so much.
im aussie married to an egyptian and everyday i think about the realisation that one day we will be parted. and the thought of that emptiness is just too much to think about...
i dont think you can ever completely say goodbye.