Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Paddy, who is my husband

Paddy, Patrick, is my husband. He would hate it if he knew I was writing about him.
He´s English, a retired newspaperman, a thinker, a wag, a working-class raconteur. Or he was.
Paddy dreamed for years of retiring to Spain, but the rural life on the pilgrimage trail part was my idea. He was happy enough to sign on when the time came. His gruff silence is just a front for a kind, generous heart. He´s been a fine volunteer hospitalero for almost 19 years, longer than we´ve been married.
Years ago, in Oviedo
Paddy´s become the background player in our duet. In years past, Paddy was more engaged. He used to answer the phone and tell people to come on over, or answer the door and tell people to come in. He invited his friends in England to visit us here. He went on his own for long weekends to Cuenca or Pamplona or Madrid, to see art exhibitions, or went with me to look at Romanesque chapels up in the mountains, or off to Paris or Ghent or London, just for fun.
I´m a night-owl. He´s a morning person. We balanced-out nicely. We spent years in none but one another´s company, but didn´t got too sick of one another.
At home he took the morning shift. He rose at dawn and gathered the eggs, fried up a panful if there were pilgrims in the house, and sometimes walked with them and the dogs a little way up the camino.
Paddy still walks the dogs every morning, but not until later. He chops firewood and makes superb omelettes sometimes, and he helps out with whatever he´s asked to do.
But these days he mostly crouches in the chair at the end of the big kitchen table, peering into this computer screen.
Pilgrims come and go. They ask the same questions, tell the same stories. Paddy says hello, he speaks to them civilly, but often as not he quickly puts his headphones back on and goes back to his YouTube art history lecture, or the 3-year-old mare and filly handicap at Epsom Downs.
He´s not usually outrightly rude to them, but Paddy is done with pilgrims.
Meantime, I deal with the ongoing Peaceable business, with a lot of help from Ollie. I answer the phones, make up the shopping list, run into town, pin up the laundry, make pasta and flan and plans.
Paddy´s lost much of his eyesight. He cannot read books any more, but he can bump up the print on a computer screen enough to write a column every couple of weeks for The Toledo Blade. He plays gadfly to a gang of  radical online Catholic traditionalists, under the nom de plume "Toad." Paddy cannot see well enough to enjoy museum displays, or art exhibits. He still likes cuisine, but he doesn´t  want to go down to Villada for a menu del dia any more. Some days he cannot hear well enough to follow a conversation in Spanish. He puts on Shostakovich or Mahler recordings, turns them up loud enough to shake the timbers of the house, then dons his headphones and turns on another lecture video.
He goes to bed early and sleeps a long time. He spends many hours on the patio with Harry, Ruby, and Judy Dog, basking in the weak February rays, sipping red wine. I see them all out there, and I know I love him.
Today, Paddy turns 77.
Maybe he is depressed, or lonely. Maybe he is fixing to die. The doctor says there´s nothing really  wrong with him, except he´s 77 years old. People around here live into their 90's if they don´t smoke, or roll over their tractors. 
I often think it´s time to tell the pilgrims to go somewhere else, to let Paddy live in peace in his home. But maybe that would be a big mistake.
Without them, Paddy would have nothing coming in from outside. Just three hound dogs, three cats, a canary, five hens, and the internet.
And me. His wife.
And that could be fatal.