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.



Ingrid said...

Happy Birthday Paddy, from a Canuck who truly treasures whatever company you bestow on her when she steps into your home. I remember the first time, you told me, no matter how gruffy you are, they keep coming... that was in 2012....lol

Much love Ingrid

Heidi Lyshol said...

Warm congratulations from your friends in Oslo. We loved staying with you for those days, and hope you and Paddy will have many, many more years in Moratinos.

Kevin McKinney said...

Thanks Rebekah. I always appreciate your observations and insights as you share the details of life together with Paddy, the dogs, the cats, the villagers and the pilgrims. Bless your heart—-and not in that snarky, southern way. Happy birthday to Paddy. Wishing him a special day.

Jordon Ozero said...

Warm regards and birthday wishes from a recent guest at the Peaceable Kingdom. Had I not just read about Patrick’s hosting skills I would have made the gross error of complimenting him for his fine hospitality! If nothing else perhaps he still has a blossoming career on the stage as he managed to draw me in completely. To many more years!

susanawee said...

A very Happy Birthday to Paddy and a big thankyou for another special story from The Peaceable Kingdom. Your story of Paddy today, puts me in mind of our ageing and far from well, fur baby, Sir Simon Cat for some reason. Though, Sir Simon does not listen to music through his headphones, he does like to sit in the studio behind me and listen to whatever I put on at the time, particularly Classical music, as he lies there contemplating times of long ago when he could see, hear, communicate and run around so much more freely.

O Peracha said...

Beautifully written and very moving. Happy Birthday, Paddy.

Gumbo Limbo Tropical said...

A belated happy birthday, with wishes for years to come in good health and happiness.
On my 80th birthday last month, I very much felt like the following poem, the content of which you too should apply. Thank you for the few short walks with you and your dogs, quite some years past. Beautiful memories. Enjoy as much as you can with Rebekah.
I counted my years and discovered that I have less time to live from here onward, than I have lived until now.
I feel like a child who won a package of *sweets*; eating them with pleasure at first, but when he perceived that there were few left, he began to savor them deeply.
I no longer have time for endless meetings where statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that little will be achieved.
I no longer have time to support absurd people who, despite their chronological age, have not grown up.
My time is too short to discuss titles. I want the essence, my soul is in a hurry ... With few *sweets* left in the package ...
I want to live next to human, very human people. Who know how to laugh at their mistakes. Who are not conceited with their triumphs. Who do not consider themselves to be elected before their time. Who do not run away from their responsibilities. Who defend human dignity. And who only want to walk on the side of truth and honesty.
The essential is what makes life worthwhile.
I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch the hearts of people..
People to whom the hard blows of life have taught to grow with soft touches in the soul.
Yes ... I'm in a hurry ... I'm in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.
I intend not to waste any of the *sweets* that I have left ... I am sure they will be more exquisite than those which I have eaten so far.
My goal is to reach the end, satisfied and at peace with my loved ones and with my conscience.
We have two lives and the second one begins when one realizes that one only has one ...
Translation of a poem by Mario Andrade

Mary Lynn said...

Here's another belated birthday wish to Paddy and a big thank you to both of you for your hospitality to pilgrims, Rebecca's website, and all the work you both do to make the Camino the magical place that it is. It was wonderful to meet both of you last fall!
Mary Lynn
Waterloo Ontario Canada

Amanda Schaffer said...

Happy February Birthday Paddy! Many blessings to you --
It was great fun staying at Peaceable Kingdom twice (so far!) -- my dad (who's now 83 years young) enjoyed swapping stories with you --