My husband was a lot of things. Most of all, he was the nicest, sweetest, most accommodating partner anyone could hope to have. We didn’t agree on everything, but we always agreed on the big, consequential things–those things that are at the very root of who one is and what one stands for.
And, it turns out, we also pretty much agreed on fiction. For the first 17 or so years that we were together he was primarily a reader of nonfiction. His choices for reading were usually something to do with gardens or gardening or gardeners…or World War II.
Early in the pandemic, however, he looked over one night and said “I want you to choose a novel for me to read–something cozy.” He didn’t have to ask twice. I ran into the library and found a stack of titles that would fit the bill. I don’t remember what the first selection was, but it got him hooked on my abilities as a book recommender. Over the course of about two years, he allowed me to choose every book he read. Don’t get me wrong, he still read nonfiction here and there, but for the most part he was happy to be given a novel that fit the mood he was in at the moment he was ready for a new one.
Since I only keep books that I think I want to read again, I was choosing from a stack of books that I quite enjoyed. But I was still surprised how much he enjoyed whatever I threw his direction. The fact that he wasn’t necessarily pre-disposed to the kind of fiction I tend to like made the process all the more gratifying. And since I rarely remember the plot or characters in any book, even if I loved it, I would ask him each night what was happening in his book. Those were truly precious moments to me. Sometimes I would lean over as we lay in bed reading and rest my head on his shoulder and read what was on the pages in front of him. Sometimes falling asleep that way while he stayed up to read a few more pages.
He discovered he liked D.E. Stevenson and Nevil Shute almost as much as I do. When I put the last book in his hands he would ever read, I was contemplating whether or not he was ready for Barbara Pym. But that wasn’t to be. The night he died, suddenly and unexpectedly, after I walked with his body out to the van that took him away, I went back to our bedroom and saw his glasses sitting on top of the book he would never finish reading. So glad that his open heart and mind let us share something that was so important to me, and so, so, very sad that we would never share anything again.
A book unfinished and a life with so much more to go.