Why on earth one man needs four garden sheds is beyond me.
Of course, this one is his favourite, it's the wood shed, with the tools and all the bits and pieces hung up or in jars or old margarine tubs. He didn't used to keep things this organised, but in recent years he has. A lot has changed in recent years.
I walk back up the garden towards the house. Not that you could really call it a garden, there's not a blade of grass, just a concrete floor. Not that you can see the floor with all of his contraptions and 'bright ideas' cluttering the space.
As I walk past my herb pots, I pick some parsley for our tea. Fish with parsley sauce. My daughter hates my parsley sauce. She doesn't seem to like much that I do. As I've always said, I tried my best and isn't that all that matters. She doesn't agree. She says my best doesn't count for much when she's spent years in therapy trying to recover from the problems of her childhood. But we took her on trips to the zoo and the beach and I loved her very much. Too much she would say. I didn't know you could love someone too much. She says it was a suffocating, stifling, strangling version of love. She overthinks things. It's best not to dwell on these things. That's in the past, I don't see why we can't be friends now. She doesn't like me calling 'too often' as she calls it. Isn't it my right to call her when I want, I gave birth to her after all.
She tells me I need my own friends, and a life of my own. But my family has always been my life. Him, in his shed, and my children. They're all I need.
Of course when he got sick, things changed a bit. He lost his job. Couldn't cope. His mind broke a bit. He just wanted to be gone. To not think or feel anymore. Went into his favourite shed and fashioned 'a way out'. A wooden handle and a sharp blade. He spent some time in the hospital. His psychiatrist says he's been carrying the emotional wound for a long time before the self-inflicted physical wound. Since he was a child.
His father wasn't good to the children or his wife. Beat them. Told them they were worthless. School wasn't much better. Beat them. Told them they were worthless.
I roughly scrub the potatoes, washing the dirt away under the running tap.
When I met him, he was dark and handsome and we fell in love quickly.
My daughter says my own father broke him even more. She says my father's religion was another version of his own father. Telling him he was useless and worthless. A sinner. She said it was the same old abuse dressed up in 'holy' language, being battered in a church instead of an old lonely house. She's completely wrong about that. My Daddy is a wonderful man and speaks the truth. She says he messed me up too, that I am fun, generous and bubbly deep down, and it slips out sometimes, but that he made me serious, judgemental, self-righteous, obsessed with what other people think, but won't listen to other people's viewpoints. She says she's messed up by it all too. She overthinks things. It's best not to dwell on these things.
Maybe I'll make some wheaten bread too, I do love the aroma of fresh baking in the house. I used to feel guilty if people knew I baked. Or ate. But I don't care about my size anymore. Nothing has worked anyway. Everyone else has it so easy, but my body conspires against me. If anyone is visiting, I'll still put my dinner on a small plate, so they can see that I'm making an effort, but really it's the same amount as everyone else, the plate is piled much higher than theirs are, but it'll stop them thinking I'm not trying. It's perceptions that count. Perceptions, like when someone comes to the door, I'll run upstairs and change into something else, so they don't think I'm vain, or mutton dressed as lamb.
Anyway, he's always liked me, and isn't that all that matters.
It's been nice to have him around the house in these recent years. To have the company. It's nice to be needed. It's nice to look after him. It's not nice when he says he doesn't feel he can say he loves me. He says he doesn't feel anything. He used to feel a lot for me. He would write me love letters and kiss me in broom cupboards
When he's in his shed, he's happy. Most of the time. Sometimes even the shed doesn't work. He just sits and stares into space for days at a time. Terrible nightmares too. We found out, when he was in the hospital, that he used to go into work early every day to check he hadn't made any mistakes the day before. He was always afraid he'd made mistakes. Couldn't sleep thinking about them. I guess he still dreams about them. He has new problems now, worries about the world, and secret assassins, and corrupt world leaders. Reads websites about conspiracy theories, and then drives himself crazy. You think he's making progress, he's working in his shed, and seems calm, but then he'll tell you some obscure theory about the CIA. I just tell him not to talk nonsense, it can get a bit wearying.
Getting out of the house lately has been good for me. Visiting old ladies. They're very grateful. They like having someone to talk to, and I'm so good to them. Their own families don't help them as much as I do. They need me.
I put the potatoes in a pan of cold water on the stove top. The wheaten is in the oven. I think I deserve a sit down now for a while.
I look back and can see he was always carrying something. Something heavy that had no business being on his shoulders. But we also had good times. Especially with the children. Walking around the zoo, laughing at the angry gorillas, eating sandwiches on the grass.
I had disappointments in my life. I had a job I desperately wanted to do, a job that would have brought meaning and made my father proud, but it didn't work out. It was taken from me in the cruelest way, because of a health issue. I guess that's why my family are so important to me. I had nothing else, nor could I ever have anything else.
I suppose I've always felt like a bit of disappointment to my family. I was named after someone who had a gentle nature. But I feel deep down that I'm bubbly and forceful, and I suppose sometimes that wasn't always seen as the ideal personality in my straight-laced community. My mother and sisters were slim, and I always felt bigger than I should be. My father had very tight purse strings so things like owning more than one pair of shoes were seen as frivolous, and I always had a big appetite for food and fun. We were not encouraged to have friends who were deemed 'unsuitable', which was most people really. I suppose I liked the excuse, as I'm shy, and find other people's ideas a bit annoying.
The irony is that my daughter would say that she felt some of the same things with me as her parent, that her personality wasn't appreciated, or the fact that she thought about things and questioned and didn't just meekly comply. That I restricted her with regards to friends. She says I latch on to her life and her friends, instead of having my own.
The cruelest thing that happened, was losing Him. It felt like a death. He just wasn't 'there' anymore. He wasn't the man I knew. I had a cardboard cutout of a husband. It looked like he was there, but he was gone. He doesn't touch me, or tell me he loves me, I need those things like oxygen. He was the only one who really liked me and understood me. We can't go anywhere or go for drives together. My daughter is unsympathetic. She says I should have had friends already in place, so that I had other people. She says I can't expect her now to be there for her constantly, when I caused her so much pain growing up. She says she's grieving for him too, that to her he's her father, not my husband, so she can't listen to me tell her how I struggle with him.
I made my family my life and now that they're gone, there's nothing left.
Today the cardboard cutout has fluttered to the ground. Maybe now this grief I've had for years, will be visible to people. They'll understand he's gone, and understand my pain.
He was always peaceful in his shed. It makes sense that the shed is where he chose to spend his last moments. Just the smell of wood for company.
I'm sure there'll be lots of people round at the house soon, it'll be nice to have the company. After all I do for everyone else, they can all look after me now, and we won't hear any unpleasant things about mistakes I've supposedly made, or my size, or whatever else I seem to always do wrong. I'll be able to cry and not be told I'm doing it for some other reason.
Regret is a slow poison. It's best not to think about these things.
The parsley sauce smells so good. I do make a good parsley sauce. It's mostly packet stuff, but I still made it, added fresh parsley and heated it up. It's very good. I make the best wheaten bread too. Everyone says so. I bring loaves to my neighbours and they gobble them up and tell me how wonderful they are. No-one ever criticises them. They'd be lost without them, wouldn't eat a proper meal unless I brought them good homemade bread.
I suppose I'll have to call someone now. Let them know. Tell them he's in his shed. I'll set his place at the table anyway, extra potatoes on his plate.