At a 93rd birthday party recently I was sitting on the sofa next to Wendy, a sweet old widow lady, a fellow guest. Nearly all the guests were elderly, the host and birthday boy being the oldest.
“Are you making any plans for the summer” she asked me, probably meaning trips and holidays.
Beloved was sitting at the other end of the room with the men.
I pointed to him and said: “ Not at the moment, my husband isn’t really up to travelling. He feels most comfortable at home, where he can arrange his life to suit his needs.”
Wendy made sympathetic noises. I didn’t want to sound like a woman put upon and hard-done-by, so I continued :”I don’t really mind. He is such a nice man that it is no hardship to spend time together at home.”
I didn’t get any further. “O,” Wendy burst out, “ how wonderful to hear this. I am always listening to women going on about their husbands, how tiresome they are. You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear of a couple who are friends, who like each other. If only I still had my husband; when I hear these women complaining I ask myself how would they feel if they lost them, would they be glad or would they actually miss them.”
Pleasantly surprised by this outburst, and a little touched by Wendy’s obvious sadness at her widowhood, I realised once again: it isn’t how much time you spend together, or how busily you spend this time; it’s harmony in your dealings together, and the pleasure you derive from being with each other, which matter.
As Berowne says in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, which we saw only Thursday evening:
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes Heaven drowsy with the harmony.