2007 — 6 December: Pension day Thursday; yippee!

It's now 08:38, and I've been "up and at 'em" intermittently for a couple of hours. This won't really do either, will it? Time to get dressed! Of course, it might just be simpler to set the alarm clock and then forget about it rather than trying to wake myself up in time for the driving lesson and, as it were, over-achieving. I am capable of really impractical idiocy at times, I guess. (But then it would have meant using Christa's alarm clock — which at least I know how to drive — but which I was somehow reluctant to touch.1 Weird, or what?)

Thanks for my pension, IBM! I just checked online, and the pittance is paid. Genteel poverty, heh? Well it sure beats the £10 from the DWP yesterday.

Today (following the healthy cardboard cereal breakfast) as I say brings a morning driving lesson and, possibly, some later co-piloting by Gill. I'm sure there will be a few other bits and bobs here and there, but they can wait for now.

Rilke revisited

Mike P didn't much like "Google's" translation yesterday. Neither did I, but it was getting rather late last night. With his help, here's a hopefully-improved composite variant:

Closing piece

Death is big
We are his
with laughing mouths.
When we believe [ourselves] to be in the middle of life,
He dares to weep among us.

Blanchot, Ashok, Heidi and me!

A bit heavy going for so early in the morning, I agree, but I wanted to do Christa's choice of verse a bit more justice. If I look hard enough among her library of books I predict I'll find this verse somewhere, along with some bits of underlining and a note or two in the margin.

DWP, how I love thee!

I was a bit rude about the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday. And earlier today, come to that. I apologise, for reasons that will soon become blindingly obvious!

Christa's death, by the time it happened, wasn't really an intellectual shock as we both needed it to happen as the only way left out of what was clearly a desperately sad and intolerable situation. That didn't stop it being an emotional hammer blow to my heart and soul, of course. Although the fact that you know perfectly well something dreadful is going to happen does give you some sort of chance to wrap your head around it, I suppose. But in terms of having a "grief strategy" to help me survive the blow I am still floundering2 somewhat, and rather making things up day by day as I carry on plodding along Life's tortuous highway. As we all must (agreed today's kindly postie after he'd asked me how I was coping).

What was still a shock, I don't mind admitting, (and I know she'd have felt exactly the same about it) was the cost of the funeral. I'd read the bit in What to do when someone dies but had somehow failed to share this particular factoid with her before she died. However, the postie brought me very welcome tidings from the DWP: "You are entitled to Bereavement Payment. This is to inform you that the £2000 Bereavement Payment will go direct into the account you chose within the next five working days. This is the full amount of the Bereavement Payment." In other words, that nice Gordon Brown is going quite a long way towards meeting the cost of Christa's funeral which is, I'm sure we can all agree, substantially better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Thank you, DWP.

Unless I get married again(!) it occurs to me that there won't be a future such payment when I, in turn, skid off Life's highway and crunch into the tarmac. Time to start salting away a few pennies I suppose...

Picking up some of the pieces (PCs?)

I've promised Christa's employer I will destroy all the work-related files on Christa's PC, and shred all the associated paperwork. (Christa worked on literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of technical patent translations, sometimes typing them, sometimes checking them, often asking me about them — she had a touching faith in the extent of my technical knowledge since she'd always held engineers in high esteem.) Among the files, of course, are many more personal items. I have barely begun to scratch the surface of these, but here's an item that touched me to the core of my being. It dates from April 2004, when Christa was still contemplating a trip (back) to Gothenburg, Nebraska, for the 40th anniversary re-union of the High School she attended there in 1963/64. She'd filled in a spreadsheet for one of the organisers:

Looking after my family, going to the seaside (20-30m from us depending on where you go), gardening, take photos, watch films, read the paper, travel, potter around.

Just bought myself a Mini Cooper S. On Saturdays, while I do my ironing I listen to Car Talk on NPR - great stuff.

One more thing:
Retire from work (18 months to go) and have another 30 years with David, and have time (right now I never have time,3 work piles up constantly) and umph to do what I want to do... just enjoy things, and travel a bit (Nebraska is not yet out of my system).


She also offered one of her American classmates (a quote collector) the following advice from a Chinese proverb, which I will also now benefit from. She first offered him a gentle warning: Unfortunately, I only have a few German ones which I must translate, and almost inevitably, something gets lost in the process. So here goes:
You cannot avoid that the birds of sorrow and sadness fly over your head, but for them to build their nests in your hair, this you can avoid.

I swear I can just hear her saying this with exactly this word order, too. She went on: "Many many years ago (still in Germany), I tended to get depressed at times, and this was something which said snap out of it! As I said, many many years ago... thank goodness." I echo that, my love. Thank you.

Time to relax

I reckon, after my 51 miles of further driving practice (2,056 total now) this afternoon (thank you again, Peter) in some pretty rotten drizzle, rain, and (at times) heavy and even ill-behaved traffic, I've earned myself some therapeutic TV time. Switching off the brain has to be good, surely? See ya!



1  There's even a bit in that Coping with loss pamphlet about "treasuring objects belonging to the deceased" though, to be honest, "treasuring" isn't the verb I generally associate with any alarm clock, Christa's or anyone else's!
2  As my chum Geoff put it: "In all honesty, how can one have a strategy for the sun being turned off? I imagine that one can only fall back on that most basic of human instincts — survival; hardly amounts to a strategy I know, but it's served humanity for a million years."
3  This was the bit that caused me to choke up, of course. She'd never shown this to me... but it refers directly back to the chorus of the "Time in a bottle" song by Jim Croce, doesn't it? "But there never seems to be enough time, To do the things you want to do, Once you find them".