|Rosemary in Lillooet - June 2020 - Photographs Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward|
Your wife in a relationship that lasted 52 years dies of cancer in the middle of a pandemic (December 9, 2020) and you live a grief that nothing can possibly prepare you to cope. Your friends and family tell you that you have memories.
And yes if I were camping out in a little tent on a sand dune in the Sahara I would be full of such memories. But what if you live in the house where you lived with her. That is my case. I am surrounded by tangible memories like our bed. I use up the last tube of toothpaste knowing that she bought it and I know I have to buy one for just me.
Or like my dinner today which consisted of two pieces (Rosemary never used the word slice) of toast with butter and catsup. I would have never eaten that with her around. I would have cooked something that might have appealed to her.
I go into our guest bathroom and it is impossible to avoid seeing the two pictures of her and a panoramic of VanDusen Gardens that is called Rosemary’s Garden. Why is this? One bitter January in 1992 Rosemary said she wanted to go to the garden. I questioned the idea but she prevailed. On a whim I loaded a Widelux (a swivel lens 35mm Japanese camera) with Kodak Black and White Infrared Film. I was so pleased with the results that I made it a goal to use that camera to photograph all the other botanical gardens in Vancouver. These pictures were used by Western Living Magazine and I was offered (I accepted) to write a monthly garden column.
While all the above may be true, there is a new form of melancholy that I have discovered. I can remember every photograph (almost) that I have taken of Rosemary. But when I see a photograph that I have not taken of her, that is not in my memory, that someone else has taken, and that I have not seen I experience something that is pure joy but also pure grief. Here as evidence are some pictures that my daughter Alexandra took of Rosemary in Lillooet during her last summer visit of 2020.