The phrase most often uttered by my beloved husband has never lost its ability to send a thrill through me. Even after all these years – too many to register – those oh-so-familiar words cause my heart to turn over and my pulse to race. It's quite amazing that their power to excite has increased through the decades when one might have expected them to lose their potency. No matter what the season or the time of day – and often I hear them late in the day as we prepare for bed – they alert my brain and sharpen my responses, my whole being tenses and adrenaline flows freely. All thoughts of other pursuits are banished as my mind fills with the need to respond to his words. Just what is it about them that causes the blood to surge through my veins, the pounding palpable and deafening? Is there anything comparable? A ride on a roller-coaster perhaps or a voyage in a hot-air balloon high above the hills or a rapid bike descent down a steep and narrow track might effect the same reaction.
Familiarity does not breed contempt in this respect; indeed my reflexes have quickened as time has passed. Are these words of love that set my heart a-flutter? Sadly, no – it is the phrase, 'Have you seen . . . ?' These words are etched on my heart, much as Mary I, Queen of England, declared that Calais would be engraved on hers.
I first heard this well-exercised expression shortly after Barry and I were married. I had embarked on what was to prove a life-long and ultimately fruitless quest to organise him his papers. He was an enthusiastic sailor of many years' experience but much relevant information was scribbled noted on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, till receipts. Frequently he wrote on the back of his hand but I couldn't do anything about that. I threw away all these notes, not realising they were of any importance. Fortunately my misdemeanour mistake was discovered before they were lost forever to a far-flung rubbish tip. I should have realised then that my mission was hopeless but I persevered. Still 'Have you seen . . . ?' echoed in my ears several times a day. As our family increased the problem worsened. Any sense of order disappeared and many things were mislaid, some never to be seen again. The children tried to help by 'tidying up' but this only made matters worse. At least if the heaps and piles of paper, books, bags, coats remained in situ there was some hope of finding what was missing as there remained a general sense of location. 'I remember it being over there,' he would say waving a hand in the general direction of London or Southampton and I would scurry over to search.
Eventually I we composed a mantra to be chanted prior to Barry leaving the house – 'Glasses, passes, iPAQ, wallet, keys, phone' we would intone and then he would go to work where Elaine, his long-suffering serving right-hand woman would take over my role of organising helping him. One day, getting cross, he informed me that his desk at work was always tidy and he didn't lose things there. Later, a little shame-facedly, he admitted that he swept everything into the drawers at the end of the day so that it looked ordered.
I became adept at finding things though it always helped to know the colour and approximate size of whatever was lost. Since Barry retired matters have deteriorated. It's true we've had a fair amount of upheaval one way and another with many different people coming and going, some to stay overnight, others just attending for the day. What really worries me, though, is that I seem to be am getting just as forgetful as Barry. Hopefully, that will resolve if when all the work in the house is finished and relative calm is restored.
He's only lost three a few things today – one of his trainers, the orthotic inserts for same, his glasses, his wallet. The first thing he lost this morning was a sock. He'd put one sock on and was looking for the other, becoming quite irritated in the process before he realised it was on his foot. In the past he has lost his glasses while wearing them and a hat on his head. He has been known to demand where a piece of paper has gone while holding it.
I've frequently said he lives on another planet – his mind is certainly constantly occupied with a myriad thoughts and schemes. He absorbs knowledge easily and seeks information constantly – it's just the mundane minutiae of life that escape him, like the whereabouts of his keys and I suppose that's what I'm here for. I think in another life he must have been a rich patron of the arts and sciences and had many minions to look after the small, boring but important matters of life.