Chapter 2: Glowing Karl

In late January 2016, days before my 73rd birthday, Anne visits from Adelaide. Karl’s natural pessimism and cynicism suffered a severe shock when he met Anne years before (not unlike the effect of his meeting dearest Andrew, my surrogate son). When Anne purchases our property from the duplicitous Morag in early 2015, Karl has to reconstruct his worldview. Here, in Anne, he finds a woman who loves, respects, and cares for us, and who is willing to buy a rural property to save our skins.

On the first night of Anne’s “annual maintenance” visit, we consume all the alcohol she brought with her and everything we’ve laid in.

Anne and Karl on his birthday, February 2011As we relax on the deck on the warm summer evening and drink and talk late into the night, I notice something happening that I had never seen before.

Karl is glowing.

Anne presseS Karl to explain

Anne presses Karl to explain how he’s been able to continue building work on the granny flat after Morag announced that she was selling the property. Anne (and I) could not understand where he found the energy to keep going. I was teaching in Vancouver for four months, Morag cut off the money, our tradespeople departed, and Karl was left alone working on a half-finished building, sucking up his despair.

Finally, after dodging her questions for hours, he relents.

“The situation was so hopeless,” he sighs, setting down his beer, reaching for his tobacco pouch and slowly rolling a smoke.

Then he looks up at Anne and gives her a look I have never seen before.

Then he says this:

I realized that we were at the very end. We had no hope left. We were going to lose everything. And so, since things were so completely hopeless, I decided to give it the last of what I had left, thinking, I guess, that maybe a miracle would happen. And if it didn’t happen, at least I was doing something, however ridiculous that seemed.

Karl sighs deeply.

I turn away to hide my tears, as Anne begins to tell Karl exactly what she thinks of him.

At first, he just stares at her.

Anne persists: how marvelous Karl’s bravery was, how strong his resilience and determination, how amazing his ability to stay upright when every force seemed determined to bring him down. To keep at it. Regardless. In the face of absolute desperation.

I notice his shoulders relaxing, but Karl doesn’t cry. It is not in his nature.

Anne doesn’t cry, either. It is not in her nature.

It was in my nature, so I do.

Karl glows.

I have never seen anything like that before. And, as it turned out, I would never see it again.

The sight of my beloved, heartbroken, husband glowing, as he hears (and finally accepts) the most profound and heartfelt praise he has probably ever received, touches me beyond imagining.

Anne delivering her eulogy at Karl’s memorial a few weeks later