Another Patrick story, this one date 26 April 2016.
I also have a recording from almost a year later in which he tells the same story, albeit in a slightly different way.
Constancy in love is not all that common these days. That’s why I am compelled to tell the story of Wolf and Evelyn. They came from Berlin, where they were both school teachers. For more than twenty years they rented one of our cottages, usually for the two weeks of Easter vacation.
They always made the reservation for the next year before leaving, promising to fix the dates just as soon as they precisely knew their school holidays. They didn’t want any of the other cottages, only number three. When their date arrived we had the cottage ready the way they liked it. They always requested a single bed at the foot of the double bed. I never knew who slept in the single, but I always suspected it was Wolf. Surely he would have let Evelyn have the big bed.
Evelyn was and still is an attractive lady, a bit saftig, buxom, bright, intelligent eyes. She was the more proficient in English, so much of our conversation was through her. She cheerfully rendered into German whatever Wolf missed.
We came to know their routine. Every morning he would walk to the village pick up the German newspaper reserved from Berlin months before. Across the road from the news agent he would choose in the bakery a couple of pastries to go with breakfast. When he returned Evelyn had the table prepared under the arbor, the aroma of coffee wafting up to our terrace in the morning air Then they settled in the garden next to the old almond tree now a tall stump supporting a pink bougainvillea.
Then Wolf read the news to her in his rich baritone.
After breakfast he liked to stroll down the path toward the sea to pick up whatever wood he found for kindling. If it turned chilly, he built a fire in the evening. We supplied firewood for the apartments, allotting a basket of wood every day to each of the cottages. Wolf was an expert at getting the maximum number of logs into one of those large rubber baskets.
He brought with him a folding saw and a little axe to cut up whatever he brought back from his foraging down the path. He liked to save money, and he seemed to get great pleasure out of her watching her man at work.
While he was gathering sticks and branches, Evelyn busied herself in the part of our garden reserved for their cottage. She liked deadheading roses, snipping at flowers, watering the potted plants.
At night while she did the cooking, Wolf built a fire, and lit candles. If if it was not too damp or chilly outside, he set up windproof candle holders on the stone table illuminating the flowers surrounding their little terrace, a green glow filtering upward through the grapevine. The murmur of their conversation was punctuated by the nightingales or scops owls calling to each other.
This devoted couple came like this year after year, sometimes for two weeks, sometimes for three weeks. Other shorter, vacations they took in Italy.
It was two or three years before Stephanie and I learned that they did not live together in Berlin. Evelyn was married with children. Wolf lived alone. She did not want to get a divorce until the children were grown. Only when they came to the cottage, and I suppose when they were in Tuscany, could they live their idyll together.
When they found out I had to sell the place they panicked. Will the new owner continued to rent? they wanted to know.
She had been very sympathetic when Stephanie died. Their next visit, when I already lived in the next village, they came to see me. Evelyn was preoccupied and concerned for my welfare.
I’m so happy to see you have found a beautiful place, she said. And you are able to live alone?
It was a good question. In my seventy-five years, I had lived alone only six months. I assured her I was fine.
I’m so happy to see you well, she told me. There was a film of tears in her eyes when they left me alone in my apartment. Such a a feeling person.
The phone rang, a German prefix.
We would like it very much if you could join us on Monday. I remembered that sweet, lilting voice. Wolf and I would like it very much to see you. Can you come to us for lunch?
Come join us in the construction site, Wolf wrote in his follow up email.
At this point I had lived alone for ten years, the first time in my life, as I mentioned before. I was and am still surprised that it’s not so bad.
But as I sat there observing Evelyn and Wolf on opposite sides of the table I realized something I had never understood before. Part of living together means the other person in front of you is confirming that you are alive and that person is also being confirmed that they are alive.
We witness each other living and loving, and life has double the value.
When I arrived, Bonnie, the tattoo artist from a house further along the path, herself a work of art, was already there. Andy, the new owner of the house was unusually there as well, overseeing the extensive renovations underway. That explained Wolf’s note about construction site.
My new friend Ivonne accompanied me, so we were a group of six. When we arrived, Wolf ducked into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of champagne. He popped the cork up into the vine and it stayed there.
Andy, who was obviously already in on it, proposed a celebratory toast.
What’s to celebrate? I asked.
We just got married, Evelyn said. Then we were all laughing and crying and hugging and kissing.
We all lifted our glasses to their enduring love and long-term happiness.
As Ivonne and I were leaving Wolf came up and told me in a soft voice She got her divorce just in time.
It was two weeks before Wolf turned 65 and would be on pension, so they married quickly. Now she will be entitled to receive his pension as a widow, should he leave this life before she does.
Evelyn was right behind us and overheard that remark.
But I won’t let him go, she said, wrapping her arms around him, his chest swelling in her embrace.
On the way home I almost called Andy to see if they still wanted a single bed at the foot of the double bed. Needless to say, I didn’t. None of my business.
Here’s a recording on the same subject, from 18 March 2017.