The Last Chapter
邓志辉 译  

The Last Chapter


Their marriage was no fairy tale.


By Elizabeth Livingston


“I love you, Bob.” 


“I love you, too, Nancy.” 


It was 2a.m. and I was hearing my parents’ voices through the thin wall separating my bedroom from theirs. Their loving reassurances were sweet, touching – and surprising.


My parents married on September 14, 1940, after a brief courtship. She was nearing 30 and knew it was time to start a family. The handsome, well-educated man who came by the office where she worked looked like a good bet. He was captivated by her figure, her blue eyes. The romance didn’t last long.


Seeds of difference sprouted[1] almost immediately. She liked to travel; he hated the thought. He loved golf; she did not. He was a Republican, she an ardent[2] Democrat. They fought at the bridge table, at the dinner table, over money, over the perceived failings[3] of their respective in-laws. To make matters worse, they owned a business together, and the everyday frustrations of life at the office came to roost[4] at home.


[1] sprout出现。


[2] ardent热烈的;殷切的。


[3] failing缺点,短处。


[4] roost栖息;安歇。

There was a hope that they would change once they retired, and the furious winds did calm somewhat, but what remained steeled[5] itself into bright, hard bitterness. “I always thought we’d...” my mother would begin, before launching into a precise listing of my father’s faults. The litany[6] was recited so often, I can reel it off[7] by heart today. As he listened, my father would mutter angry threats and curses. It was a miserable duet[8].


[5] steel使冷酷无情。


[6] litany冗长而枯燥的陈述。


[7] reel off流畅地讲;一口气说。


[8] duet二重奏;二重唱。

It wasn’t the happiest marriage, but as their 60th anniversary approached, my sister and I decided to throw a party. Sixty years was a long time, after all; why not try to make the best of things? We’d provide the cake, the balloons, the toasts, and they’d abide by one rule: no fighting.


The truce[9] was honored. We had a wonderful day. In hindsight it was an important celebration, because soon after, things began to change for my parents. As debilitating[10] dementia[11] settled in, their marriage was about the only thing they wouldn’t lose.


[9] truce停战;休战。


[10] debilitating使衰弱的。


[11] dementia痴呆。

It began when their memories started to fade. Added to the frequent house-wide hunts for glasses and car keys were the groceries left behind on the counter, notices of bills left unpaid. Soon my parents couldn’t remember names of friends, then of their grandchildren. Finally they didn’t remember that they had grandchildren.


These crises would have at one time set them at each other’s throats, but now they acted as a team, helping each other with searches, consoling each other with “Everyone does that” or “It’s nothing; you’re just tired.” They found new roles – bolstering[12] each other against the fear of loss.


[12] bolster支持。

Financial control was the next thing to go. For all of their marriage, my parents stubbornly kept separate accounts. Sharing being unthinkable, they’d devised financial arrangements so elaborate they could trigger[13] war at any time. He, for example, was to pay for everything outside the house, she for whatever went on inside. The whopays dilemma was so complex for one trip that they finally gave up traveling entirely.


[13] trigger引起。

I took over the books. Now no one knew how things got paid; no one saw how the columns that spelled their fortunes compared. Next I hired a housekeeper. Cooking and cleaning, chores my mother had long complained about, were suddenly gone. Finally – on doctors’ orders – we cleared the house of alcohol, the fuel that turned more than one quarrel into a raging fire.


You could say my parents’ lives had been whittled away[14], that they could no longer engage in the business of living. But at the same time, something that had been buried deep was coming up and taking shape. I saw it when my father came home after a brief hospital stay.


[14] whittle away逐渐削减。

We’d tried to explain my father’s absence to my mother, but because of her memory, she could not keep it in her head why he had disappeared. She asked again and again where he was, and again and again we told her. And each day her anxiety grew.


When I finally brought him home, we opened the front door to see my mother sitting on the sofa. As he stepped in the room, she rose with a cry. I stayed back as he slowly walked toward her and she toward him. As they approached each other on legs rickety[15] with age, her hands fluttered over his face. “Oh, there you are,” she said. “There you are.”


[15] rickety不结实的;要散架的。

I don’t doubt that if my mother and father magically regained their old vigor, they’d be back fighting. But I now see that something came of all those years of shared days – days of sitting at the same table, waking to the same sun, working and raising children together. Even the very fury they lavished on each other was a brick in this unseen creation, a structure that reveals itself increasingly as the world around them falls apart.

我完全相信,倘若我父母能神奇地重获旧日活力,他们一定还会像当初一样吵架。但我现在明白,他们曾共同度过的岁月—— 一起坐在同一张桌边、醒来看见同一片朝阳、一起工作、一起抚养子女的那些岁月——已经孕育出某样东西。即便是互相之间抛洒的怨愤也是在为这个看不见的构造添砖加瓦。周遭世界在他们的感知中日渐支离破碎时,这一结构也日渐清晰地自我呈现。

In the early morning I once again heard the voices through the wall. 


“Where are we?” my father asked. 


“I don’t know,” my mother replied softly.


How lucky they are, I thought, to have each other.