I’m writing this on the first anniversary of the death of Norman Myron Geras (Pembroke: 1962–5). Norm—he was always called that by his friends and family—was my husband for nearly half a century.
I’ve written a great many different things in my time but never anything as difficult and sad as this. What I say about him cannot be called objective by any standard, but I hope that will be forgiven.
Certain facts, the sort of thing you would find in traditional obituaries, are known and can be looked up on the Internet. The reaction there to his death was something that took me and the rest of his family by surprise. If you had told him, during his last illness, that the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian would carry full obituaries, he would not have believed you. The cards and letters and emails I received after his death demonstrated a fact that none of us had quite realised before: that what he’d been writing on his blog from July 2003 till the last week of his life was important to a great many people in countries all over the world.
Norm was an academic at Manchester University from 1967 to 2003. He wrote books (The Contract of Mutual Indifference, Marx and Human Nature and others) and articles and spoke often at conferences and seminars. But it was normblog, one of the first weblog journals, which best displayed Norm’s particular combination of gifts. Everything he wrote was clear and rigorously logical but he combined these qualities on the blog with other things that made him the person he was. He was passionate about cricket, (especially his great love of the Ashes and his unswerving support of the Aussies) jazz, country and Western music, and Manchester United. Also, he was funny and not a little bonkers. Who else would have a strand on his blog where he reviewed different brands of soap, discussing their respective merits in all seriousness?
He became a born—again fiction reader in 2007, while we were on holiday in Florence. He had taken Pride and Prejudice with him and as he read it, I could see him falling in love. That is not putting it too strongly. From that time on, he was a devoted Janeite, working his way joyfully but in a typically thorough fashion through the novels, biographies, criticism etc.
The strongest and most abiding love of his life was his family. His children were more important to him than anything else, and he was immensely proud of both our daughters. He also loved being a grandfather and doted on all three of his grandchildren. I am sad that he did not live to see the new addition to the family, a boy who was born on August 26th, almost on Norm’s birthday but not quite…
He was never boring. He made me laugh. I get emails from friends all the time saying:
“We need to know what Norm would think about this or that issue. We want to know what his views would have been…”
I feel exactly the same. What disappears when you’ve lost someone you’ve loved and been close to for decades is a private, shared language. You no longer have the conversations which have sustained you for most of your life and which you cannot have with anyone else. I miss him every day.