Then, two or three days later, we’ll have coffee and she’ll say in that thoughtful voice, “The problem with the book is…” But it’s still a thoughtful response—and it still makes perfect sense.
“I met Steph and took writing seriously. The journey to books started with her.
A few years ago I started hanging out while walking. I thought, “Pull yourself together, Miller!” In the end, I couldn’t walk around the park. Nobody had a clue what was wrong. Another symptom was loss of meaning: I would sit in a corner thinking, “Okay, that’s the end; let it happen”. I didn’t have a fight. But Steph persisted. And finally we found out it was normal pressure hydrocephalus. I underwent an operation to install a shunt and it is a complete recovery. I feel as fit as ever, even though I don’t usually run. My grandchildren don’t believe it; they say, “Just run!”
Stephanie: The first time I saw Alex, I found him magnificent! He was tanned, wore this nice blue cotton shirt and he had these big dark brown eyes, and his chest was big – he was muscular! I remember thinking “Oh my god!” From that very first night in the pub, I felt perfectly fine.
I remember he said, “I’ll never get a real job; I’m a writer.” For me, that was wonderful: I thought, “Here’s something I can believe in. I had complete confidence in him from day one. I’ve always read his work, but , at first I really felt like I couldn’t comment on it. But eventually I started to say, you know, “That’s not quite what you told me.” Or, “That bit works, but that bit doesn’t work.” He’s always grateful for feedback. And he’s always been very supportive of me too. I did a masters and a doctorate when I was working and he used to cook for kids and to really be there for me.
“He said, ‘I’ll never get a real job; I am a writer.’ For me, it was wonderful: I thought, ‘This is something I can believe in.’ »
He’s very charming and funny – and attractive. About two years after we met, we were dancing in a pub and this woman kept trying to dance with him. I just turned her around and pushed her away. I have always been very vigilant! But he’s incredibly loyal.
I met his first wife, Anne, quite early. He’s so responsible that he said, “Look, I could never live away from her; she needs to know I’m there. So I met her, and there was a little tension I guess, but she came to all of our kids’ birthday parties, and they called her Auntie Anne, and she and Alex stayed close until ‘when he died. She was coming for a cup of tea.
When Ross was born, Alex said he felt his insides melt with love. He was a heavy smoker, but he quit smoking and drinking to be healthy for this little baby. He didn’t really want a second child – he was in his 50s – but I said, ‘We’re going to have this baby. I will change every diaper. And I did! Kate was born when [his 1992 novel] The game of the ancestors was going out – he was dragging his mattress all over the house trying to get a good night’s sleep. She just made herself a part of her life; she has her determination and self-confidence.
His illness was such a strange thing. There was a period when I started to imagine life without him, which was awful. But even when things weren’t going well, he made the best of them. One day he was outside with our two granddaughters and he fell. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he told the girls, “Hey, looks great from here! Come take a look!” And they were all laying there looking through the trees at the clouds.
Since his operation, he is as he always was. We had a life filled with joy and goodness – and luck. We were very lucky.
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