Monday, January 14, 2008

Sic transit

Someone died. Someone I never met, and did not know beyond a couple of exchanges of emails, but someone who was part of a profound change in my life.

How long ago was it exactly? Fourteen years or fifteen? I was married to a man who spent a lot of time in California. Life was tough for me and my daughter, left behind in the dank English climes while he spent his time beside the swimming pools. He was wheeling and dealing on our behalf, or so we thought; and we bided our time, waiting for the call to the sweet life. Instead we heard that he had just had a child with his Californian lover. Our family life was over.

His idyll lasted long enough for her to bear him two girls; he lied about our marriage and tricked her out of thousands. She threw him out in the end. He returned to England and we haven’t spoken in years.

We just heard that she has died. Her two girls are fourteen and twelve. It wasn’t her fault. None of it was her fault. Her daughters are the half sisters of my daughter, and, singleton that she is, she loves them as the sisters she never had.

It would be too simple to say that had things been different we would not have lived such a frugal life for so long. Maybe it would have been even more limited. Certainly we became the authors of our own destiny, for better definitely, not for worse. But from a life of comparative luxury we certainly came to know how to make things go round.

From that time I remember some things most strongly; there we were, in a gamekeeper’s cottage that would, under other circumstances, have been deemed romantic. Our heating came from a wood fired stove. Each morning in the winter I pulled wellingtons on under my dressing gown and trudged to the wood heap to keep the fire smouldering. Not very romantic. I daren’t let the car revs slow as I took my daughter to school, for fear it would stall, as it often did. Sometimes there was flooding, sometimes gales howled around the eaves of the little cottage, sometimes there was an evil black ice over all the roads.

But the farming people hung braces of pheasant on our door handles for us to pluck and dress, and up the road was a house where they kept hens, and we got our eggs from them, fresh as you like. And one day we had new laid eggs and we found ceps in the wood, a whole lot of them. Next day we told rich friends about our omelette and their eyes grew great.

I can’t really see her as the author of misfortune. Without her things would definitely have been different and it is not often that you can see so clearly the place where the road took a different turn. I never knew her, and I might not have liked her, but her girls are sisters to my girl, and they have lost her. And I have never had such eggs again.


Joanna said...

What a story! And you're right, no sense in regretting what might have been - though it often takes courage to find the good and see the best when life is tough ... such an omelette - something to remember forever, and, as you say, not necessarily something that riches can buy.

And those poor orphaned girls ...

(so glad you're posting once more - my optimism in keeping you in my "blogs I read daily" folder has been repaid!)

June said...

Thank you so much Joanna - I wasn't sure I should write it and you have made me feel I was understood.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and courageous you were and are.

Anonymous said...

Your lovely post dredged up lots of memories and emotions for me. I'm a 61 year old only child who grew up in a situation similar to you and your daughter's. And now my singleton son is curious about the grandfather who never bothered to contact him! The scars are definitely still there. It is inspiring to see how you dug in there and made the best of things. Thank you.

June said...

Dear Anon

What a dilemma. The grandfather who has missed out on his grandson's life, the curious child who never knew the pain the grandfather caused, and you, caught between the two. If you have been able to let go of the hurt I am sure you will find the right thing to do.

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