Not so happy days

Mum and Dad used to row a lot — or so it seemed to me — and I was very reluctant to be away from the two of them in case they argued and I wasn’t there to stop them. I don’t recall exactly what sparked the rows, but I suspect they stemmed from the fact that Mum suffered from narcolepsy. She would fall asleep at any time and consequently wasn’t able to do the housework as perhaps she should have done. The house was always in a mess, and I always felt ashamed of the place as a child since my friends’ houses were always neat and tidy. As he left the house to go to work, Dad used to remind Mum to get the pots washed.

I remember one occasion when we were visiting my grandparents and it was decided that I should stay the night with them and Mum and Dad would go home and collect me in the morning. I cried and said I didn’t want to stay, whereupon Dad clouted my backside and told me to go upstairs and stop being a baby. I couldn’t tell anyone the real reason I didn’t want to stay, which was because I thought that if they rowed and came to blows I wouldn’t be able to come between them as I had done in the past.

Maybe I got it all out of proportion, but it did affect me. Looking back, we should all have been more understanding of Mum and maybe medical help would have been advantageous to her.

Dad was always secretive with his money and would always go into another room before getting Mum’s housekeeping money for her. That probably caused resentment on Mum’s part. She never knew how much he earned.

It feels a betrayal on my part now, but I tell it as was. Just after the war, Dad and Mum became friends with another family in the village who had two sons. We used to visit their house on a Sunday night for the grown ups to play cards. We went on holiday with them one year. Mum discovered that Dad was having a fling with the wife. She put up with it. It didn’t last long, as in 1947 Mum became pregnant for the third time and the ‘other woman’ ceased to want anything more to do with us. I think jealousy crept in. Things seemed to improve after my brother was born, but I don’t think things really improved until much later. Dad had another fling after I was married. Mum used to tell me about it, and I was at a loss as to what to do. Mum did nothing and the affair fizzled out. They seemed to get closer in later years, especially when my husband and I presented them with a grandson, of whom they were especially proud.

Going back to the days of the first affair. It was 20 November 1947, the day Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth got married. A gypsy came to our door and Mum told me she had said that she could see a broken ring. I asked Mum what the gypsy meant and she said it meant that she and Dad would part. (Mum always believed these things.) I never did understand why she told me that. I was only eleven. I was so upset, but I couldn’t tell her. I remember going to my aunt’s house in the village wanting to tell her how I felt but not being able to. I felt so sad as the wedding was being broadcast on the radio and the music made me feel so unhappy.

Is it wrong of me to reveal these things? I still loved them in spite of feeling unhappy. I have been so fortunate in my marriage to have had a loyal and loving husband.

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