Monday, June 18, 2007

Father and Son (in law)

You're not too fond of that young man, my father asks me persistently, in the summer of 1986.

My heart still skips several beats when I see him, being away from him is torture, I can't imagine life without him.

Not too fond, I say.

I know what lies behind this. My father sees his clever daughter is in danger of getting sidetracked by a man. All around him, the world is changing and even in our slightly old fashioned circles, teenage girls are getting pregnant. He doesn't want to be a grandad, just yet.

Luckily for him, I don't want to be a mum, either. And though I am in love, I am not about to let that stop me from pursuing a career. If I can only work out what that will be...

It is around this time he tells me the story of my grandmother. I wonder, now, if that was deliberate. Look, he is saying, you've got opportunities. Don't waste them.

After hearing that story, I have no intention of doing so.

He paces nervously around me that summer, like a lion at the head of his pack, protecting his female. Every time we are alone, he delves further and further down a road down which I really really don't want to go.

Young men are full of passion, he'll begin.

Are they? I answer. I've never noticed.

They aren't to be trusted, you know, he'll persist.

Some of them are, I'll reply, butt out, leave me alone, he's my choice.

When I'm feeling really mischievous, though, sometimes I tease him. Ok. You want to pursue this line of enquiry (knowing full well that the answer to the unspoken question isn't going to be one he likes), the next time he starts on about young men having desires, I boldly reply so, what's new? He probes no further and retreats for now.

But it continues all summer. A bit of him wants to know how far I've gone. A bit of me wants to tell him. But I never quite have the courage to go there. The truth would upset him. Sometimes things are best left unsaid.

To his credit, although he is anxious about where this relationship will take me, he also gets on very well with Spouse. I think he's pleased with my choice, but worried I've made it too soon. Maybe he's right. But what do you do when you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with at nineteen? My dreams had always factored in marriage at thirty. Was I meant to say, go away and come back when I'm ready?

Time, of course, is the test of these things. And when it was the right time, my father couldn't have been more pleased for us.

We came up to Shropshire to announce our engagement.

Our first attempt ended disastrously. Father went to bed early, leaving Spouse no time to get him alone. We were off early in the morning, and left without the deed being done.

A month later we came back and he suddenly announced he was going away for the rest of the weekend.

In the morning I haul Spouse out of bed and chuck him downstairs to go and do the necessary. My father seems either oblivious to what is happening, or is as nervous as Spouse. Everytime he walks into a room, Father walks out of it. Time is ticking away and his train is in half an hour.

In the end, in desperation, I just yell, PARENTS!!! We have something to tell you.

So we dispense with tradition and tell them together.

Father is delighted and sends out for champagne. He can't drink it with us, as he is off out any minute, but champagne we must have.

Spouse is no longer a rival, but the person charged with my care.

And my father has another son.


Dumdad said...

I can barely keep up with your wonderful outpourings. Keep going at this rate and you'll have to publish it as a book. In two volumes.

Jane Henry said...

oh thanks so much dd. I don't quite know where it's all coming from. I am going to have to STOP though. Ihave a novel to write and a house to tidy!

Jane Henry said...

PS the thought of a book had of course occurred...