The latter saw me trawl back through past adventures and past lives - job applications that I didn't even get an interview for, lengthy emails to former travelling buddies that were sent long before the instant nature of Facebook and Instagram replaced (private) outpourings of "I miss you" and "remember the time we...". And something else. A long forgotten letter I wrote once to a magazine in response to an article they had printed the week before. It was never published, but I remember that I found it cathartic to write. Now I have my own outlet, I call the shots on what gets published. So here it is. Edited slightly, and obviously minus the original article, but I think it still holds enough meaning to stand on its own.
Your recent article written by a young mother, recently widowed and now bringing up her two young children solo, reduced me to tears. It has compelled me to write, and I have felt it immensely cathartic to acknowledge emotions that until now I wasn’t entirely aware existed in me.
Dad died when I was four. Mum was left a widow in her late thirties and has never remarried. Throughout my childhood, and in to adulthood, whenever the question of Dad has come up during conversations with those who enquired, the focus has always been on how it affected me. Not in a melodramatic, “woe is me” type of way, but more as a natural progression of that type of conversation (typically, the response I receive when I tell people about losing him in my early childhood is “That must have been terrible for you”).
Growing up it was just the two of us – Mum and me. Whilst I have always appreciated what an amazing job she did, and how well she coped (I only remember seeing her cry once – the first night we were alone together in the house a few days after Dad had died and Granny had gone home), I’ve never really sat back and taken stock of the fact that at an age when she should have been planning more children, enjoying family holidays and celebrating wedding anniversaries, my Mum was actually starting a very different life to the one she had planned – bringing up a child on her own, surviving on a single wage and coping with the loss of the man she loved.
I guess it is a testament to the fabulous job she did at shielding me from the bad stuff, and working hard to ensure I enjoyed as normal a life as possible, that I have never really questioned how she felt, or how she was coping. Dad died when I was so young that the effect it had on my normality was minimal – yes I missed him, I still do – but in a way it is the absence of a father I miss rather than the individual. I know he was an amazing person, but I know this from what people tell me. I have few memories of him myself, though those I do are precious. Mum and I do talk about him still, but we have never discussed how she coped. How she felt. How she feels now, over three decades on.
Your article blindsided me. It made me acknowledge for the first time the awfulness of the situation Mum endured, and, more importantly, how well she coped with it. I hope the pain begins to ease for your contributor, and wish her, and her boys love and happiness in life – whatever it may bring.