Friday, 16 January 2009

The Interview

Frogdancer has sent me questions for an interview. I have read quite a lot of the interviews currently appearing on blogs, and it has been fascinating.

Here are the rules:

If you'd like to join in the fun, it's simple.

1. Send me an email or a comment saying 'interview me'.
2 I will then email you five questions that I choose.
3. You can then answer them on your blog.
4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you or comments that they want to be interviewed.

It has been an interesting exercise, though rather difficult. Frogdancer's questions have made me dig deeply into both past and present.

1. What was it about Dr P that swept you off your feet and made you decide to race off into the sunset with him? Sorry. I'm a hopeless romantic. I live vicariously through my friends.

This is a very  complicated question to answer. I would not categorise it as being swept off my feet, but rather a careful weighing up of factors. Some background is needed. 

This is my second marriage.  The first marriage was not happy. We had a bad start.  I became pregnant straight away, and then caught rubella. Being Catholic, we did not choose an abortion. I'd not recommend that decision to anyone. I miscarried twin boys at 22 weeks. The next pregnancy, which soon followed the first, was an ectopic one. Usually this results in a life-threatening emergency, but this one dragged on undiagnosed for months, until finally I had surgery. Our first couple of years were severely traumatic and tragic. We did succeed in having our three children, and we loved and cherished them. But essentially the marriage never worked. He suffered from severe depression. We were never able to resolve problems. Nothing I did was ever right, or made any difference. 

In time my husband's condition improved - but not the relationship. Eventually he had an affair which precipitated his leaving the marriage. I was distraught, terrified, and wanted to keep trying. To no avail. It took me five years to start functioning again. It was an appallingly unhappy and horrible period. I had good friends and family, slowly rebuilt my life, time healed me, and eventually the sun did start shining again. However, the awful first two pregnancies and the marriage breakup left me feeling very damaged. Sometimes I wonder about the what-ifs of life.
Through my job, I had known Dr P for many years, and we had always got on well. He has a lot of charm, an impressive intellect, and has had a very interesting life. He enjoyed life and we had many interests in common - and also some wide disparities in personality and interests. His second marriage had broken up before mine, and he started asking me out. It took a while for me to become interested, but he persisted, and  I thought to myself  'Why not see what happens? Have a go'. So I did. And one thing led to another.

After some years Dr P  asked me to marry him. He liked me, and he did love me, and was concerned for my welfare and my future. This was a very different experience for me. He lived in Sydney and I lived in Canberra. He had already retired, as he is much older than me. He offered me financial security, which was important, as I had worked part time for most of my career, and thus had been ineligible for superannuation. I agreed to the marriage on the basis that we did not live together, that I kept working, and that we would have separate finances. I had come to love him, but had I not felt sure that he loved me, I would not have married him. It was very good, after that sad and painful first marriage, to feel loved.

So we married. I knew it would not be perfect, and that I needed to be very clear-minded about the likely benefits and problems. And there are problems, because in many respects we are an improbable combination, and he is very forceful, and often very selfish. The age disparity makes our lives more difficult now. His generation can be very uncomfortable about discussing relationships and emotions. I am having to learn to be more assertive and to insist on having my own life. Things can be very volatile. 

2. Do you find that your daughter's addiction to a certain colour makes it very easy or very difficult to find gifts for her at Christmas/birthdays?

It certainly helps, and gives me a head start. The addiction is a shared one, and this makes it fun to find presents for her. Although I often give her kitchen things. (Good cooks need good equipment.) Colour is less important than function here. When it comes to clothes, my motto is if you see it, grab it -  it very likely won't be around again for a while. I find choosing clothesfor her trickier now - will my choice suit her, or fit? I wonder whether she will want my amethyst beads eventually, or any of the purple fabrics I have been stashing away over the years waiting for a good purple fashion inspiration. She managed to find me some purple secateurs a couple of years ago - that was pretty brilliant! 

3. Is the PP thing still on the back burner, or have you resolved the situation?

The PP! The sleep banisher! It is still unresolved, and I cannot see a real possibility of reaching a rapprochement. I still hope that taking a stand might achieve something.

I decided to defer any action because the other SDs were visiting over Christmas, and I judged it better not to introduce any complications or repercussions during their visits. They are all very private people and do not confide personal details to their father or to me. But I have to assume that they do talk to each other, and I don't want the problems between the PP and myself to flow over into the rest of the family - not if I can help it.  My letter probably needs to be softened and to be less detailed, but to make it clear that this is not her family home, but her father's and mine, and that I expect her to act courteously towards me when she is a guest in my home. She has had nearly twenty years in which to become accustomed to the fact that I am her father's wife, and one would think she ought to be grateful that he has me to care for him in his frail old age.

Since her departure she has chosen not to have email contact with her father through me. She now emails her sister who prints a copy and brings it across to him. Dr P asked me why she was doing this, and I said I presumed it was because of our failure to have our discussion. I think her action is pathetic and hostile, and indicates a lack of good faith. I keep worrying that a letter might makes things worse - but as the situation seems to have worsened anyway I might as well make my views clear.

 4. What would be the one thing about your present life that you would wish to have more of?

To see more of my family in Canberra and Melbourne - the children, the grandchildren, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. I miss them all very acutely. It is now much more difficult for me to go and visit them. As Dr P won't travel any more, my visits are brief and infrequent. Over the last year I have really struggled emotionally with this problem. I can't do much about it, except to seize any opportunity to go away, and to expect more help from Dr P's family. 

5. What is something that, if you had your time over, you would change?

This comes into the BIG MISTAKE category. I should not have sold my house and moved to Sydney.

After a number of years living according to our original agreement, and with both of us travelling to and from each other's city, I surrendered to pressure from Dr P and to our mutual desire to live together. If I had stayed in Canberra I would have had frequent and regular contact with two of the three children, and could have helped out much more easily. Probably it would have had easier to go to Melbourne more often. I miss the old friends  greatly and as time passes, maintaining contacts takes much effort. 

So thanks, Frogdancer.

If anyone wants an interview by me, now is your chance.


Relatively Retiring said...

How brave of you to do this, and what a moving story. Other people's lives can be amazing when told with such honesty and perception as this.

Mary said...

Oh wow - did you ever bare your soul?

Thank you for sharing - and for your honesty and sensitivity in telling us your story..

Frogdancer said...

I knew you'd be interesting!!!!

I especially liked reading about the pros and cons of your second relationship. Being single, it's good to be aware of what may lie ahead and the sorts of things to think about if ever I have the chance to go down that road. (Not that anyone is beating down my door, but I'm fabulously attractive so that day may yet come...)

(by the way, the PP sounds like a complete and utter cow.)

persiflage said...

Thanks for all your comments. And Frogdancer, I knew you would ask interesting questions.

Pam said...

How very interesting and indeed brave and touching. I think Dr P is a very lucky man indeed.

meggie said...

I read your interview with much empathy. How very difficult for you.
I too would love an abode apart, a life to live as I would choose... but after almost 43 years, it seems a little churlish of me to want it!
How difficult it must be for you with "PP" who I am guessing is a 'stepchild', using that term in the absolute brodsest sense? (Waspish in the extreme?)
I have a 'stepmother' who is 5 years my senior, & the term seems risible. Yet I quite liked her when I met her, & have no beef with her or any type of hostility, thank goodness.

Ulrike said...

Wow! This is the first time I have visited your blog, and I am really moved by your story. It will be in my mind all day. Thank you.