Thursday, 16 May 2013

Not quite golden

49 years ago today I was a bride. I was walking up the aisle of my parish church on my father's arm, to be joined in Holy Matrimony to my fiance.

It had been quite a hard road to tread. We had been girlfriend and boyfriend, and then engaged for the past three years.  My parents were not supportive. They thought we were too intense. They feared for the loss of my virginity. They thought I should be home more, arrive back from university early enough to help with the evening meal and subsequent clearing up. They seemed unwilling to respond to and encourage my growing up. Once I arrived home, I did the family's dishess. My next sister was studying for her Matriculation - far more important than my final honours year. Somehow the two brothers managed to avoid helping with dishes or with anything much else. My older sister had left home to become a nurse. My mother had suffered for years from pernicious anaemia and consequent depleted energy. My father worked each night after dinner until midnight.

There was little support and encouragement for me. Instead it seemed there was constant criticism. After my boyfriend and I decided we would marry, we wanted to announce the engagement on my 21st birthday.  I arrived home that evening to tell my parents, and my mother burst into tears. My father thundered, 'How dare you come home and upset your mother with news like that!'

Had they been more sympathetic and understanding, and more tolerant, the relationship might well have petered out, and died and natural death. Instead we clung to each other, against what felt like a thick fog of disapproval. Once we were married, and out of the family, we would be happy. So we believed.

And, of course, we got married so that we could have sex. Premarital sex was unthinkable to many of us - although of course, it happened. And I wish it had in fact happened to us. Although of course, I would have become pregnant, which is what happened in the second month of our marriage. Several years of trying to control strong sexual desires affected my ability to have a satisfying sexual relationship and my husband's ability to be a satisfying lover to me. Our relationship was already doomed.

We had three children together. My first pregnancy was disastrous. I caught rubella, and at 22 weeks miscarried twin boys. Everyone said it was just as well. which was true. But I mourned nonetheless and the pain of loss still lurks in my soul. The next pregnancy was an ectopic one. It was three years before our first live child was born, the second arrived 14 months later, and the third after another five years. I believed then that we had come through our traumas and crises, and that we would be happy. Yet we never were, not quite, though we still reached for happiness.

We got on with things, built a house and a garden. My husband studied law and was able to escape from his soul-destroying job - to which he had been bonded for five years - and developed a good career, in which his efforts and abilities achieved good things for himself and the polity. I too found a job, and worked part- time for many years. I loved my work, and workplace, and also did a second degree.

And then he had an affair, and left the marriage. Not an easy thing to do, I think, in retrospect.  I certainly fell apart, from distress, what felt like betrayal and fear for the future.  I took years to recover.  My children, it then seemed to me, took their father's part, and could not cope with my distress, emotional flailing and self pity. Perhaps my husband did not intend to damage me, but then again, he may have, and naturally put his own life and happiness before mine. He remarried and had two more children, achieved, and still achieves much, and is, I believe, happy. I wish him no harm. I wish him well.

I too remarried, and am now widowed, and still re-creating my life and my future.

For me there is still emotional scar tissue and rawness. I look back on that bride of long ago, innocent and trusting, and wonder how much better I should and could have done, and been. A stronger, better, more loving person, a better mother. Far more capable of being happy and positive. Less inclined to see myself as victim, innocent or otherwise.

One cannot, or should not repine, and I am rather too prone to do so. That wedding day is so long ago. I don't think about it very often. Anniversaries, however, re-create memories and emotions. Getting things right is the work of a lifetime.


Elephant's Child said...

I find that some things bite - out of the blue as it were, but you are right anniversaries are often difficult. For a variety of reasons.

And which of us doesn't want to be 'better'? Better people, better artists, stronger, more creative - different.

molly said...

Ah! If we knew then what we know now! It is kind of crazy that such huge decisions are made when we are young, inexperienced and at the mercy of our hormones....It does seem that you might have had a better start if your family had been more accepting and supportive.
Bittersweet memories. Onwards to the future Persi!