He worshipped steadiness in all things, closely followed by order and then routine: chosen dramas on television were watched to their conclusion whether they entertained him or not, and books finished for the same reason. Holidays involved a trip to Great Yarmouth, staying always at the same bed and breakfast and his cereal of choice, or should we say obligation, was porridge, eaten hot in the winter or cold in the summer, because avoiding the unexpected was fundamental to a decent life, regardless of the season.
As a boy I knew of nothing more than this, and took his punctilious approach to planning to be the norm. His wife, my mother, would raise her eyebrows every now and then but like many men of his era, he presumed always to take command within the home.
So it was until, aged fifteen when as I stood outside the living room I heard him tell my mother. “I’m leaving you! Beatrice, my other half will be around to collect me in fifteen minutes and I must just pack a few things before I leave. I’m sure we will sort out the other details at a later date.”
There was a brief pause and then I heard my mother shriek; a noise “Not heard in polite society” as my father would say about anything he considered to be impulsive. “What are you doing, what are you doing? ” she asked between sobs and then “Don’t you love me!?” to which he replied
“That emotion has been absent from our lives for many years” before leaving the room, glancing at me without adding further comment, and walking up the stairs to the place I still thought of as my parent’s bedroom.
My mother followed him and then seeing me, their only child, outside the door and clearly lost in shock, paused to give me a hug and somehow we gave each other unsettled comfort.
The story behind his announcement emerged later and involved a bank clerk who he had hired at the branch he managed. Somehow she had, we discovered later, help him “Discover life again” which is a phrase I am sure you will note is full of nuances and thus very unlike my father.
My mother , a shy woman at the best of times retreated into herself and became something of a recluse. My father, ditched shortly afterwards by the girl he had briefly considered the love of his life, was later found to have concealed a theft from the bank in which his new darling was intimately involved: it might be that the discovery of her crime, and his subsequent concealment of it, stood at the heart of his new relationship: we will never know.
My father’s complicity was discovered by the auditor’s and he and his new lover both spent a short time in separate jails, oh the cruelty of the authorities, although it was later discovered that she already had a wealthy paramour some twenty-five years older than herself and had only taken up the banking adventure, and my father, with the full knowledge of her paramour, as a way of injecting some excitement into her ordinary life.
He sought to reconcile with my mother once he was released, of course, but she was strangely resolute in her rejection. Perhaps the discovery that the diamond she had been so proud of was actually an artificial stone had damaged her faith in him.
Regardless, what I can tell you is five years later, when I was a student at the local university, I encouraged her to join a book club I frequented and, along with connecting with some well regarded texts such as War and Peace” and “Living Life Backwards,” she met Derek, shy to a fault, but strangely determined once his interest was aroused and they are getting married on Wednesday! Perhaps leaving her was the kindest thing my father ever did !