Thursday, 26 June 2008

uncle's birthday


Out and about with elderly relatives again today, this time mother's younger sister [84] and her husband who is "one year older" today.
They emigrated 50+ years ago to Canada where he taught in "special" education so that in their spare time they could swirl round the provinces, bemusing all with their ballroom dancing lessons and exhortations to cook proper stews, not beefburgers.
Now they are two small tortoises, peering out of their shells, one with disapproval the other with a genial smile.
We had birthday lunch at the local pub, which was fairly vile but they worked at it solidly until they had cleared their plates, just as they commanded we should do when we were kids - "think of the starving children in Africa"
Now we taunt them with advice to "just eat what you want, leave the rest", knowing that they are congenitally incapable of doing it.
As a child, I used to hate marrow, parsnips and spinach, mother would make me sit there till it was finished, or serve it up for the next meal. Now I love them.
Meal times were often fraught, we had a small metal table in the kitchen goodness knows why it was metal.
The dog , as a bored puppy, left alone most of the day, would snatch out the cutlery drawer in his teeth and shake it all about, so I would return from school to mayhem. It must have made a satisfying racket.
My father was often short tempered, but mother insisted we three sat up together and had a proper dinner every evening, once the cutlery had been replaced, even though she was returning from full time work and I had already eaten school dinners.
Arguments often erupted, especially as I became a teenager, father would throw his dinner at the wall, mother would cry, the dog would cower in the broom cupboard. Such fun.
As they say - every family should have two parents; it makes such a good slanging match. Father blacked my eye, broke my ear drum, generally set about him. No doubt I was intensely annoying with all that arrogance that only a 14 year old can produce.
Benign Uncle would have been a different father, and I would have now been a different person.
My canadian cousin however rants about his termagant mother, of whom he is still scared.
I'm not frightened of any of them now, maybe it is easier for girls to separate as they move alliances; boys are always sons maybe, ashamed of abandoning their mother and trying to be better than their father; girls can't wait to ditch fathers for their partner and become sympathetic friends with their mother - or not.

2 comments:

carol said...

Behind closed doors eh? I didn't have a violent father but sometimes I wonder how he stayed calm. Mealtimes were when my mother threw all the bad things about her day, mostly financial problems, at him. He had just got back from work. Most men would have gone to the pub to relax but not him. She didn't truly appreciate him until he was dead. I didn't blame him for checking out early.

I tucked my head down, blocked it all out as far as possible and enjoyed the food.

But I grew up with a BIG chip on my shoulder about women.

Sue said...

My father wasn't violent but he had a hell of a temper and could turn the air blue with his choice swear words. He knew how to get up my straight-laced mother's nose with those, or with a lacerating attack on her roast beef. She thought she was a fine cook.
They never argued about money in my hearing, but mother got her own back by refusing to satisfy his passion for a new car every two years out of her wages.
My father also checked out early, by his own hand - but he only told me this - and I don't blame him either having had mother under my roof for 20-odd years. How an atheist socialist survived 50 years marriage to a devout christian conservative is beyond me. Opposites attract I guess.