Two Families

In my first year at university I discovered the work of Sigmund Freud through a student who was reading psychology. I had never heard of him. I read one of his books and I was hooked. I wished I had changed over at that time. First, because I could have a greater number of lectures in a new and exciting subject that would help me to understand myself and my own peculiar parents and second, because the only lectures I enjoyed were those delivered by my Professor, Allison Peers, who could bring the past history and literature of South America to life.

My relationship with Bob grew stronger. For the first time in my life I felt I was supported and loved by a man very different from my father, in spite of the many things that we did not share. I expected far too much from him. I now know that if we do not get a good enough childhood, we expect perfection.

I had a lot to learn. I was more grown up in some ways than most other young people, but in other ways I was not.

Bob and I settled into what we now call a relationship, which relieved us of frustration, but we had to be very careful. We did not particularly want children. Thus our constant thoughts of “How far can we go”reminded us all the time. Bob asked me to marry him and I refused. However, when I had thought things over, I changed my mind and he accepted me. I still felt fragile emotionally and he had most of the qualities I needed. I thought I might never again find someone whose background and forebears were so similar to my own. For instance:

We both had grandfathers who were drowned before our own fathers were born. Although I was not a single child, I felt like one, and Bob had no siblings. We both had parents who quarrelled in front of us. Both of our fathers treated us like adults after we reached about seven years old. We were both responsible and could be trusted to look after ourselves. Each of us had one parent with which we clashed. Bob’s was his mother and mine was my father. Both of them died from cancer when we were both about twenty. Since Bob was seven years older than I, I never met his mother. Bob never mentioned her unless I asked. He never said anything about missing her, but it took his father many years to get over it. Bob was fond of his father, but I was not. They looked alike but they were very different. I felt that there was much unfinished business in the effect his mother had on him. I was right but it took me decades to find out what it was all about.

My father fell sick at the end of my first year away. It was an unusual cancer that began under his left eye. It was very close to his brain so he died in six months. Bob never saw him. I found the whole thing very traumatic. It took me several years to get over it. It wasn’t because of my missing him, rather for the wasted years when we had not formed much kind of communion together. I can still click my magic camera and see my father lying in hospital in Manchester having radiology treatment. The roof was high and made of glass. The sunshine was coming in. He looked unusually happy, kissed me and said “Isn’t it wonderful in here! It’s just like fairyland!” This was a favourite phrase of his.

I didn’t know just how ill he was. I regret not seeing him again because I did not want to miss an exam. I missed him by one day.

My mother showed very little feelings. She just went on as usual. In those days she received a sum of money, £500, Father’s salary for one year. It doesn’t sound like much today, but then it was a very good income. Needless to say she went through it in no time. Then she had nothing. But she still lived in the house and took in lodgers. She had great charm and could always find people to do things for her.

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