They were my Mums parents, I can’t remember thinking it was at all strange to stay with them, life just carried on at the new place without a hitch it seemed. It does sound like that, I can hear it myself, but I can’t recall ever thinking about it before, what does it mean? Scared, well yes, I am, to have never questioned something as big as that move when I did know it was unusual, no one else that I knew had to live with their grandparents. No that isn’t true, I knew one other kid, a boy, but his parents were in the forces and he spent holidays with them and loved them. I didn’t even go back in the holidays, it was as if life continued for them, the only thing that changed was me leaving. I am trying to think about it but I can’t get there, I have a vague picture of the house but there’s no context, it’s not the day I was taken away or anything.
My dad? No, he’s not in the picture but I said that before, no I can’t remember the day I left the house, look I’ve said all this before, surely it’s normal for little kids to forget stuff, it doesn’t have to mean anything. You must know how hard this is for me, don’t you? You see, before I had Mum, my brother Steve, uncle Alan and aunty Jane, my cousin Max, although he was only a baby and doesn’t really count, granny and granddad, Froggy the dog with the big frog eyes – my dog, all the teachers at school, Abigail – my best friend, all the other girls in my class, but now I don’t know where everyone’s gone, I feel so alone.
Steve? We’re not close, when we were kids, we played together, he’s five years younger than me so he would have been three when I went. Well, I suppose so, yes, he was quite happy, why does that matter? Alone? It’s quite a familiar feeling for me, I always associated it with leaving my family, but I don’t miss them at all, there was no emotion for me at the funeral, of course I mean his funeral, whose else would it be. I’m OK, let’s go on with it. Yes, I’m sure.
They looked after me really well I suppose, like parents more than grandparents. When I went there, they weren’t that old yet, and were still quite active. Yes, they took me on holidays, nice holidays, I remember lots of the kids at school were jealous of the places I got to go. They could probably afford it because I was the only thing they had to spend their money on. We lived in a nice house and they always had new cars, they bought me a car when I passed my test. No, do you think I should have gone to visit my family? Well no it just never occurred to me to, we never talked about them at home, looking back now it does seem like they stopped existing really. I wasn’t close to anyone at school in that way so the subject never came up, it was the way it happened for me so it really didn’t feel strange and, as I said, I had a good life at home so why would I question it?
In a lot of ways, they were protective, it hasn’t really struck me before, but you probably could say they were over-protective towards me. They were old fashioned so that could explain why I always had to go straight home from school, never allowed to play around with friends. There weren’t any boys to put off really, I wasn’t close to anyone.
Of course there was all that going on, especially as we got older, but it never happened for me. Well I don’t suppose I was less pretty than the other girls, but it just didn’t happen for me. It wasn’t like I was shy, and I did talk to some of the boys… I don’t know… This isn’t something I have really thought about before, but I can see what you mean.
There was one time that I did feel it before, just after I arrived at my new home. We were out in the garden, and I wanted my little dog to play with. They said when I got there that he could come and stay with me, I don’t remember anyone saying I wouldn’t be going back to my parents house it just wasn’t mentioned, then nothing happened about it. So, this day it was warm and sunny, the perfect day for playing with a dog in the sunshine, so I asked my granddad if Froggy could come and play with me. He was doing some gardening in one of the flower beds and his back was turned to me when I asked, he stopped what he was doing but didn’t turn around. That was how he told me that Froggy had been taken to the vet and been killed.
There wasn’t a feeling I can remember before the rage, it was just there, and I lost it completely. Although I was just a little kid I did some terrible damage to the garden, smashed flowerpots and windows in the greenhouse screaming about how they had lied to me, I ripped up the geraniums that I knew were my grannies favourites and tried to destroy the roses too but the thorns ripped my hands up. He didn’t even try to stop me, I can see him now, as I describe it to you, standing watching me wreck his garden with no expression on his face that I can describe, blank is about the only word I can think of.
How do I feel now? My heart is beating very fast, like I just got off the bike in a spin class. It has been a long time since I thought about that day, and I can still see my granddad’s face with that odd expression. He never gave me any discipline at all, if anyone had anything to say it was always granny. That tantrum was never referred to by her either. It was all so unfair, that poor Froggy, who never hurt anyone, should be put down like that. One thing that I remember now, there was the same feeling as the episode in the office, like I was standing outside myself and watching it happen.
That knowledge really affected me deeply, but for a long time I didn’t mention it to anyone. Once, I was talking to my mum on the phone and suddenly, out of nowhere, I just came out with it, I asked her why she had killed my poor little dog. She went quiet, then after a pause she said that he had been very sick, and it had to be done. It was the best thing for him, she explained. But it didn’t sound true, and he hadn’t been ill when I left, so I said I didn’t believe her.
She hesitated, and I thought I heard a sound like she caught her breath. Then she told me what really happened. They had an argument, mum and dad, she didn’t say what it was about, in fact she brushed over that. She had jumped in the car to drive away from the house in a hurry and very angry. Froggy had been running around her ankles when the argument had been happening, when she got in the car he had been left outside and had been trying to jump up at the car. She had run over him in her hurry to be away. His injuries meant that he needed to be put down.
My memory is really good, but I can see that there are some big empty places. As I run back now with you, it is as if the road just ends in a wall that I can’t see over, but I can see things on both sides of the blank area. My dad? Yes, he was away a lot because he was a sailor in the merchant navy, but yes now you mention it, I didn’t see him for a long time after I moved in with my grandparents, not until I was about sixteen, I think. He never came to the house after I moved there. Then one day I was with my granny, we were out at the shops, I turned around and he was just standing there.
Do you know that thing, when you see someone for the first time in ages, you’re not sure if it is the person that you think it is? Well, it was like that, and then when it hit me who it was, my tummy turned over and I felt sick. He looked like my dad, but he also looked different, older, I suppose, thin too and pale, not strong as I knew him from before. Suddenly, granny was there, and she pulled me away from him, I didn’t understand her urgency. She told me to go and look for the jeans that we had come to buy, I started to say something, but she gave me such a look that I didn’t argue.
As I walked away, I couldn’t resist taking a look behind me. Granny was partly obscuring my view of him, but I could see his face, he was following me with his eyes. His expression? Hard to describe, especially now that so many years have passed. Sad, I think that’s the feeling about his look. They were speaking too, so I can’t be sure it was intended for me, perhaps it was what they were saying that was making him upset.
Although I could only see granny’s back, she was animated, her shoulders and head were moving as if she was talking with her body not just her voice. Then, they were hidden from my view by a rack of clothes. It’s funny, I have never thought about this in any detail. Not as if I’m avoiding it deliberately, it just doesn’t matter to me. Something I remember now though, or maybe I’m just embellishing because it’s so hazy, but when he was hidden from me, I felt relieved. Like I had been holding my breath until that moment
After, I asked her where he had gone, she said that he had something urgent to do, and would try to visit another time. Her manner didn’t invite any more inquiry. Thinking back, it is strange that I didn’t ask more about that incident, but I felt strangely unmoved by seeing him. It was as if he was a person who had nothing to do with me, but that feeling in my tummy, I can feel it again now. Sick, would describe it really, there’s a bit of emotion too, perhaps it was just the shock of him being there out of the blue.
Yes, it could be fear, I suppose. Can’t think why I’d be afraid of my dad though. No, there was no real emotion on hearing of his death. Heart attack, happened suddenly, mum said. I was like, OK, so he’s gone. I do think it’s odd that he felt like an irrelevance to me. When I was little he was usually away, yes, at sea mum said. So that might explain why I’m a bit hazy about him.
You’re digging a bit about him, I am sure the anger’s nothing to do with him though, he was never there. But yes, I will try to think about him more for next time. Does that mean that we’re finished now? The time has just flown by, I am sorry if I haven’t been any good at this, I did say I didn’t think there was anything that a bit of rest wouldn’t fix. I pride myself on not complaining about things, one of my best qualities.
Bye then. See you next week?