Adolescent in Old Age
I never made my peace with my mother before a voracious cancer gnawed away her insides. Since my early teens, a battleground had lain between us. We sallied back and forth, neither of us gaining territory, both determined not to taste humiliating defeat. Until I left home at the age of eighteen, her constant niggling never abated. She would complain at the slightest thing during her frequent inspections of my bedroom: a bed imperfectly made; clothes misaligned in drawers; ornaments askew. The walls of my bedroom remained bare, posters banned. I might as well have been in the army; at least the army would have offered a means to vent my frustration.
When our arguments became overheated Dad would intervene and invariably side with Mum, no matter how strongly I protested. In my hardening heart I knew it would never change: in his mind, she was always in the right. In my fifty-eighth year of life, two divorces behind me, I can more readily sympathise with his reasons for acting as he had. When my first wife, Davina, and our daughter, Natalie, got out their claws, I often sided with Natalie, recalling how hard done by I had felt as a youth. Inevitably, my stance would lead to a subsequent row with Davina. As Natalie grew older the frequency of our spats increased. We became so used to arguing that we continued to snipe at each other long after Natalie had been despatched to a private school in England.
An intelligent man, Dad must have known my presence would be fleeting: I was passing through whereas Mum was a permanent fixture. At the time, my young mind could not grasp the lengths he would go to rather than have her upset. Not until many years later did Mum’s sister, Aunt Elaine, inform me that Mum had suffered two miscarriages before she brought me into the world and could have no children after me. At the time it struck me that in her mind Mum might blame me for this state of affairs, but it was too late. The rift between us had widened to a black abyss.