Monday, 28 February 2011

Portrait of a Marriage.

They met at a fairground.
          Amidst the swings and roundabouts in a village in Buckinghamshire a relationship began which was to last for over fifty years.She was fourteen,on the cusp of womanhood,slender,blonde and with lovely grey eyes.He,fifteen ,on shore leave from Naval school.It was his black,curly hair that attracted her first.That and his uniform.The attraction was mutual.Their courtship lasted for nine years and ended with their marriage in a small country church.
         The Husband.
Before Naval school he was a farmer's boy.He learned to till the soil,to plough the fields with his Shire horse, and care and tend the farmyard animals.He wandered the hills and valleys in what little spare time he had,and it was there, with the beauty of creation around him, that he met his God.He rang the church bells every sunday,but had little time for formal worship,and rarely stayed for the service.God and the belief in Him was a private matter,and like many of his race he was shy and reticent when speaking of such things.It was the natural world around him then, that he loved,the foxes,the badgers,the wind whispering in the trees,and the golden glory of a ripened field of wheat.There was a tenderness in his heart for all animals ,for the defenceless and the innocent,and all through his life he abhorred and detested cruelty in whatever form it took.
Naval school was harsh,tough, strict discipline paramount.It instilled into him a new motto,a new belief,that King and country, service and duty were the most important things in a young sailor's life.He served in many ships.He was at the fall of Singapore and escaped into the jungle with a few companions.After six weeks on the run,and just one step in front of the Japanese they reached the shore,and had to swim to reach a passing cargo boat.Two men's lives at this time he saved.One  whose gaping wounds he dressed,and the other ,too weak to swim to the boat, he carried on his back to the water's edge and swam with him, upholding him, until they reached safety.As a physical training officer he had learned about the human body.He knew how to set broken bones,how to staunch a flow of blood and how to heal.He served for thirty years,in war and peace and but never spoke of the horrors he had seen,or the hardships he had endured.
Though absent from his children's lives for months and sometimes years, when home, he earned their respect.He endured no nonsense from his sons,and they learned from his example.He taught them how to play cricket and football,to accept defeat with graciousness,and to rejoice in the winning.He gave them a moral code to live by,and instilled in them the virtue of self discipline.He never raised a hand to them.There was no need,one look from him was enough to quell any attempted unruly behaviour at the dinner table or bedtime.His daughters in his view, were equal to his sons and subject to the same  rules of life as his sons.Weeping from either was considered a weakness,and complaining forbidden.In his later years he returned to the soil,and his old love.He grew vegetables,and planted gardens,a dog always at his heels.He loved his grandchildren and cooked for them ,at ease when in their company,and they loved him in return.
He died when he was seventy nine.His illness was protracted ,slow, painful and suffocating for such as he,and those that loved him could only stand and watch.
The Wife.
She was full of life,popular,pretty,and the young men flocked to her court like moths to a flame.There were many suitors.She knew, however that there was only one man for her,only one that she was willing to share her life with,even though she saw little of him.The wedding took place eventually when she was twenty three,and instead of a honeymoon they travelled to the south coast where her new husband was stationed,and took rooms in a boarding house.
She was lonely,missed her old life,and found it difficult to manage on the Naval pay that her husband brought home.A son was born,and two years later,and one year before war was declared, a daughter.Three more sons were born to her during the war years,one in the middle of an air raid.Her children always remained with her ,and were not evacuated.The thought of them being motherless if she were to be killed by a bomb was unthinkable,and she felt it better, rightly or wrongly to keep them close. Long,uncomfortable nights in shelters, bombs raining down upon them became the norm.Food was rationed,but there was always enough in her little store cupboard for a needy neighbour,and no one was ever turned away who knocked upon her door.She taught her children that it was far far better to give than to receive,that no little errand that they did for a neighbour was to be rewarded in any way,and that they would do things for others willingly,and not count the cost.She taught them to share with each other.She bought them books,not only classics,but also the popular comics of the day,and she saved a few pence each week for Christmas,so her children would not be without presents.She sacrificed for them,loved them beyond measure,and was always,always in the home.She had one more child after the war ,another daughter.
She out- lived her husband by nineteen years.She was brave in her mourning,stoical in her grief,pretending that he was just on another tour of duty and would return.Old age found her indomitable,
resistant to infirmity,reluctant to accept any sort of help that she might need.
She was ninety seven when she died.
The Marriage.
On the face of it ,and maybe to an outsider,their personalities might seem incompatible.He,the deep thinker,slow to anger,and content in later years with his own fireside.She, at times volatile,with a quicksilver temper,and a thirst for the world beyond her doorstep, once her children had grown.There were, of course,rows and quarrels as in most marriages,and sometimes silences that lasted for days.Different interests,different outlooks,different political views.One a Tory,one a socialist.One a Monarchist,the other a republican......Yet they were bound to each other by the cords of love,their marriage underpinned by fidelity and loyalty.Through war and long partings,peace time and the mundane, their marriage survived.Through sickness and health,money worries and heartache they were true to the vows they made, in that little country church so long ago...........
My Mum and Dad.Fortunate were we in our parents.
So I hope,by the mercy of God,that they are in one of those heavenly mansions in the Father's House.Not Catholics,nor practising Protestants,yet both with a Christian ethos that guided their lives.Of their Baptism I am sure.Of the presence of the Loving Christ at their deaths ,I am positive.
Two lives led with fortitude and courage.Six children,seventeen grandchildren,thirteen great grandchildren,and still counting.......
To God be the Glory.


winshipterri said...

This has really moved me.
Love my grandparents and their youngest daughter xxxx

A Catholic Comes Home said...

The world seems a little less beautiful without them does it not?You were the only grandaughter who could talk "sport"with grandad.He loved that.xxxxxxxx

Richard Collins said...

Excellent post, thank you.
BTW...magnolia....not pink (not sure which is worst!)

A Catholic Comes Home said...

Why thank you Richard.Guess it is a sort of wishy washy magnolia.Will try and liven it up at some point!Promise though, it wont be a girly pink!