Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Story

I must say I was glad of the distraction yesterday. The Old Black Dog is pacing. I say old as I feel he ages along beside me. Damned unpredictable though. I never know whether he and I are due for a long vacation together or a picnic or a weekend. He's almost a physical presence.

The distraction came in the form of a death notice. A life lived for 90 years. Memories came rushing back. They were an odd couple, Violet (call me Vi)and Richard. She was about 10 years older than him and fought it every day. A lot of energy into hair dying and styling and the shortest of skirts and the heaviest of makeup, the woiks, even first thing in the morning. I remember her startling eye-shadow which leaped from her face and the makeup caked in the wrinkles around her mouth. A chain smoker.

That era, we were all in our twenties, early thirties, Vi must have been in her forties, was full of weekends away, balls, heavy duty drinking in officers' messes, Scottish dancing, tartans and fun too. One word comes to mind when I think of Richard. Dignity. He was one of the most dignified men I've ever met. Ramrod straight, the removed look of an intellectual, and beautifully dressed, everything seemed to match. He was partial to bowties. I shared the odd in depth conversation with him. Vi was one of those women who swooped everywhere with a remarkable insensitivity to private conversations. Her voice was loud, her laughter raucous and she loved showing off her wild knickers in the ladies' room.

I'd wonder whatever they saw in each other.

My marriage broke up and I was very surprised when Vi and Richard kept in touch with me. Very few couples of that period in my life did as their loyalty was leaning more towards my now exed husband as it was his military affiliation and not mine.

On visits to their home with my younger daughter, while Vi cooked Richard would take YD and me to his den. He had a huge collection of model soldiers, laid out for the Battle of Waterloo on a vast model battlefield. Nearby, on an easel was a nearly finished rendition of an English cottage in beautiful needlepoint. I had assumed it was Vi's but was soon enlightened that in fact it was Richard's. When I expressed interest, he showed me some cushions and fire-screens he had completed, all meticulously executed in stunning colours.

Richard had been in the RAF in London, he told me, Vi was a telephone operator at HQ when they met. Vi was originally from Malta, had raised her brothers and sisters when her mother died in childbirth and her father took off. When she emigrated to England she had abandoned her Maltese origins and anglicised her name.

Richard was a voracious reader and could converse on any topic. Vi had to knock before entering his den, his one quiet space she told me, rolling her eyes and assuring me "she could be quiet too, but life was too short." Whatever that meant.

I've never forgotten their kindness to me when it seemed like many had turned their backs. It was a very difficult time in my life and their friendship was a comfort.

There were certainly sparks between Richard and me, no denying that. But I've never betrayed a friendship by poaching a partner. One of my rules of self-conduct.

Vi died about 10 years ago and Richard moved to his daughter's in Florida.

On reflection, I understand them a lot more now. Vi was haunted by her age and had her own battles every day. Richard was allowed his quiet space of reflection, mock battles, books and needlepoint.

And I rather think that crazy underwear tells another side of the story.

19 comments:

  1. And here I was, expecting something related to St. Patrick's Day...They were a decent couple and very happy together from the sounds of it. Perhaps there is some solace for you in that they each had long lives...Hugs.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Sharyn. On reflection (again) I don't think I ever saw them engaged in any kind of conversation, he always listened to her(he had lovely manners) but there never was feedback.

      XO
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  3. Yes, I liked this. I have friends like them. One of them, a woman married to a man 20 years younger, died a few years ago. She was remarkable in many ways, independent mostly but very fixated on her husband. I did think it was too bad that she felt she could not allow herself to age naturally but fell victim to a botched facial plastic surgery job. And she fought her way into Spanx every day, in our tropical heat and humidity. Too much sacrifice, I think.
    Another friend of mine is a free spirit, still married to her husband 15 years younger but going around trying out everything and everyone in her 70's. Bully for her, I say.

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    1. Couples are fascinating Hattie, hard to know what dynamic really exists we can only speculate from the company manners :) Too bad about your friend's plastic, I'm convinced Vi would have tried it if it had been normal back then. I think her efforts to behave like the rest of us put a lot of us off, if only she'd given herself permission to just be.

      XO
      WWW

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  4. You've reminded me of a friend and co-worker from years ago. Valerie was a petite, skinny woman in her late 20's or early 30's at the time, and she was very fond of flipping up her skirt and showing her co-workers her new underwear. If she had been voluptuous, her gesture might have seemed more out of the ordinary, but as it was we just looked and forgot. I did wonder why she did it.

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  5. Diane - the complexity of human nature never ceases to entrance me. I do remember showing friends in a washroom a leopard-skin bra (on request) back in the day as white and beige were the only two colours available then. I can't remember where I bought it, I think South Carolina. I loved it so much I think it finally fell apart LOL

    XO
    WWW

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  6. Older woman / younger man equations can be very tricky unless there is great understanding between the two. I have known other instances and reversed roles to what you have depicted here too. But the lingerie bit is a feminine thing and this is the first time I am hearing about it!

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    1. And Ramana, this begs the question why not older man-younger woman, or maybe the money takes care of it. I rarely here of a poor old man marrying a much younger woman, do you?
      XO
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    2. I love your stories
      and envy your moving on.
      My heart says one thing
      "stay here"
      but the body says
      "how can you do what needs to be done."
      No answer
      but maybe
      special son will have one
      I already know
      his answer
      "stay where you are."

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    3. This must be agonizing for you Ernestine. You will know when the time comes. Try not to let anyone influence you, it has to come from within with love. You need to be at peace.
      You're in my thoughts.
      XO
      WWW

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  7. The way the world works now, I know several poor, older men who have lost their jobs, and who are married to younger, richer women who are still employed. And so, for me too, the complexity of human nature never ceases to entrance.

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    1. That's interesting Tom, I've yet to see such a partnership - wealthy older women with younger men, yes.
      Yes, it is highly complex isn't it?
      XO
      WWW

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  8. Any age difference like that can be tricky.
    You tell a good tale!
    Maggie x

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    1. Thanks Maggie, names were changed to protect....

      XO
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  9. There's no explaining other people's relationships. Couples that seem totally unsuited like this one stay together for decades. But it's sad when women can't accept their appearance and go to absurd lengths to tart themselves up and deny their age.

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