Saturday, 5 April 2014

A Bit of a (Diamond) Do


Three days ago, on April 3rd, my parents celebrated sixty years of wedded bliss.  Okay, let me rephrase that.  They celebrated sixty years of marriage.  I don’t think any marriage – let alone one that has lasted sixty years – is literally all bliss.  Indeed, as my mother recently quipped to me, ‘I don’t know how we got to sixty years.  I always meant to leave your father.’
            Marriage is a juggling act at the best of times.  You have to work at keeping someone happy.  They, in turn, have to work at keeping you happy.  Then just when you think you are both happy, children come along and shift the balance and you have to re-think the whole keeping each other happy thing all over again.
            My parents had a nine year wait before I came along and they were happily married.  At that point my father was in the Merchant Navy.  He spent months at a time at sea – which is probably another reason for their happiness …they rarely saw each other.  Imagine when my father left his nine week old daughter to return to sea, and didn’t see her again until she was nine months old.  What a change!  And imagine, again, when he next saw his daughter at eighteen months – but she’d have nothing to do with him!  He was devastated.  Apparently I would scream if my father cuddled my mother in front of me.  And I’d scream if he tried to cuddle me.  This was stressful for both parents.
            Eventually my father made the monumental decision to leave everything he’d studied and qualified for and find work elsewhere.  Except there wasn’t any local work.  So, there was another period of stress as unemployment was experienced before making one more colossal decision – selling up and moving near London where my father found work behind a desk.  But eventually harmony was restored.  The family settled into the new abode, in a new area, and my father adapted to his new career.  And, in time, I became accustomed to this man-person who was apparently my father.  Balance and peace were restored.  The marriage ticked along…until my sister arrived.
            The effect of a new baby on an older child is considerable.  One minute the child’s life is like that of a lovely smooth pond, and then suddenly a pebble plops in and causes all sorts of ripples.  Once again my poor parents’ marriage became a bit stretched.
            Eventually the ripples subsided and there was then another period of calm until the eldest turned into a teenager.  Now this is where a marriage is sorely tested as a manipulative teenager constantly tests the boundaries – which usually involve playing one parent off against the other.
Me:      ‘Can I go to a party on Saturday night?’
Mother:‘Um, best to ask your father.’
Me:      ‘Can I go to a party on Saturday night?’
Father: ‘Ask you mother.’
Me:      ‘I did.  She said it was fine, but only if you give me a lift home afterwards.’
Father: ‘Okay.  I’ll pick you up at eight o’clock.’
Me:      ‘The party starts at eight.’
Father: ‘In that case ask your mother to collect you.’
Me:      ‘Dad says I can go to the party, but because he’s tired you’ll have to collect me at midnight.’
Mother: ‘Flaming cheek – I’m tired too!  Where is he?  I’ve got a few words to say to your father.  TONY?  Turn that television down right now and listen to me.  You WILL collect Debbie from her party at midnight, do you hear?’
Father: ‘Yes, dear.’
Me:      Mission accomplished.
            Aren’t teenagers horrible!  And just when I’d stomped off into the big wide world at eighteen, my parents had about six months of bliss before my sister turned into a walking hormonal gland and once again put them through their marital paces.
            This pattern repeats when grandchildren come along.  But we won’t go there.  Least said and all that.  And fortunately the grand-children are now young adults.
            ‘You can finally enjoy your marriage,’ I recently said to my mother.
            ‘I’m now too knackered to enjoy anything,’ she retorted.  Well, she is eighty-one.
            However, knackered or not, you can’t reach sixty years of marriage without some sort of celebration.  Even the Queen sent an anniversary card to my parents congratulating them and urging them to celebrate.  So celebrate we all did.  And how touching it was to see my parents take to the dance floor last night as their youngest daughter serenaded them, and watch the silver-haired gentleman sway in time to the tiny lady with a stoop.  Love conquers all.  As well as endurance!  Which reminds me.
            ‘Some people,’ said an elderly gentleman, ‘ask the secret of a long marriage.  The secret is this.  We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight.  Good food.  Soft music, and even dancing.  She goes Tuesdays, and I go Fridays…’

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