Questions and Answers
Dusk is falling, night drawing in; the cold north wind howls plaintively around the eaves.
I linger by the hearth, toasting my hands on the open fire, and staring absently into its dancing flames.
The atmosphere within these four walls is pleasant, the silence a companionable one. Still, within me there is turmoil. A churning up of the simplest emotions, as I ponder on just how best to broach that what burns so fiercely inside.
I am burdened with questions; the sort that plays on one’s mind and that weigh so heavily on one’s heart.
Oh they are, I suppose, inconsequential in the scheme of things, and are decidedly lightweight to the pressing ones I arrived with and have long since posed. However the asking of these others is for some reason, proving a difficult task. More difficult in ways than were the others I asked, which were answered, though not readily so.
I know this is a good time, an opportunity I should not miss. We are alone; there is no one to disturb us, nothing to distract us: this brief lull in the chaos of life, perfect for the exchanging of some private thoughts.
Turning around I study my father, gazing steadily at the bowed head, and his neatly combed grey hair. I try to picture him younger, twenty-six years younger to be exact. He would have been a little younger then than I.
It’s hard to picture him as an adventurer, but that is just what he was. Undeniably courageous. A man intent on making something of himself. A man with a dream.
So what was it like crossing that vast ocean? What was it like being tossed and torn upon stormy seas? I’ve never asked him about his journey to the new world, or how he felt about leaving the old one behind.
I wonder so if this land has met all his expectations, is it all he hoped it would be? Did he find here what he was looking for?
I think he did. I’m sure he did, but still I would like to hear that confirmation from his own lips.
He has known great unhappiness here too. Grief. Heartache. Years of agonizing worry. So perhaps he has regrets?
There is so much I don’t know about him, so very much I would like to know; things that only he can tell me. But all of these questions for which I seek answers, are not the ones weighing so heavily inside. And perhaps not mine to hear answers to alone, as these questions would be better asked when the three of us are here; for my brother above all others would be entranced with the telling.
No, most of all what I need to ask, what I need to know, is for me alone. I want to know about my mother. How he met her? His very first impression of her? Was it love at first sight? Were those too few years they had together happy ones? It’s these questions I’ve felt unable to ask!
I feel such prying is wrong. Are not such memories precious to their keeper? Might they be grudgingly rather than willingly shared?
My eyes are drawn to his desk, to the gilt frame that holds Catherine Lancer’s likeness. I favour her I’m told, he himself said I have her eyes.
I wish...I wish I had some memory of her. No matter how hazy or fanciful. Just something tangible of my own…
In the blink of an eye my mood has changed! From whimsical to brooding and I stride towards the great window to stare unseeingly into the fading light.
They say you don’t miss what you’ve never had but I beg to differ. I very much miss what was, is and will always be absent in my life.
Fate is cruel, is heedless of prayer and dismissive of need and it knows not the meaning of mercy. It stole from me the most precious of things, and then atop injury added insult, and deprived me of and bid me yearn for years for what was rightfully mine.
And so there were no loving arms to enfold me, no gentle voice to sing me a lullaby. Just strangers paid to tend and supervise, to educate, to instil principles and mould good character.
Tears were frowned upon, fear treated with scorn. Emotions were something to be held in check…the child was expected to be a man.
And I tried, I really did. But the empty place inside of me at times would ache, and sadness would fall about me like nights shadow.
Those times, I would allow myself to shed some sorrow. Those times I would ask myself why? Why had she died? Why had he not wanted me? Why did no one love me?
In time the answers came, tiny pieces of what to me was an unfathomable puzzle: my Grandfather’s answers to a lonely boy’s questions; my Grandfather’s truth.
She was weak, foolish, she trusted too easily, and she had trusted ‘him’. ‘He’ had made promises he couldn’t keep, vows that in time he would of course break.
And he had let her down; when she had needed him he had not been there. She had died in the presence of strangers, and had been buried by them too.
He had not wanted to raise a child, not even his own. That would have greatly inconvenienced the wealth seeking fool not to mention burden him with unwanted expense!
So Grandfather did what was right by me, he took me in, he provided for me...
But he did not do right by me! I know that now.
He lied to me. He let me believe my father didn’t want me. He betrayed my trust!
He insists it was done with the very best of intentions. There’s a saying isn’t there? Ah yes...the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
And strange as it might seem to some I actually want to believe him. I want to believe that in some way he loved me, wanted what he thought was best for me, that he did not use me to seek revenge against the man that took his daughter from him. That’s why I’ve tried to hide the anger and bitterness I feel. But there are times, like now when those buried emotions fight their way to the surface, eager to draw breath and let the disgust in their voices be heard.
But if I should let these emotions see light, vent my spleen as they say, what real good would it do? It would change nothing; the past can not be altered no matter how much we may wish to the contrary.
And anyway, a gentleman doesn’t lose his temper, he never loses control...never……
A voice breaks into my thoughts, startling me out of dark place I’ve just been languishing in.
I close my eyes and swiftly gather my composure, as I have done so often throughout my young life. And as I turn around a reassuring smile has settled on my face and I move to join the older man on the couch.
He watches my approach, and I know he is not quite convinced that nothing is in fact wrong. I see it in his eyes, he knows me, my father.
As I sit beside him he closes the book that’s nestled in his lap, so giving me his full and undivided attention.
His eyes search mine and a little of that hard learned composure deserts me.
It’s up to me now, he’s opened the door.
The question trips hesitantly off my lips and I wait a little anxiously for his response.
I see relief and then delight; my fears evaporate as he willingly opens his heart. Bringing her to life for me through his words, through his love for her, and for their son……. who was always loved, then and now, who was always loved.