Friends

30 July 2013

SURPRISING REVELATION (Repeat)


The day was bright and sunny when Grandma Charlotte told me about her infidelity. She was dressed in a lavender tweed skirt and very feminine pink mohair jumper. She dressed well, kept her small frame neat and tidy, never letting age dictate her attire. As she spoke she continuously stroked the deep grey wave that curved from front to back of her small head.
We were seated on this same iron bench overlooking the lake, a place we frequented as often as we could. Swans glided past, babies in tow and followed by a single female mallard. Gran said she thought it must be ladies day and giggled at her observation. Gran giggled a lot, especially when she was nervous. At first I thought she was imagining things but her tale was too realistic to be dreamed up.

It happened when Grandfather Tom was at war. It was a long war and she’d been lonely without him. Not that she admitted it to anyone. I suppose she missed her Mom and Dad and all of her seven siblings. I know what it’s like to miss parents; mine were killed when I was just a kid. I’d lived with Gran and Grandfather ever since. They looked after me, putting up with the tantrums and guiding me through the difficult teens. I loved them both dearly.
Gran met the man in an electrical repair shop. She’d gone to collect a radio that was having new valves put in. She had to explain about valves and I still don’t properly understand how they worked. Gran had been leaning across the counter trying to see if the radio was amongst the ‘readies’ on the back shelf, when suddenly his face appeared before her. She couldn’t see the rest of him. Apparently he was picking up dropped coins. Gran went quite girlish when she described him as a blonde bit of all right. Her eyes literally twinkled as she smiled, not a wide grin, just the hint of a smile.  I always think of Gran now when I see the picture of Mona Lisa.
His name was Des, short for Desmond. Gran showed me a photograph and I must say her description was right. He had loose blonde curls and huge laughing eyes, wide open, as if he had been surprised by something the photographer said. His chin was deeply dimpled and I silently wondered if he lived up to the saying that people with deep dimples make good lovers.

Des and my Gran became firm friends. He would see her weekends and she would call in the shop in the week when she finished work at the munitions factory. Des couldn’t go to war on account of his deformed leg. You had to be fully formed to fight for your country.
Gran went starry eyed again when she told me about their first kiss. They were out walking, holding hands, telling each other stories about their past, when Des suddenly asked Gran if he could kiss her. I laughed when she said that, I never had a man ask for a kiss, the men I knew jumped in without asking. Anyway, Gran said yes and they never looked back. In fact, they looked forward most of the time, if you know what I mean.
‘Sylvie,’ she said, ‘I’d have done anything for that man. He treated me like I was something precious. Never handled me rough, always considerate. We were like man and wife except we didn’t live together. Her voice was silky, as if the mention of love had smoothed the words before she uttered them. I thought I knew my grandmother so well. Why had I not realised there was something … someone else in her life?
I dared to ask if they slept together.
‘Oh yes, we slept together but we didn’t stay together. I loved that man with all my heart. I loved his kindness, and his attitude to life, but neither of us wanted a scandal that would hurt our folk.’
‘But … what about Granddad Tom?’
Gran was silent for a while, searching for the right thing to say.  Unseeing eyes followed a feeding robin, bravely pecking at a crust before an approaching magpie could seize it.
Scrunching her handkerchief in the palm of her hand, she told me, ‘I loved your Granddad in a different way. He was a good man, he didn’t deserve me, and I didn’t deserve him. I was impetuous when I married him; I didn’t really know what love was. I admired Tom and respected him, but my heart was with Des.
‘Did Granddad know about Des.’
Gran looked down, silently studying her hands. Along the path a youngster toppled, and cried. His mother shushed, promising to make it better. Gran gazed at them, while I wondered what she was thinking.
Stirred from her reverie, she put her arm through mine as if seeking solace in my presence.  She spoke in a whisper, answered my question. ‘It would have killed him. No, he never knew. Des and I parted company when Tom came home from the war.’
Tears formed in her rheumy eyes. Sadness washed over her as she leaned into me. ‘I had to do my duty to Tom, raise his children, and be a respectable married woman, one he could be proud of. He’d fought a war thinking I was waiting for him, I couldn’t let him down.
Speaking softly, I posed the question, ‘What happened to Des?’
‘He stayed where he was, looked after his widowed mother. It was too painful to spend time in each other’s company. We’d see each other out and about, we had to be content with that.’
‘And when Granddad Tom died?’
Gran straightened her skirt, adjusted her cardigan sleeves, and gazed up at the sky. I sensed her mood lighten as I waited for her to speak. ‘He asked me for a kiss,’ she said. A hesitant smile played on her lips. ‘He came to check that I was coping on my own and …’ Gran turned to look at me, her happiness beginning to shine through. ‘It was as though we’d never been apart. He was there for me; even apart, he was always there for me.’
‘Where is he now?’
‘After his mother died he stayed on in the house. He’s old now; it’s too late to change. At least he thinks so.’
Gran delved into her bag, withdrew a crumpled packet of toffees and offered me the bag. Putting her free hand on my knee she told me she had plans. As I unwrapped the sweet I wondered what plans an elderly lady could have.
‘I want him to move in with me.’
You can imagine my shock.
‘Don’t dismiss the idea out of hand,’ urged Gran. ‘We both did our duty. We hurt no-one. Now it’s time we had some real happiness. Together.’
I suppose she had a point. If they loved each other as much as she claimed, it must have been a wrench to give him up when Granddad Tom came home. But Granddad was no longer with us, where was the harm in making it easy for two people who needed each other.
‘The neighbours will talk,’ I warned.
That really stirred Gran. ‘Let them. I don’t care. I’ve waited too long to worry about neighbours.’

Des and Gran spent the rest of their days together and it was difficult to tell which one was the happiest. As the neighbours will tell you, they bubbled with joyfulness and love. As for me, well, there were moments when I hankered for Granddad’s company but I had a feeling that he knew and was content with the way things were. There were only happy vibes in their house. As I watched Gran and Des together I thanked God for giving them the opportunity of ultimate contentment.
Now I have a funeral to prepare, making sure Gran’s plans are carried out as she wanted. Des isn’t capable of dealing with it. Since Gran died he’s been like a lost soul. I told him the other day that she wanted a happy funeral, no dirges, and no tears. He perked up when I mentioned hymns, told me he’d like to hear everyone sing’ You are the sunshine of my life’. I couldn’t believe what he was asking. Gran herself had put that one at the top of her list.
She often said she’d make the hundred and get the telegram from the Queen but she didn’t get there. Nevertheless we’re doing a cake with candles in celebration of a longstanding love affair. Their wish!

You are the sunshine of my life
That’s why I’ll always be around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you’ll stay in my heart

I feel like this is the beginning,
Though I’ve loved you for a million years,
And if I thought our love was ending,
I’d find myself drowning in my own tears.

You are the sunshine of my life,
That’s why I’ll always stay around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you’ll stay in my heart,

You must have known that I was lonely,
Because you came to my rescue,
And I know that this must be heaven,
How could so much love be inside of you?

You are the sunshine of my life, yeah,
That’s why I’ll always stay around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you’ll stay in my heart.


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13 comments:

Brian Miller said...

smiles...its an endearing love story...and i am glad that they spent the last of their days together....interesting how it outshines the initial infidelity....

Ron said...

Oh Valerie, this love story is so beautiful!

I know I've shared this with you many times before, but you have such a talent for making the characters in your stories come alive. In a brief moment, you create such a clear and strong beginning, middle, and ending.

And what a touching ending this was!

Well done, dear lady. Well done!

Have a terrific Tuesday!

X







Ron said...

P.S. loved the quote by Robin Williams!

Valerie said...

Yes, Brian, it shows that even in those days infidelity was around.

Valerie said...

Thank you, Ron. This one sticks in my heart and is now one of my favourite pieces.

Montanagirl said...

What a wonderful story! I agree, you really have a talent for making your characters come alive in your stories. I could just see them sitting there on the bench.

DeniseinVA said...

What a great story Valerie, I'm glad they had their few years of happiness together.

Ranita Sinha said...

Speechless!!!! such a wonderful love story..so well narrated in a soft and flowing manner..love the whole thing..

Valerie said...

Aww Ranita, thank you so much. I am really pleased you enjoyed it.

HermanTurnip said...

This story brought a tear or two to my eyes. Beautifully written. And if you ask me, this needs to be printed up in a compilation. Great job!!

Valerie said...

I'm so pleased you liked this one, Herman. FYI it has been printed in a compilation.

Akelamalu said...

Aw how sweet, I loved it!

Valerie said...

Thank you, Pearl.