Parents have dreams and in those days their dreams didn’t include their children getting divorced. Imagine what it must have been like for them. My marriage had ended and I was living alone with three young children. Then I meet this young fellow six years younger than me (Bert was 27 when we started going out) and the next thing he’s living with me. I was actually with Bert for over a year before Daddy cottoned on that he was there.
He wasn’t the only one who was slow on the uptake. In the early days of our relationship Bert just spent the weekends with me. Then the weekends became longer. Over a period of a few months they’d stretched to five days starting on Thursdays and ending on Mondays. By the time we were together six months he was only going home on Wednesdays. I have to say I was really cross with him when I realised that he had moved in without ever having discussed it with me.
So Daddy says to Matty,
“Who is this Bert fellow anyway? Has he no place of his own to go to? Every time I go over to Mary’s he’s there.”
“Well they’re living together I suppose.”
“Oh no!. That’s terrible! What’s going to become of Mary? That fellow’ll likely make a terrible eejit of her for she has no sense at all!”
“Och now don’t be worrying. He seems a right enough sort of fellow. Anyway have you ever thought what it must be like for his parents, what they must think of it all? There he is - he’s their only child and they’re good, respectable people and what must they think that he’s took up with a separated woman, years older than him, with three weans already and of a different religion too?”
Say this for Matty she was always good at looking at things from the other person’s point of view. This is a trait that I hope I share with her. So, in time, Seamus came round to the idea and ended up thinking the world of Bert. When it came down to it a shared country background in farming meant more than any divisions between Catholic and Protestant.
There were rocky moments too with Bert’s parents. Apparently his father was not a bit happy with the situation either. Me being Catholic was bad enough, three weans was worse and he wasn’t a bit impressed with my then address which, at that time, was one of Ballymena’s rougher areas. Harsh words were said,
“There’ll be no other man’s weans on this yard!”
How did it come about he met my girls? I can hardly remember. Perhaps something to do with Bert never telling me what his father had said and then landing the children on to his yard anyway. I know I’d have been terribly offended and hurt had I known about his feelings then. But within short months Bert’s dad had met my girls and over the years to come he grew to love and care for them. Sure how could he not?
Our two fathers were the same age. They were both small farmers and they did meet eventually. They liked each other very much. Given a different time and a different place they might well have been the closest of friends.