Its a Wise Child
The full proverb reads “ Its a wise child who knows his own father.” And it came to mind reading Richard Ford’s “Between Them-Remembering My Parents”(Bloomsbury). The highly successful Pulitzer winning author in this slight book poses all kinds of questions about his non descript parents. Did they love him, as an only child who came late did he get in the way, what drove them, what were their feelings to each other,their parents, him- what were their innermost dreams and ambitions. Why had he have so little idea of a couple who he had been intimate with for twenty years and lived with far longer?
I was brought up by four people all of whom I have only the vaguest idea about. Why was Dick Thompson CBE a highly successful lawyer so hopeless domestically, was this the clue to his first wife, my mother accusing him of being weak and not up to the job? Did he love her till he died? She turned up at his Lincolns Inn memorial,50 years after their divorce .
Was my mother as promiscuous as she hinted in a long essay she wrote of her childhood. Was this the clue to her disjointed and disappointing career. As an Oxford graduate and Labour candidate in 1945 she promised more than being a middle ranking civil servant. Was the trauma of her loveless childhood the main reason. Childhoods cannot be a life time excuse.
My step mother was something out of a novel. She trained but didn’t qualify as a doctor, had something a crusading hate for my mother, started several businesses and never really saw them through, all her four children ended up pretty fucked-they are still feuding over her inheritance, had few friends. Yet she was not a bad person.
My step father a German Jew, far more German than the other. Chemical engineer building plant around the world,skier, mountaineer, alpha male he. Maybe with reason ,obsessively jealous. Found the mood changes of the 60s impossible. Yet had a high opinion of himself ,he could never pass a mirror without having a peep, he never had any friends, told me once that friendship was a waste of time as it involved saying goodbye and “talking rubbish”. Ouch.
And we haven’t got to the sperm donor. One or two night stand with my mother,more?-typically they remained friends all their lives. Charismatic certainly. Mainstay of Czech-Canadian community absolutely, successful career-yes. Yet his denial maybe suggests an unwritten proverb “Its a brave eighty year old who admits paternity fifty years later.” Loud he may have been but brave he was not, of this, at least, I am certain.