Sad lines in the circle of life
About 33 years ago, I beheld grief such as I had never before witnessed. A young man of 20 lay across his bed, sobbing as if his heart had broken in smithereens. Shoulders shaking, immature chest heaving, his anguish was beyond any words of comfort or consolation. There was absolutely nothing I could do except sit mutely beside him until, spent, he allowed me to enfold him in my arms…All My Life’s A Circle…
The reason for his agony was that his girlfriend was pregnant but refused to marry him. Despite pressure from both sets of parents, she remained firm in her resolution, although it was not the done thing back then to opt to be a single parent.
A young married couple ourselves, we supported them in every possible way. They visited us frequently and, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, we enjoyed good times together.
Once, when she and I were chatting alone, she spoke freely about her situation and her future plans as a nurse. In the context of our conversation, I asked frankly how, with her education, she had become pregnant when it was not her deliberate intention.
You know, I have never forgotten her answer. Her reply may not appear to make sense, certainly not in the climate of today’s so-called ‘freedom’ but somehow I fully understood her apparently contradictory and faulty reasoning.
It was this. In her mind, had she taken precautions in advance of going out with her guy; she would be planning to engage in full sexual intercourse, which, outside of marriage, was against her moral standards.
So, avoiding/denying/dodging this vital issue had resulted in her predicament. In the ethos of that long-forgotten Ireland and it is unequivocally politically incorrect to say so in our brave new world, there was a saying that “only good girls got caught”. Anyway, at 20, she was adamant in her refusal to marry.
They both went to London and stayed with family until the baby was born. We kept in touch with them, even going over to visit. Soon after the birth, I heard that she and the baby had gone to America and that eventually, she married another. I was no longer in direct touch with her by then but was always in contact with the baby’s father. When I lost my own little Áine to sudden infant death syndrome, I recall receiving a particularly kind and empathetic message of sympathy from her. At that time, I recollect resolving to resume contact but you know how it is, you intend to do such and such but life gets in the way…All My Life’s A Circle.
So the years were swallowed up. Apart from initially keeping in touch, the guy maintained no direct contact in the intervening years. At 18 years of age, the daughter was involved in a major car accident and suffered serious injuries.
On regaining consciousness, she repeatedly asked for her dad. Her dad was well married with his own family by then. Notably, though, he kept a photo of his first daughter in his wallet and regularly produced it. I often wondered what his wife thought of this.
He made no secret of his affection for his daughter, although he hadn’t seen her since she was a baby. When word came that his daughter was asking for him, he was gone like a shot to the US to be at her side. She recovered well and they remained in contact ever since, although she doesn’t live in Ireland… All My Life’s A Circle.
There’s no tangible, obvious connection but I suppose I’m recording the following simply to demonstrate the twists and turns of life – the circle.
This man’s son is a grown young man and joined the British Army within the past year. Neither his parents nor grandparents were particularly pleased but the young man is blessed, or cursed, with a thirst for adventure. By the way, this son formed a firm bond with his half-sister. He and his dad are extremely close.
This dearly loved son flew out to Afghanistan. Simultaneously, you could say planes almost crossing paths, the cremated remains of his half-sister’s mother, who died in her beloved and bereft daughter’s arms, arrived home to Ireland, where we all attended a commemoration ceremony. At that ceremony, I recalled the golden-haired girl I knew, with her porcelain skin and enormous, laughing, sometimes tear-filled blue eyes.
“…It seems like I’ve been here before, I can’t remember when,
But I got this funny feeling
That we’ll all be together again;
There’s no straight lines that make up my life
And all my roads have bends,
There’s no clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead ends…”