Veronica had trailed me through to the kitchen, as I helped to clear away the evening meal. It was the first time my boyfriend had brought me home to his parents house, and although it wasn't the first time we had met (we had already been out for a meal together when they were last visiting London) this was his way of signaling to them that our relationship was more than just casual.
".. You see, I was hoping to ask you - I do hope you won't try to stop Alan from still keeping in touch with Trisha, will you? She is like a daughter to us, you know."
I almost dropped the plates. He and Trisha had broken up over two years before we'd even met. What the hell did she expect me to answer to that? Truthfully, I couldn't give a hoot whether or not they were still in touch, it was the way she was so obviously warning me off that disturbed me. I muttered something lame about Alan being perfectly able to choose his own friends, and it certainly wasn't any of my business whom he did or didn't choose to keep in touch with.
"We play golf with her parents every week, you know.."
(Really?) I had a fleeting image of introducing my own parents to her and Jack, and my stomach went into an instant spasm. Dad being permanently pissed, and with mum as nutty as a fruitcake, I rather doubted they'd find them suitable as an alternative set of golf buddies.
But still, I had a fair amount to offer. I was young(ish) at 29, had never been married before, had no children, and was the sole proprietor of a business that then currently pay rolled over 500 staff. What more did they want? I mean, sure, Al was also fairly successful in his own right, but no one could ever accuse me of being a gold-digger. Besides, I liked to think I was polite and presentable, I ate with the right knife and fork and was sure to never pick my nose in public.
It got worse when we announced our engagement.
"It will be a church wedding, of course? Not anything seedy like sloping off abroad somewhere?"
(By this time she'd already met my parents and had perfectly read my mind.) As a sop I invited them to come, but Al didn't really fancy being stuck on the Seychelles with his parents on our honeymoon. To be frank, it didn't inspire me much, either. He wriggled out of it, tho' I still suspect he used me for an excuse. When we arrived back as man and wife, Veronica presented me with a very valuable diamond, solitaire ring. It had once been her grandfathers tie-pin, and was little short of the size of a golf ball. She passed it to me with the tender words of, "Should you divorce, I expect it back."
Anyhows, that kind of set the tone from there on out. Veronica tolerated me because she had to, I was polite to her because I felt obliged to be. There was not much love lost, but we rubbed by. We even spent a whole week together every Easter, and they always stayed with us over the Christmas period. It was bearable.
Until Sam arrived.
"There is nothing wrong with our side of the Gene pool, dear. And besides, you have a perfectly beautiful child there, what on earth's the matter with you?"
She couldn't accept Sam was different, and she took my prying into her family's medical history as a personal insult. I was just looking for answers from any corner, at that point in time no-one other than me thought Sam was experiencing any difficulties, he was just a late developer, or so they said. I truly felt I was the worst mother in the world, betraying him by pointing out what to me seemed so blatantly obvious.
Her response to Sam's eventual diagnosis was to shut down. "I don't feel comfortable around these people." ("The mentally handicapped" as she later clarified.) It hardly endeared her to me. I really should add in here that her husband Jack, Al's father, was an absolute rock to us over this period, he was there every step of the way to support and to help us in any manner that he could. Thing is, you may well be forgiven for thinking Veronica was simply a shallow, vain and silly woman, but actually she wasn't. No one is entirely one dimensional, most of us are at least partially products of our environment, she being no exception.
Before she died, I asked both her and Jack to sit down and to chronicle their own individual life stories - a kind of first hand record that we might one day be able to pass on down to their grandchildren. I am sad to say that it wasn't until after she had passed that I finally got around to reading what she had so painstakingly written. Perhaps had I read it earlier, I may have come to understand her a little better.
Like most of you, I do so hate posts that ramble on. So I shall save her story for my next entry, it certainly is worth the telling.