AN INDEPENDENT LIFE
In a moment of lucidity, Vanessa Mallard talks about her son.
An established relationship story.
Written: May 2006. Word count: 1,110.
If I were to die, it would give Donald what he deserves. It would give him an independent life. It would allow him and dear Jethro to be together permanently.
I know about them. I always have. I knew from an early age that Donald was different from most boys. Maybe it was my fault; maybe I should never have insisted that he went to Eton. But it was where my father and his father had gone.
Donald was a shy child; a quiet boy who at the time preferred books to sport or people. His, for a boy, overlong hair, fair skin, slight build, revealing eyes, hesitant yet questioning nature, and well above average intelligence, led to him suffering taunts and worse. At least I believe it was worse; Donald never actually told his father or me. But a mother knows. She can tell when her child has fallen over and when he has been pushed.
I ached to do something, I wanted to protect him, but that would have been wrong. So instead I declared that he would go to Eton. I was certain that it would, amongst other things, teach him how to be independent, how to stand up for himself. It did. Once he overcame the homesickness, he enjoyed his life at Eton. He even began to take an interest in sport, playing cricket and running. And Eton was a place where intelligence wasn't a handicap.
I believe he was still teased about his hair and looks, but in a friendly one-boy-to-another way. Certainly he was a lot happier, more content. Eton did indeed teach him independence; I sometimes wonder just what else it taught him.
It wasn't an easy time or period to be different, but in spite of his fragile looks and usually placid nature, Donald was a strong boy. And a determined and honest one. He was never the kind of person to do something merely because it was convention, or expected of him. I knew I would never become a grandmother, and most of the time that did not bother me.
We never actually spoke about it, however. People didn't. And I never met any of Donald's lovers, until he brought dear Jethro home. I assume there were others before Jethro, but knowing my beloved son as I do, I suspect not that many. As much as Donald became fond of being with other people and talking to them, he was not unhappy with his own company.
I was still living in England the first time I met Jethro. Donald had brought him over following some kind of accident or injury. They never did tell me exactly what had happened, just mentioned something about Jethro being injured whilst serving his country, and needing to spend some time away from America. It was more involved than that; I could see that so clearly. Just as I could see that the young, handsome Marine, was more than just a friend to Donald. Far more.
And he remained thus, throughout the years. Even throughout his three marriages. There were times when I wanted to shake Donald and tell him to stop being so considerate and nice and understanding; to tell him to give Jethro an ultimatum.
But I never did.
Firstly, it would mean that I would have to admit to knowing about him, and about him and Jethro. And secondly, he was a grown man; as much as I might wish to, it was one hurt I could not heal.
The only time I ever said anything was when he introduced that woman to Jethro. Diane - I no longer remember the surname she had before she became Diane Gibbs - was not a nice woman. She certainly wasn't a lady. Not nice at all. And I told Donald so. But he didn't listen to me, and so he ended up standing by Jethro's side for the third time and listening to Jethro tell lies. And then, as with the other two, he was the one who had to heal Jethro, physically - what was it about the man that made him marry three women who hit him? - and emotionally.
I suppose I should have hated Jethro for what he put Donald through, but I couldn't; I'm not certain that anyone could. He would smile at me in his way and flirt gently with me, just as he did with everyone and everything. I swear the man was capable of seducing a table-lamp.
At first after I had to go and live with Donald when Jethro visited, they made a pretence of him leaving before I retired to bed. I wanted to tell them 'I may be senile, but I am still aware'. At least I was then; or at I was a lot of the time.
Unlike now when I am unaware for most of the time.
I wish I were never aware. I wish I could live what is left of my far-too-long-life in the world I inhabit most of the time. I know that I am happy then. And as frustrated as Donald gets, I believe that he too would rather I were never aware - for both our sakes.
As my senility became more advanced, the pretence stopped, and Jethro no longer made any hints about going home. But unfortunately things have now become more difficult for them again. Donald has had to employ a nurse for me, a nasty girl; I do not like her. She flutters her eyelashes at Jethro and talks to me as though I'm a child. And because of this painted trollop who has come to live with us, Donald and Jethro once again have to be apart more than they are together.
I want to tell him that it is his house, if she doesn't like him having a male lover, then she can leave - and good riddance to her. But I can't. He goes to see dear Jethro more often than Jethro comes here now, but he rarely, if ever stays the night. And that is wrong. It degrades their relationship; their love. At his age he should have a home with the person whom he loves, he shouldn't have to behave as though he is involved in some sordid little affair.
My one comfort, the only thing I have left to cling on to, is that Donald does have Jethro. And whilst they may not get as much time alone together as they would like, they do see one another every day. Donald has Jethro's love. Together they are -
I wonder if Donald will ring me from the University today?
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