Gloria had placed beakers of tea, coffee and biscuits on the table for them all. It seemed to Frank that everyone was speaking at once trying to get him to tell them what had happened. He started by reminding them of the incident at the dining table and went backwards in time from there, through arguments there had been earlier in the day. He then told of tensions that had been developing all the way back since his retirement. With the background established, he moved his narrative forward to the evening’s aftermath and his declaration of leaving. He concluded with the more reasoned conversation he’d had with Charlotte at breakfast time and the call he’d made that morning.
His rapt audience had listened patiently until then before bombarding him, from all sides, with questions. Once again, these enquiries were, in general, ones regarding which he’d been rehearsing answers mentally since the previous night in bed.
‘Oh my God, Dad, that’s a hell of a decision. You’ve never lived on your own since your early twenties, have you?’ this was Gloria. ‘At your age isn’t that dangerous? You’re neither of you as fit as you were. I read an article the other day about divorce being a key factor in heart attack risk.’ She paused, ‘How would you feel if Charlie were to collapse at home, alone, and had to be rushed to hospital? Or worse, if she lay, unable to move until it was too late and she died? The same’s true of you as well.’
‘God, Gloria love’ he said, ‘You’re a Job’s comforter. A couple of things though. You mentioned my risk. I’m almost seventy, love. That was one of the things that helped me to decide. At my age, I know only too well that I might not have many years left to me.’ He addressed them all, ‘Whether it’s six months or sixteen years, I don’t want to spend them being miserable. I want to enjoy them as fully as I can. As far as Charlie’s concerned, of course I’d be heartbroken to think of her dying alone. Nothing would have pleased me more than for us to have spent our remaining years doing things together as a happy couple, but that was never going to happen, was it? Not the way things were going. Charlie’s never going to change, is she? Also, and I can’t stress this enough, she’s still your mum Gloria. She and I might have decided to go our own ways, but, whatever happens, you must still be there to support her, phone her, visit her – often – so there’s less risk of her lying in the house alone.’
Gloria and Davina were in tears.
‘I don’t want to think of you dying Dad – either of you. I just wish that things were different. I think about David…’
‘Yes, well me and your mum will phone him tonight when we’re together. I’ll go back to be with her for the call.’
‘Anyway Dad, as I was saying, Carol left David and he’s certainly not happy. Jake and Grace were devastated by his divorce, but they’re still so busy trying to help their dad’s depression that they don’t have time to deal with their own feelings.’
‘I know love, but our situation’s different. Your mum and I aren’t enemies. We’re just giving each other some room. I don’t know for how long. Neither of us wants a divorce and, despite what I said earlier, there’s no saying that we couldn’t start again’
Peter had been quiet for much of the discussion. He sat forward on the Chesterfield, looking at Frank.
‘So that’s not definitely the end then? You admit there is a chance that you could someday get back together?’
‘I’ll never say never, Peter. Who knows? Before then though, Charlie could find a gigolo who’ll sweep her off her feet and make her so happy she’ll forget all about housework.’
‘Gramps!’ said Davina, ‘Won’t you be jealous?’
‘Listen love, firstly I’d have only myself to blame. Secondly, as I said a moment ago, we’ve agreed that divorce is out of the question. David’s divorce was a lesson. In answer to your question though, Yes, I’d be jealous, but I wouldn’t interfere.’
The conversation moved on to what Frank had said about renting a house. He explained that he feared it might take a while. He said that he’d spend the following day seeing if he could find lodgings with a young landlady who’d cook his breakfast and evening meal for him. He teased them that he wouldn’t complain if she offered other benefits.
I took this photo in May 2020 in Victoria Park Widnes. It was my first outing with my wife since the first lockdown in the UK. I liked the vintage appearance of the bandstand and the social distancing of the two people as a composition.
I used my Galaxy A51 smartphone to take the photo The shutter speed was 1/1600 secs @ f/2 and focal length 32 mm. The ISO was 1600. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.