‘Happily ever after’ sometimes doesn’t actually work out like that, does it?
These are my Mum’s wedding and engagement rings from the early 1940s.Â I have them now because my mother passed away a few years ago.
When those rings were bought, as my father prepared to go to war and my mother entered nursing school as her part of the War Effort, happily ever after was what was intended.
I don’t mean that my parents weren’t happy together, because they were.
There was a lot of fun and a lot of laughter along with the hard work and the scrimping and saving.Â My Dad was a very straightforward, pillar-of-society type; with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to any task he set himself to, and I can honestly say I have never met anyone with more integrity and innate honesty.Â Mum was a warm, loving, big-hearted, and very hard-working person, very clever with all kinds of knitting and sewing and baking.Â She was a country girl who hated living in London but who did so because that’s where the work was.Â Mum and Dad had their faults (as all people on this earth do) and their differences (as all couples do) and there were some sharp words at times, but overall it was a happy marriage as far as I could see. They loved to go out together to dinner or dancing or parties when we kids were older, and they had a huge social circle and some very good friends.
So why not ‘happily ever after’?
Because one day in the 1970s, my father had his first heart attack.Â Mum tried very hard to improve his lifestyle and diet, but to no avail.Â A second followed, and then a third, and he left us in the middle of one spring night while still in hospital recovering from that one.Â If it had happened these days, no doubt he’d still be with us, but it’s no use thinking like that, is it?
They’d had 34 years together.
A few years later, Mum married again – a lovely man, but not my father.Â He would never be my father in any way since I’d left home by then, but I was very fond of him.Â Then, about fifteen years later, he died too, leaving Mum alone again.
I’ve always thought it was a bit cruel of fate to leave my mother alone twice.Â Many people do well on their own, but my Mum was a very sociable person who loved people.Â She loved visitors, and she loved to talk.Â She could, as the saying goes, talk the hind leg off a donkey.Â Â Ah well.Â She managed perfectly well in her little bungalow, still working as a nurse until she retired.Â She went to her knitting club, she gardened, she kept everyone up to date with everything that was going on in the family, and she organised all the neighbours in her little road – years later, in her late eighties she was referring to them as ‘the little old man on the corner’, or ‘the poor old lady at the end’ as if she herself was no more than a spring chicken.
Now Mum is gone too, and I suppose I’m technically an orphan.Â It feels strange.
Me, I have my own little bit of ‘happy ever after’ right here since OH and I have been married since 1976, and we are still each other’s best friend.
He drives me nuts sometimes, and I’m sure I drive him nuts too, but there you go.
This ain’t no fairytale we’re all living, this is real life!Â And you know what?Â ‘Happy ever after’ actually requires all those things which my father taught me so long ago by his own example: honesty, integrity, commitment and a sense of responsibility.
And love.Â We mustn’t forget love, because that’s what ‘happily ever after’ is about, in the end, isn’t it?