He never asked about his father. Not really. Perhaps he understood that it was too hard for her to talk, even after all the years of his young life.
He never asked about his father. Not really. Perhaps he understood that it was too hard for her to talk, even after all the years of his young life. He was matter-of-fact about it. Where’s your Dad? she’d heard one of his friends say once. Dead, he’d replied with a shrug. She’d been shocked at first, but relieved that he was accepting of it.
Then as her boy grew into a young man, she started to think she should talk to him about his father. After the thought came to her, it took hold. Soon, it was eating away. She must talk to him. It was only fair. But how to do it, when their lives had been without these conversations? Every day, in her lunch hour, she’d sit in the park, her homemade sandwich uneaten on her lap, and she’d try to imagine what she might say. The words would not come. In the end, she decided she must do it; she would press ahead with whatever came to her.
That night in the kitchen, she was shaking as she tried to speak.
‘Spit it out, Mum. What’s got your goat?’ John's last school exams were at the end of the year and his eyes were on his textbook.
‘I need to talk to you. About your father.’
He leaned across and put his hand over hers. ‘I already know, Mum.’
She stared at him. 'What do you mean?'
‘Here, have your tea,' he said.
She could not move.
‘Tell you what: I’ll talk and you just say yay or nay? What do you reckon?’
‘This is about my dad. Isn't it?’
'About marrying him and having me. Thing is, I reckon, you never were married. That’s it, eh? Mum?’
The air was sucked out of the kitchen.
‘I reckon, you got to England, fell in love with this Greek bloke, got pregnant with me. And he couldn’t marry you, for whatever reason. That’s right, eh, Mum?’
It took all her effort to force a nod.
‘Good-o. Next: being the smart cabbage you are, you decided there was no way you were going to give a bugger of a life to a child born out of wedlock. So you had me, bought a ring, and booked your passage home as ‘Mrs Panagopolous.’
‘Ashamed,’ she whispered.
‘Ashamed? Strike, Mum. You’re a legend.’ He was grinning.’ Coming up with that? Pulling it off? A-bloody-mazing.’
Still, she couldn’t move.
He got up, gave her a quick hug, and sat back down to his books. ‘Drink your tea, Mum.’