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Episode 15: Grandad gets cross
The Wednesday group
‘Watch me Grandad. I do this in ballet – watch me!’
‘Mmm, I’m watching.’
‘No you’re not – you’re reading your paper, Grandad. Watch me ! WATCH ME!’
‘What’s that shouting for?’
‘Grandad won’t watch me, Mummy. I’m doing my ballet, watch…’
She spun around and around until she caught her leg on the coffee table, collapsed and burst into tears.
Janey cuddled her. ‘It’s OK, just a bruise. Here, you’ll be fine, kiss it better… Be a brave girl, you don’t need to cry anymore.’
Mary appeared and asked what was going on.
‘Dad’s doing a good job of looking after Poppy so that you and I can have a chat,’ said Janey, grimly.
‘Grandma, you watch me do ballet – ’
‘No dear, that’s enough ballet. Let’s find you something else to do. How about some colouring with those new crayons that we bought? They’re on the table in the kitchen.’
Poppy skipped off, followed by Janey.
‘Make an effort, Martin!’ Mary said sharply. Martin lowered his paper and looked at her.
‘Janey and Laurie are having a difficult time and they need our support right now.’
Janey, Laurie, Poppy, Daisy – good names for pet rabbits, thought Martin sourly, and not for the first time.
‘That’s funny, I thought you and I were having a difficult time.’
‘Shush, keep your voice down. Don’t make things any harder than they are already.’
‘Their marriage is on the rocks so we have to pretend that ours isn’t. Is that what you mean?’
‘Exactly. And stop making silly jibes about Janey sleeping in “my” room. That’s always been her room since she was a child.’
‘Until you moved out of our double bed into that one… But we’re not going to say anything about that.’
‘No we are not. Stop being so selfish, Martin. You’ve never wanted to talk about anything important the whole of our married life, and a few months of therapy doesn’t suddenly entitle you to “let it all hang out”, or whatever you call it.
Anyway it’s only for little while and then they will all be back in Cape Town.’
‘I doubt that very much. Laurie has made a fool of himself with that Chinese woman and everyone knows it. They can’t afford to hold onto him, they’ll lose face and lose contracts too. He’ll get eased out pretty quickly, you’ll see.’
‘Well, that’s as maybe. But Janey has enough problems of her own, and she doesn’t need to know about any of ours.’
‘I’m not so good at pretending as you are.’
‘Don’t you dare say that!’ Mary realised her voice was getting louder and continued in a whisper. ‘Remember Alice? Margaret? Or any of the others I could name? You were extremely good at pretending back then!’
‘Grandma, where are you? You said you would do colouring with me.’
‘I’m just coming,’ said Mary, glaring at Martin as she left.
Martin picked up his paper again, but wasn’t reading it. Alice – of course he remembered Alice. They should have taken their chance, years ago – but she had two youngsters, and Janey was only eight… What had happened to Alice? Where was she now?
There was a sudden wail from above that cut through his thoughts.
‘I’ll go,’ he shouted towards the kitchen door.
Daisy had just woken up, and was struggling to climb out of her cot. Martin picked her up and she squirmed in his arms until he blew a raspberry and she laughed. She looked so much like Janey, he thought. He carried her downstairs as she hit him on the head with a stuffed giraffe, laughing happily.
Janey, Mary and Poppy were sitting around the kitchen table, which was littered with crayons, sheets of paper, mugs and soft toys. Janey looked tired and pale; Mary was chattering brightly, and Poppy was colouring earnestly, listening to every word.
Mary got up to take Daisy, but Martin held on to her. ‘I thought Daisy and I might go out for a walk,’ he said.
‘Can I come?’ said Poppy. ‘I want to come too, Grandad.’
‘You’ll both need some food soon, though,’ said Janey.
‘I could pack up a little picnic,’ said Mary. ‘Then Grandad could take you both to the park, couldn’t he?’
‘I want a picnic! We can go on the swings can’t we, Grandad? Mummy, we can go on the swings with Grandad, can’t we?’
Just then Daisy scored a direct hit with the giraffe, and Martin was overwhelmed by a great sense of unfairness.
‘Why is it so important to get me out of the way? Am I so bloody useless that I can’t even be trusted to share what’s going on? Ever crossed your mind that I might be worried about what’s going on too? Or that I might have something to contribute?’
Poppy looked anxious and climbed onto Janey’s lap. ‘Dad, don’t shout in front of the children. We can talk about this later.’
‘Yes, let’s do that – talk about it!’ he replied crossly.
‘Why is Grandad cross?’ asked Poppy.
‘Nothing to worry about dear,’ said Mary. ‘Help me to find some things to put in your lunchbox for a picnic.’
‘Are you coming, Grandma? I want you to come as well.’
Mary sighed and looked at Janey and Martin.
He tucked Daisy into the crook of his arm and put his free hand on Janey’s shoulder.
‘I’m sorry love,’ he said.
‘No, maybe you’re right Dad. Something’s got to give.’
‘Grandad’s taking everyone out to lunch in the café in the park,’ he announced. ‘Get your coats on!’
© Chris Rose
Chris Rose is a group psychotherapist, supervisor and author.
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