I don’t think you ever really wanted children. But they were important to my mother, and you loved her very much. Parents who adopted children in the 60s were given no advice on how to care for their new babies. It was considered enough that the couple were married and respectable, and you ticked all
I don’t think you ever really wanted children. But they were important to my mother, and you loved her very much.
Parents who adopted children in the 60s were given no advice on how to care for their new babies. It was considered enough that the couple were married and respectable, and you ticked all the boxes. So when a sick, screaming six-week-old arrived in your suburban house, it must have been a shock. My mother rose to the occasion. Unfortunately, this was not how you imagined your child would be. And it was only to get worse.
I was loud and lively; you were quiet and studious. The door to your study was closed, and I was told not to bother you.
At the age of six, my mother told me that my real mother had been unable to keep me. I was secretly petrified that it was only a matter of time before my new parents would feel the same and give me away. I became even more boisterous, seeking attention to validate my place.
When I was older, my mother told me that it was her fault you couldn’t have children, that she had suffered an early menopause. Over 40 years later, I gained access to my adoption file and found out the truth. You were diagnosed with almost complete aspermia, a failure to produce sperm, which meant it was highly unlikely you could father children. Did you ask my mother to take the blame to protect your male pride, or did she offer, knowing how fragile your ego was? I wonder now whether you secretly resented me for being a constant public reminder of what you were unable to do.
One thing I know for sure is that your ego caused the distance between us. You not only wanted a daughter who was like you; you wanted a daughter who would admire your carefully constructed academic persona; who was meek and mild, and easily moulded. You needed to be right, and I made you wrong. During one of our frequent arguments, you pushed me up against a wall and shouted in my face: “You are the only reason your mother and I argue!”
I can see now that we craved the same thing – to be admired for who we were and what we had achieved. I also wanted to feel loved. Maybe you did, too. On your deathbed, I told you I loved you. “That’s nice,” you said. It seems we disappointed each other right to the end.
• We will pay £25 for every letter we publish. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, including your address and phone number. We are able to reply only to those whose contributions we are going to use.