It is almost 34 years since the night my world ended. I have wakened in the night and as I often do, I turn on the bedside radio. It is tuned in to radio 4. When I press the button twice it stays on for 90 minutes, 3 times for 60 minutes, 4 for 30, 5 for 15. This is how I deal with insomnia. My bladder says you need to get up. The programme interests me. Now I am alone again I turn up the volume to loud so I don’t miss the theme. It’s about finding an ancient hobbit type skull from … years, millenniums ago. I remember talking to Chris about the Hobbit back then before we were married. Just before that programme, it was a fast heated discussion on the Greek economy with the Greek Chancellor of the Exchequer, he maintaining he was right, the interviewer interspersing fast questions and responses. It’s what I love about Radio 4: intelligent, fast, well recorded discussion. It reminds me how Chris loved radio, his intelligence, and how I so admired him, his brain, his ability to argue logically, discuss current affairs, write excellent papers on science, economics and current affairs. It reminds me of his time at university before we met, his short time with the Health Service writing his Master’s Degree paper on public attitudes to cancer, his brief newspaper article on Ian Paisley and Northern Ireland politics, his desire and sudden decision to start his own business: a cutting edge idea back then in 1976 to manufacture ‘Killinchy Mufflers’ – hot water cylinder insulation jackets and other insulation products: polystyrene granules for pumping into cavity walls to prevent heat escape. The Oil Crisis had just begun, and petrol and heating oil prices were rocketing. It is 3.21am. I decide to turn on my tablet and write this blog. At 4.21 there is silence. I have lost track of the Radio programme, immersed in my memories.
Meeting his family back in 1967-8, I loved the way they talked at mealtimes about politics, religion, world topics, in a way my family never did. My father was an intelligent man, but quiet and very reserved. My mother also intelligent, but held back from expressing her views by the fashion of the day, especially in church circles, considering that women had little to contribute. My own experience of wishing I had been given the chance to go to university instead of a nursing career like other women in our family, discovering later that in my parents’ mind it would have given me more opportunity to ask questions, and that was not appropriate for a girl like me! Chris’s brother Terence had studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and was deeply into philosophy, marrying an American student there the same year that we married. To me, this family opened up a whole new world, and I was very much in love with it, and with Chris.
But there was a soft gentle side to Chris as well. He was a good father, not very confident with the baby stage, but loving it once the children started talking. He apparently had not started talking until aged about 4, when he started straight into full sentences! Jenny adored him, and is the one who remembers most about him, and grieves most of the children for his loss. We were both 23 when we married, 14 years of happy marriage, and it is now 30 years since he died. I have made the best of the life I have been left with: 3 healthy children, grown into fine intelligent adults, all like him in different ways, and missing him each in their own way, whether or not they are aware of it. Jonathan looks most like him, though never having consciously known his father, does not value the genes that are his. Niall is more like him in temperament, and being a middle child is the easiest for me to relate to. Jenny has his brain, well they all do, but she remembers him best, and though still deeply grieving for the Dad she adored, she reminds me most of his ability to explore and research new ideas.
The question, Why? Is always present. Yes, I have made the best I could of the life I was left, but how different it could have been, had he lived. I adored him for the 14 years we had together. And I miss him terribly even now. Other relationships have been interesting, but none comes close to what we had. I have theories about the Why, and how could God have allowed it. Was it the Dublin Bay prawn cocktails he loved, which might have absorbed chemicals from the plant over in Wales into his system? Was it his mother’s placental insufficiency, considering she was vastly underweight returning from China in 1945, suffering from tropical sprue and pregnant? Whatever the reason, the question Why? Is always present. My Christian faith has never left me, although I have had serious questions over the years. My church supported me greatly during my early widowhood, and I appreciated that. But for the children, it has rung hollow. None of them has continued to have a faith, and I myself have struggled. Life goes on regardless. I have always felt the need for a man in my life, and have been fortunate in the relationships I have had since Chris, but none has ever come close to what we had. Perhaps some day we will all understand.