When Charlotte the Great Turns One

This post, whilst published in time for Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, is a bit different from what I usually write. All of my posts so far have been stories that are fiction, either about my family (having been ‘sparked’ by a media report on the Duchess of Cambridge) or about life as I imagine it at Anmer Hall. However, this one – though also made up – is more truthful than most. I’m sorry it’s not funny but sometimes things happen that quite turn one.

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We meet at the junction by the church.

It is the end of April and bright, but cold. She is in front of me rather suddenly; a woman with a headscarf, teal coat and shoes like teacakes.

“Excuse me love, but is there a village shop?”

“I’m afraid not,” I say. “Just a pub and a church”. I stop short of joking, “which is all you really need,” like I usually do. She’s in the village for a funeral but I don’t think that’s the reason she looks sad.

“So the nearest place is town?”

There’s a garage with a Costa fifteen minutes away. I direct her. She listens carefully and works out she’s got time to make it there and back before the service starts. She’s well put together but her glue has cracks. I look down at NL, who is pulling as normal. We’re going to the post office to pick up something fragile. In the buggy, NC gnaws thoughtfully on his strap. “We’re walking that way. Would you like to join us?”

She would. “I’m Charlotte”, she says. “And you’re talking to a woman who has just discovered her husband was having an affair for 25 years which he never told me about or put a stop to.”

I don’t know what to say, so I just keep walking. But it doesn’t really matter because she wants to do the talking.

She is eighty three but looks much younger, apart from her eyes. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and she has cared for him for the last fifteen years during which she has ‘cried twice a day’.

“It starts to snow, quite gently.”

I ask how she found out.

“My daughter took an axe to a metal filing box. She was American. There were love letters. They made love; that was clear.”

She says ‘love’ like it’s a baby. I look at NC. “How often did they see each other?”

“Oh, only once I think, when my husband went to America with the navy. That’s how they met. They made love six times in six days. Which is more than he did with me.”

“Same here,” I joke delicately but I’m puzzled. “So the first time they met, they slept together … and then after that, they didn’t see each other again? They just wrote letters?”

She looks up at me like a bird thrown from its nest. “Yes, that’s right. I’ve tried to ask him about it, but …”

“You can’t talk to him. Because of the Alzheimer’s.”

She sighs. “He’s too far gone. But they wrote to each other.” She stops. “And he never mentioned me to her. Never.”

I think about writing. About how it has the power to change things.

About how NG is enjoying Winnie the Pooh almost as much as I enjoy watching her when we read it; about how, when I was twelve, I read Judy Blume – Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Forever – under my duvet until after ten o’clock and felt like a queen. About Right Royal Mother. Texts from NW. Tweets that make me smile. This blog that made me laugh and then blub like a baby. The line that told me I was a MADs finalist. And then I think about the destruction ABC has caused for this lady.

It starts to snow, quite gently.

“I’m sorry,” I say for the fourth time and she shrugs.

We cross the big road with the roundabout. The garage looms like a tiger and we walk together into its jaws.

“Thank you for listening,” she says. “You’ve been very kind.”

Use these letters carefully, NC.

Before I leave her, I ask if she has children; she has three. “They’re in their fifties now, though. I’ve told them.”

I say that must have been difficult.

“They’ve been wonderful but it’s hard for them to see their mother upset. They love their father too.”

Everything that comes out of my mouth is meaningless as we say goodbye. I look down at NC – who is not yet one and doesn’t know how to write – and determine to teach him to use written words very carefully.

Whomever is important to him in the future deserves to feel like a princess.

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KEY TO CHARACTERS

Characters are abbreviated as follows:

NW – not William (husband and father)

NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and three quarter year old)

NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and seven month old)

NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)

Right Royal Mother is a FINALIST for ‘Best New Blog’ in the 2016 MAD Blog Awards – the UK’s biggest and most exciting awards for parent blogs. Just six out of 8,000 blogs are selected, so I am over the moon about it. If you like RRM, I would LOVE you to give ‘ordinary royalty’ your vote!

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48 Comments

  1. April 30, 2016 / 6:45 am

    Wow. That’s pretty powerful stuff. How sad for that poor lady – everything she’s ever known has been called into question 🙁

    • April 30, 2016 / 7:07 am

      I know. I wasn’t sure whether to write it but it made me think. The next post will be funny, I promise!

  2. April 30, 2016 / 11:31 am

    This is lovely xxx #fortheloveofblog

  3. April 30, 2016 / 11:46 am

    Oh gosh this very nearly made me cry. Feels like such a betrayal, the writing of love letters for 25 years, so intimate. Words are so powerful and this is very often underestimated. They can heal but they can also wound. You can build someone up with them but you can also tear them down. Now I am waffling and not using my words wisely. What I am trying to say is that I find this really troubling because what breaks my heart the most is that this man gave his tender words away to someone else and now the lady, his wife, needs answers and he has no words to give her and instead she is carrying out the memory of those words. A reminder that we all need to use our words wisely.

    • April 30, 2016 / 12:18 pm

      Thank you Emma for your lovely comment. Yes, you can use words so powerfully and that’s really been brought home to me in the last week. I hope that lady will be ok. She was a strong ‘un … but somehow I think it might take a long, long time. 🙁 #fortheloveofBLOG

  4. April 30, 2016 / 11:51 am

    Oh poop I am supposed to put #fortheloveofblog

  5. May 1, 2016 / 7:27 am

    Oh goodness! What a terrible betrayal. Like you say, it illustrates the power of the written word very clearly. I wonder how many times she has read and re read? How sad.
    Huge congratulations on being a finalist. Well deserved! You write with such talent 🙂
    Thanks so much for linking up with #KCACOLS. Hope you return next Sunday 🙂

    • May 1, 2016 / 7:42 am

      Thank you Sara. That is incredibly kind of you – I did feel so very sorry for her. I’ll be back next Sunday, I’m sure 🙂 x

  6. May 1, 2016 / 7:35 am

    This is so desperately, desperately sad. Absolute betrayal to his wife and I agree with her that the words are so powerful that they were an affair – heartbreaking – and just so sad that he now has Alchzeimers that they can’t really communicate. Oh, this is such thought provoking post. And you’re right – every girl who is important to someone needs to feel like a princess. Oh this post is going to stay with me for a long time – The Lady With The Teacake Shoes – there’s the title of the novel right there #KCACOL

    • May 1, 2016 / 7:43 am

      Hi Helen – I know. It was pretty shattering listening to her. Very, very sad and she was so bloody lovely. #KCACOLS

  7. May 1, 2016 / 8:15 am

    What a very emotive piece of writing. It’s true, the written word is an extremely powerful tool. Brilliant, as always

    #KCACOLS

  8. May 1, 2016 / 11:09 am

    Back for another read from #KCACOLS (yes it’s that good!) xx

  9. May 1, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    goodness. been enjoying your writing. thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

  10. May 1, 2016 / 2:42 pm

    Words really are powerful aren’t they. That poor woman, to find letters like that, that meant enough to him to keep them tucked away. I’m not sure how you deal with that. x #KCACOLS

    • May 1, 2016 / 8:22 pm

      I know; I just didn’t know what to say so I kept saying ‘sorry’. She was so brave but still in shock I think. Very sad. Thanks for commenting. #KCACOLS xx

  11. May 1, 2016 / 2:48 pm

    Wpw this moved me so much, what a beautiful blog post although what a terrible betrayal. Congratulations on being short listed, so completely deserved! #KCACOLS

    • May 1, 2016 / 8:23 pm

      Thank you Laura – your blog is so powerful and beautiful; I love reading it. That’s so kind of you – I am so happy to be shortlisted but there are so many fab blogs out there (yours included) – just enjoying the moment while it lasts! #KCACOLS

  12. May 1, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    Oh this made me all emotional. The power of the written word. What an incredible range and intensity of emotions it can elicit. That poor woman, although she sounded full of dignity. You were clearly in the right place at the right time for her, I’m sure she won’t forget you. #KCACOLS

    • May 1, 2016 / 8:25 pm

      Thank you Lucy, what a beautiful comment. I know; it was really quite harrowing but I’m glad I was there, otherwise she would have been wandering around before the funeral thinking about it by herself … I am sure she’ll forget me but I won’t forget her. #KCACOLS

  13. May 1, 2016 / 10:40 pm

    Oh, how heartbreaking. Everything she knew, how is she supposed to differentiate between the truth and lies? That poor woman. I sincerely hope she finds comfort someday, somehow. My heart shatters at the thought of her sobbing now as I write this comment.
    Words are so incredibly powerful and, as sad as it was, what an incredible lesson for life. This is very powerfully written, and is definitely something I need to keep in mind constantly. Thanks for sharing x #KCACOLS

    • May 2, 2016 / 5:07 am

      Thanks Savannah – me too. It made me think for the rest of the day, especially about our children growing up in a world where the written word is becoming if not more frequently used than it ever has been, definitely used less carefully. Thank you for your lovely words 🙂 #KCACOLS

  14. May 2, 2016 / 1:13 am

    What a thing to find out – it’s so much worse than a physical betrayal because they were sharing such a close emotional bond, for so long. I hope she is able to make peace with it and not let it consume her. x #KCACOLS

    • May 2, 2016 / 5:05 am

      I know; they were my thoughts exactly. I think she is a stronger woman than me if she is able to do that; I’m not sure I could but she was so gracious and gentle. I hope so too. #KCACOLS

  15. May 2, 2016 / 7:19 am

    Lovely post but sad at the same time. You’re right, the written word has such power and needs to be used carefully. Congratulations on being a finalist! #KCACOLS x

    • May 2, 2016 / 9:28 am

      Thank you so much. I know – it made me realise that. I love your post by the way! #KCACOLS

  16. May 2, 2016 / 9:24 am

    Oh goodness, shedding a tear for a stranger in the morning is a new one for me. I hope that all the thought your post generates somehow, in our magical world, helps lift her burden.

    mainy – myrealfairy

    #KCACOLS

    • May 2, 2016 / 9:29 am

      Yes, I cried quite a bit on the way home! I can only hope her children and friends make it easier for her to bear. #KCACOLS

  17. May 2, 2016 / 9:31 am

    amazing what strangers will tell you #bigpinklink

    • May 2, 2016 / 10:28 am

      I know, isn’t it? Terrifying, too, what some people must be going through and you never know. #bigpinklink

  18. May 2, 2016 / 10:09 am

    You write so beautifully! I was there, walking beside you both. Poignant and touching. Wonderful post RRM #bigpinklink

    • May 2, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Thank you – it makes me happy you think so 🙂 I know it’s different from how I usually write but I had to get it down. #bigpinklink

  19. May 2, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    Interesting post, as a first-time reader of your bog I really didn’t know what to expect. The writing is so heartfelt, real. I love how at the end, you say how words hold power, and impact the way a person feels. Thank you for that reminder. #KCACOLS

    • May 2, 2016 / 12:59 pm

      Oh I am so happy you thought that. I hoped the writing would convey the simplicity of the woman’s story and rawness of her experience. Thank you so much for the comment. #KCACOLS

  20. May 2, 2016 / 5:10 pm

    I just got teary reading that, I think you were really compassionate…It is hard to know what is the right thing to say but obviously being able to share with you helped. Thank goodness it wasn’t me with my son..I try having conversations with people in the street and he pretends to be a dog #KCACOLS

  21. May 2, 2016 / 10:57 pm

    Well I wasn’t expecting that! Had to read this a couple of times to take it all in. Nice surprise though, thanks. #kcacols

  22. May 3, 2016 / 1:10 pm

    Oh this is so sad. She has had her life as she knew it tipped on it’s axis and she can’t even talk to the one person with the answers about it. And she’ll still have to carry on caring for him with the knowledge that he has literally re-written their history together. Sob! Thanks for linking up with us. #bigpinklink

    • May 3, 2016 / 7:09 pm

      Yes, I know. It was such a sad story and I could hardly believe it … amazing what some people are going through. Made me feel very lucky indeed. Thank you for your comment. #bigpinklink

  23. May 3, 2016 / 2:00 pm

    First timer here! Although it took me a while to get the hang of your style, I enjoyed reading the story. I can’t imagine how it must’ve been to find out after all these years that someone you loved and trusted had cheated on you and continued to do so. But looks like you handled it well.

    I will definitely be coming back to read more. Even if your next post isn’t funny, I am pretty sure I’m going to enjoy reading your narration. 🙂
    #fortheloveofBLOG

  24. May 3, 2016 / 2:03 pm

    When I said, “I can’t imagine how it must’ve been to find out after all these years that someone you loved and trusted had cheated on you and continued to do so,” the YOU I was referring to was the old lady. And when I said, “But looks like you handled it well,” then I was referring to you, the writer.

    Just thought I’d clear that up. 🙂

    • May 3, 2016 / 7:09 pm

      Ah, thank you! I think I got it but thank you for the clarification and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And hope you will be back to read more!! xx #fortheloveofBLOG

  25. May 3, 2016 / 9:34 pm

    This is heartbreaking to read, that must have been awful for her to find out that he had been having an affair for 25 years! 25 years – bloody hell! It has made me feel so sad reading this, and I understand it must have been hard to find the words to say to her. I also felt sad that her children are all grown up, and I can’t imagine my daughter being 50! Thanks so much for joining us at #fortheloveofBLOG, hope you come back next week. Claire x

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:48 pm

      Thanks Claire. I know – it was devastating for me to listen to, let alone live through it like she had done. Was doing. Urgh – it was so sad. Thanks for your comment and will be back soon. x

  26. May 3, 2016 / 10:57 pm

    Oh no this genuinely nearly made me burst into tears the poor lady. I can’t even begin to imagine how you would deal with that situation at all. You wrote if so beautifully too congrats on the nomination #kcacols

    • May 4, 2016 / 6:16 am

      Thank you so very much. I am just about over it myself, though I keep thinking about her :(. I know; it was one of those situations where I just had no words. #KCAOLS

  27. September 14, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    Gosh that’s very deep. 25 years of love through letters. There’s a lot of tragedy for all in this isn’t there? Betrayal and separation and what actually does look like a deep and very real love through words x

  28. September 14, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    25 years…how utterly utterly pants! So sad. My mum nursed my Dad for 12 years, he had Alzheimer’s, which is terrible enough but to go through this betrayal as well…beyond sadness. On a positive note, I remember the delights of Judy Blume’s Forever and the legendary ‘Ralph’!!! #BloggerClubUK

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