I need to clarify something. I know you’re probably never going to read this; you dumped me just under a decade ago and I’m not even sure if you know I still write my blog (although I know what you’re doing). But there’s one thing I never told you, and it still comes to me in my darkest of moments, so here goes.
The night my grandfather died I got a text to tell me it had happened. I still don’t know why I had turned on my BlackBerry, really – it had been off for a few days and I didn’t really want any distractions – but nevertheless, I turned it on, and there was the message from my mother. We all knew he was dying – he was in hospital, watching the Olympics and waiting for it to happen. He squeezed my hand the last time I saw him.
I don’t think you ever met him, but you would have liked him. He was the 83-year-old who saw the sign on Space Mountain advising elderly people not to ride it and saying out loud, “right, I’m doing that.” He was in the third wave on D-Day and assumed that he could survive anything after that.
I could have cried that night, but I didn’t. You were angry with me – very angry. We had had a slight mishap (involving orgasms, in fact) that necessitated the changing of sheets. I explained, calmly I hope, that this was easy – we could take the sheet off, rinse the stain out, and hang it up to dry in the balmy Provence heat – but you told me that I was being passive-aggressive (a concept I still don’t understand). I got the spare bedding down and added the new sheet. After we hung the damp sheet up outside, we went back to bed and you threatened to slap me.
You didn’t actually slap me, but I felt you could have.
As I lay there shaken, I wondered over and over if I should have told you that he died. If I did, you might have assumed I was trying to deflect, or ignore the (admittedly very trivial) problem that had prevented itself (and that we had managed to correct, I hasten to add). You clearly didn’t want to hear me say anything, and if I had cried, you’d have assumed I was trying to get sympathy. Maybe you would have slapped me. I don’t know any more.
So I didn’t say anything. I held back the tears, and lay awake, wanting more than ever to get to sleep so it could be morning and you would have calmed down.
I hadn’t done anything wrong.
The next day, as we sat at an open-air café in the village, you decided to have a look at your ‘phone and told me that you had a text from my mother, since I hadn’t replied to hers, telling me that he had died. I acted shocked, went still for a while, and let a few tears out while you squeezed my hand sympathetically.
“I’m sorry,” you said.
“Well, thank you. I knew it was going to happen; it was just a matter of when…” I started.
The thing is that, well, I knew it had happened. I found out the night before, but I was far too scared to act sad or shocked or morose or… anything other than calm and rational, really… because I feared your reaction. I didn’t want to trivialise the old man’s death, either; this was a massive thing. But we were on holiday (for the first time as a couple). We were meant to be having lots of sex, and we probably would have done, had the sheets not been stained.
So I didn’t tell you I already knew. I kept that to myself; it was all I could have done in the circumstances. We went to the cathedral in Avignon the following day and I lit a candle for him under a picture of St Joseph, saying a prayer and watching the light dance.
I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. I could have told you that morning, maybe, over breakfast – the sad news might have been better over croissants still warm from the boulangerie. Or maybe when we were washing up afterwards, or taking showers, or sitting on the swing in the garden. Any of those times. But I couldn’t come up with a viable explanation for why I hadn’t told you when I actually found out.
So I didn’t say anything.
And I didn’t say anything, either, for the next one-and-a-half years of our relationship. I didn’t tell you when it ended, either, and I still haven’t told you until now, when I’m telling you in the knowledge that you probably won’t read this. You may remember me going to the funeral a week or so later, after surprising you by staying in Oxford for a day longer than I was going to. You may remember spending Christmas together and how I cried because I missed my little church so much. You may – I know I do – remember all the good times we had in Provence, even if we had better holidays later on.
But I didn’t tell you that I knew. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner. And I’m sorry to my grandfather, posthumously, for keeping his death a secret. But, in all honesty, I really don’t know what else I could have done.
Forever and always, my love,
– ILB x