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I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
Well here we are: thirteen years ago to the day, Mk2 and I got married, although we had been together as a couple for four years before that. There is a saying that life begins at forty, well that was the age I was when we first met. I was working away from home at the time and living in a small village about a six-mile drive from the site I was working on then. I went into the local pub for a well-earned drink one night, after I had just completed a 12 hour shift, and there she was. We got to chatting and before you know it, I felt like I had known her all my life. It was just before this happened that I was getting the feeling that I was no more than a lodger in my own house. When I used to get home for the odd weekend, I used to drive like mad all the way up north, just to get home; yet when I got there, it was as if I had just popped out to buy a paper, even though it had been a month since I was last at home.
I used to empty my laundry bag into the washing machine, then go for a shower and get ready to go out, but my wife never wanted to come out with me. In fact, all my mates and their wives stopped asking where she was after a while, as they got so used to me being out on my own. I used to really enjoy meeting up with all my old mates, and felt like I had deserved a night out with them all especially after I had spent the last four or five weeks working long hours for seven days a week. Even though I did miss my wife and kids when I was away, the welcome I got was never entirely what I was expecting, as they were both teenagers at that time, and always out with their own pals. I used to bump into them sometimes, and we would have a drink with them and their pals, but of course they did not want 'oldies' like me tagging along with them when they were out having a good weekend night out with their pals.
So all in all I used to think to myself what was the big rush to get home; and this used to happen every time. Even when it came to leaving home again, I found myself on my own again, as I had to get up at three in the morning to drive the three hundred miles back down to the site, a journey that would take around three and a half to four hours in the winter, as the roads over the mountains could be really bad with snow and ice. This would leave me with about an hour to get some sleep before my shift started, which I would take in the car.
So it came as no surprise to me when I found myself taking my time to drive home, as I used to get that feeling of 'what's the rush anyway, you are only going to be ignored once you get there'. It was like I was just a provider, a walking wallet, where I would live on the minimum budget while away so that they could all have the best of everything. I think over the years with me working away from home so much, we tended to drift into separate worlds. With this in mind I started spending less time at home, saying that I had to leave early as the roads were so bad, and this in turn lead to me leaving on the Sunday night instead of rising early on the Monday morning. I did pop back into my local pub for my usual drink and just to see if Mk2 was still there, but she never was. I didn't want to arouse suspicions by asking the staff too much about her, as it was a small village after all, and gossip would soon spread. So I made my enquiry in a rather casual 'by the way' sort of thing. I was told that she had left her husband and moved in with one of her sisters, even the barman who told me this said that it was a hard decision for her to make as she did have three children to consider, well two of them were teenagers and the youngest son was twelve. It appeared that she had left for her own safety, well that was what I was told. I never knew things were that bad for her at home, as when we talked about things that night we chatted, she said that she always dreaded her husband coming back from his drinking spree every night. I was a bit disappointed when they told me, as I really enjoyed our talk, and I felt that we had so much in common, and she was so full of fun as well. So I just put it out of my mind and carried on with my lifestyle of work, sleep and work, as the hours were long, and being a subcontractor, I had no choice but to work every hour possible.
Then one Saturday afternoon I left the site early and got one of my mates to cover for me to go and get my laundry done in the local laundrette in the nearby town, as the woman who worked there would do the washing for you, for a small charge. So I left my washing with her and went to the nearby pub for a drink. When I walked into this pub I was surprised to see Mk2 sitting there with one of her sisters, so I went over and sat with them after getting some drinks in. We chatted away for hours, so long in fact that the laundrette had closed when I went back to pick up my laundry. We started seeing each other after that, and I ended up leaving my flat in the village and took up residence in a flat in the nearby town. It was not long after that that Mk2 moved in with me. I could see the way matters were progressing, so I had to make a choice, as the contract I was working on was going to be completed in a few weeks, and I knew that I had to make the most important choices of my life. So I had to make the long trip up north and tell my wife the truth, and that our marriage was over. Looking back on that now, it was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do in my life, and although I did not want to do it, I knew that I had to. The divorce that followed left me broke, I never knew until that point that I had been so well off, it was a subject that I never thought about much prior to that. Mk2 and I went through some very hard times at first, as after I was laid off from the contract I found that the oil construction business was in a recession, so our plans of travelling from site to site as I had been doing for the past few years, was not going to happen. So we ended up living in a small twelve-foot touring caravan while I was looking for a job and waiting for my half of the proceeds to come through after my house had been sold. This was to take a lot longer than we thought, as the house was in, what the estate agent called, 'the top range of the market', which was slow at that time, as no one wanted to buy large five bedroom houses with three public rooms.
Things just went from bad to worse, and we met a whole host of problems, including family ones, where I lost both my daughters and my sister, and Mk2 lost all her kids, however this matter was resolved over time for her, and we all get along fine these days. Although my side of things never did change, so I put it down to the cost of my happiness, a rather high price to pay nevertheless!
I just could not understand why my kids and the rest of the family would not accept the situation, I mean, it happens all the time, to other folk, so their way of coping with this, was to cut me out of their lives alltogether. Then after a few months I got a job with the ambulance service, however an accident some seven years later was to leave me disabled and unable to work, with a back injury that would stay with me for ever. As if that was not bad enough, Mk2 was diagnosed with emphysema and blood clots in both her legs, and told that her condition was terminal. We did however manage to squeeze in some really good times, despite all the hardships, and we both have some really fond memories of these times. These days things have settled down, and we have four lovely grandchildren between Mk2s two sons and daughter, and we see them often these days, it is as if those past events never happened. So looking back on it all now, we have been through a lot together, including financial and other problems, most of which would have caused most couples to split up, but here we are, some thirteen years have passed, and we are both determined to make the best of every good day we have left together. Yet I think the most important thing for Mk2 was to have her children and grandchildren around her at this most important time in her life. Looking back, I would not change a thing, for no matter what life threw at us, we took it on the chin, picked ourselves up, and kept on going. My only regret is losing my kids and not being part of their lives anymore. I mean, I could be a grandad through one of them, I don't even know where they are or if they are married. If so, I really hope and pray that they do not have to make the same decision as I had to.