A Dark Past

A family secret


The other day whilst chatting to my hairdresser, I caught sight of my facial expression in the mirror and was immediately struck by the resemblance to my maternal grandmother, something I’ve not noticed before.

Often in my reflection  I’m shocked to see my mother’s smile or her relaxed drooping  mouth, so a glimpse of my grandmother in my mannerism made me feel quite old.

My grandmother remained slim throughout her life, no middle aged spread for her. She was well dressed and rarely seen without her jewellery or makeup, her short wavy hair was a beautiful shade of lilac blue.

Grandma loved flowers, mainly chrysanthemums and her neat little terraced home was never without them. She was an accomplished pianist and tried to teach me, unfortunately though, I wasn’t to follow in her musical footsteps!

Grandma enjoyed life; her social calendar was always full and remained so until shortly before her death from pneumonia at the age of eighty. I liked my grandmother but unfortunately, she had a dark past, a past that her two daughters would neither forgive nor forget.

My grandmother abandoned my grandfather and their two little girls and left home to live with another man. This was the story I was told and I know nothing more, but if Grandma were here now, there are questions I would like to ask, questions that I never thought to ask when both she and my mother were alive.

My grandfather was unable to both work and look after his children, there were no social handouts in the early 1930s and so he did the only thing he could and sent the girls to live with his widowed sister, my great aunt, whom we called Nanna. She had no children of her own and I remember her as a woman of sharp tongue and lacking in empathy.

My mother and aunt were given little time to play, as soon as they were home from school they were expected to clean my great aunt’s old stone house, all three floors of it. They were forced to wash windows and scrub floors including the flight of stone steps leading from the garden up to the front door.

According to my mother they had a miserable childhood, therefore it’s hardly surprising that in later years when the sisters met their mother again, they found her difficult to forgive.

I find it hard to understand how my grandmother could walk away and leave her children, did she not understand how much they needed her, did she not realise the miserable and unhappy life she was subjecting them to?

Did she really choose a man over her children? Why didn’t she take them with her? Was she ill or depressed, did she find it difficult to cope?  Or was it exactly like my mother said?  “Your Grandma liked having a good time too much to take us with her!

So, perhaps I would ask my grandmother one simple question – Why?




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