A month or so after I returned from Birmingham to Essex, mum cornered me in the kitchen. She told me, tearfully, that dad was having an affair. The girl at the bank to whom he paid in the club takings each day had taken a fancy to him. He was 51, and she was much younger.
She had a small flat somewhere, which he would visit some evenings. Mum talked, with huge pain, of the “ecstasy” which Eric had spoken of, and which she was no longer able to provide for him. He was, she said, thinking of moving in permanently with the girl.
Mum’s tactic was to wait it out. For the first time in many years, she asked me for a big hug. And extracted a promise that I would always be there for her.
When dad realised that I knew, a sheepish guilt poked through. Unlike anything I had ever witnessed. I responded by blanking him for a while, whenever we crossed paths. One night, working behind the bar, I was approached by one of his friends, who tried to explain Eric’s position. That he was in the grip of strong passion, and had never intended for it to be hurtful to his own family. And that he would like to talk. “He wants you to hear him out, Kevin,” was the recommendation.
As far as I was concerned, he could make the first move. I didn’t want to hear it, but would undoubtedly have listened, had he insisted. He never did. Domestically, it was uncomfortable to be near. Mum would sometimes slam down her newspaper with a crash as they watched TV together, but say nothing. How the hell did they manage to sleep in the same bed? I spent much time in my bedroom, away from the toxicity.
In the end, things fizzled out, and ‘normality’ resumed.
Even at the time, I could see both sides. Mum’s utter pain at being second bested, and potentially deserted, for a younger woman, after decades of being a faithful wife and dedicated mother. I could feel it pouring out of her.
And dad being led full sail by his genitals. Being desired by a young female must have polished his ego to a hard, priapic point. The feeling that “I’ve still got it”. Leading to the “should I stay or should I go” question. Instinctively, I could see how that worked.
Beyond discomfort at my proximity to events, and wish for greater family harmony, I didn’t see right or wrong. Not black and white. Both views were understandable with a shot of empathy and a dash of resonance. Better to keep out of the way and let them work it out themselves.