Although they lived less than a mile apart, my mum and dad first met, so the family story goes, after both hobbled in to the waiting room of their local doctor’s surgery on crutches. My mum, who loved horse-riding with a passion, had recently had surgery having been kicked in the knee while showing would-be riders at the stables how not to approach a horse – a dramatic lesson I assume the poor students never forgot. My dad, far less heroically, had badly sprained his ankle jumping over a stone wall after almost getting caught helping himself to a few ripe strawberries growing in someone else’s garden.
Dad’s very working class family farmed close by – in fact my dad (along with his five brothers and sisters) were all actually born in the farmhouse – but mum’s more middle-class nuclear family had only moved to the little rural village in her later teens. There was a six year age gap between them – dad was a worldly-wise 25 years old to mum’s self-confessed naïve 19 – and their families moved in very different social circles, so in spite of their relatively close proximity, had they not met as they did it is quite possible they may never have met at all.
When I was younger I used to marvel that in so many ways my very existence was due to that one chance encounter, and I never ceased to wonder about the specific quirk of fate that led to both of them being at that doctor’s surgery at the very same time on the very same day so many years ago. They’ll have been married for 54 years at the end of December, and it’s certainly not all been plain sailing for them across the decades, but they’re still going strong.
I grew up feeling increasingly puzzled at times as to why they ever got together in the first place – they’ve always seemed to me to be such different people, with different social backgrounds and different values and such very different groups of friends. But together they’ve stayed nonetheless, and as the years pass they finally appear to be more comfortably settled in each other’s company, looking after each other into their old age. I’ve no doubt that they love each other, but I must admit that much of the time their decidedly chalk-and-cheese relationship based on such a pivotal chance encounter all those years ago still puzzles me, even today… 🙂