My childhood is full of bribes and secrets. I was a manipulator but I was also easily manipulated. I was quick to tell on my siblings because they had no real power over me or the family but things with my father were very different. He knew that I didn’t want to upset my mother and he took advantage of that.
When I was nine we went on a holiday to a beach resort with some family friends. I was excited because my best friend was coming with us and I knew that meant we would have lots of fun. My father didn’t fly up at the same time we did. For whatever reason, he flew up a few days later and that meant my friend and I got to have the master bedroom while my mother slept in the living room on a fold out bed. I assumed that when my father arrived, my friend and I would be moved to another room but that didn’t happen. Even though I was only a child, I knew that there was something wrong with that situation. Why didn’t my parents want to share a lovely big bed? Why were they both sleeping on fold out beds in the living room?
I was glad that my father was actually there though. He had a tendency to go on his own “work holidays” and often arrived late to our family holidays or missed them entirely. My parents had their friends as buffers so their failing marriage wasn’t obvious to us children. We were far too busy playing in the games room or swimming in the pool to notice what was going on in the adult world. Every day we were given a few dollars and we were allowed to walk up to the corner shop with the older kids to get an ice cream or some lollies.
One day my father approached my best friend and I with some postcards. He told us that he wanted us to mail them when we went up to the corner shop and that we weren’t allowed to tell anyone about them. I’m sure he gave us money and we were happy to do a little top secret mission. “Do NOT read them!”, my father ordered and so once he was out of the room, we read them.
There were some postcards for work colleagues and they were pretty boring. There was probably a postcard for my grandma too. These postcards were decoys for the main postcard. A postcard to a woman who’s name I will never forget. I cant remember what it said exactly but it was signed with love and it said something about missing her. I was shocked and embarrassed. My friend kept asking who I thought it was for and I didn’t want to talk about it.
We took the postcards up to the box,dumped them inside and never spoke of them again. I could have destroyed the postcard for that woman but that wouldn’t have changed anything and might have got me into trouble.
I had fun on that holiday but there was an unsettling truth hanging in the air. My parents weren’t happy and I couldn’t pretend that everything was going to be okay. I couldn’t remain an innocent child when I was brought into the world of my father.
I still wonder why my father wanted us to send that postcard. Was it that important for that woman to know that he was missing her? Why couldn’t he have called her instead? Did she really need to see a picture of where we were staying? Did my father want to be caught out? He probably knew that we would read the postcards. Why didn’t he walk up to the postbox himself? So many questions. Even if I were to ask my father about all of this now I wouldn’t get answers because he exists somewhere between deception and the forgotten.