I dedicate my song today to my brother-in-law, John Gautry who is aged 77 years. He has been married to my sister Eileen Ann Gautryfor the past 56 years and lives in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire. I also dedicate my daily song to Reubin Price who is six years old today. Reubin is the son of my niece Evie and the family lives in Huddersfield. Finally, I dedicate today’s song to my Facebook friend, Peggy Phillips who also celebrates her birthday today.
Here’s hoping that you all have a super birthday. Please leave some room for plenty of cake and suitable refreshments. Bill xxx
Today’s song is ‘Waiting in Vain’. The song was sung by Bob Marley, the Jamaican troubadour and reggae singer. Most of Robert Marley’s early music was recorded with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, who together with Marley were the most prominent members of the ‘Wailers’. In 1972, the Wailers had their first hit outside Jamaica when Johnny Nash covered their song ‘Stir it Up’, which became a UK hit. The 1973 album ‘Catch a Fire’ was released worldwide and sold well. It was followed by ‘Burnin’’ which included the song ‘I Shot the Sherriff", of which a cover version by Eric Clapton became a hit in 1974.
Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the Wailers in 1974. Bob Marley proceeded with ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’ which included the ‘Wailer’s Band’ and the ‘I Threes’ backing singer group. In 1975, Bob Marley had his first own hit outside Jamaica with ‘No Woman, No Cry’ from the ‘Live’ album. His subsequent albums, including ‘Rasta-man Vibration’, ‘Exodus’ ‘Kaya’, ‘Survival’ and the last album released during his lifetime, ‘Uprising’ were big international sellers. Between 1991 and 2007 ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’ sold in excess of 21 million records. These statistics did not begin to be collected until ten years after his death.
‘Waiting in Vain’ is a song written by Bob Marley and recorded by ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’ from their 1977 record album ‘Exodus’. It was released as a single, and it reached Number 27 in the ‘UK Singles Chart’.
In 1977 when this song was released, I was 35 years old and working as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield. I married in 1968 and being the oldest of seven children in an Irish Catholic family who had migrated to West Yorkshire when I was 4 years old, I always felt comfortable belonging to a large family. It is not therefore surprising that I wanted at least five children when I eventually married.
Statistics of the time showed that the average number of children born to each married couple in the late 60s and 70s was 2.4 children. During the 1960s, having large families was starting to be socially frowned upon by newly married couples and society at large, and for the most part, it remained ‘a Roman Catholic custom’.
When I started courting my non-Catholic wife, because of my desire to have a large Catholic family, we naturally spoke about having children, the size of family we wanted and their religious and educational upbringing. For me, mutual agreement in advance to our marriage on this issue was important enough to be a ‘deal-breaker’ should we not be in complete agreement. I was wholly upfront and indicated that I wanted to be the father of five or six children, who I would naturally want to raise and educate as Catholics. My fiancée (who practised no religion), said she also wanted a large family and indicated that five children raised and educated as Catholics was agreeable to her, providing she didn’t have to take them to church.
The upshot was that between the week prior to our marriage and the week after it, my wife totally changed her mind without any forewarning. On our honeymoon period, she plainly indicated that she didn’t want any children until we’d been married at least seven years and then, she indicated that she wanted only one or two children. She added that while she did not mind them attending a Catholic Church, she would not agree to them being educated in a Catholic Primary School. As a Primary School Infant Teacher, she said that a Catholic school education was strictly out.
This declaration by her hit me like a bomb. I felt like I’d been tricked into marriage under false pretences. It was like a woman telling her boyfriend that she was pregnant in order to get him to put a wedding ring on her finger; only to discover after he’d married her, that she never was!
While I’d been out with many girlfriends before my marriage, I now know that at the time of my first marriage, my need to be a father was greater than my need to be a husband. I naturally wanted to be married to someone I loved, but I wanted and needed to be a dad as much, if not more!
For many years, I waited in vain to parent children, and sadly when they did come along, their presence paradoxically led to the breakup of my marriage. It eventually transpired that my wife had never harboured any desire to become a mother, and she told me after our two sons had been born that she wanted a separation. She stated, “It’s not your fault, Billy, it’s just that I don’t think I was ever meant to be married.” This explanation didn’t really help me to understand the situation any better.
Once our sons, James and Adam were born (18 months separating their births), after they each came home from the Maternity Hospital with their mum, their mother had no natural inclination to be near them or to do anything motherly for/with them. She was suffering from what we then called ‘the baby blues’ but have in recent years come to know as ‘Post Natal Depression’; a psychiatric illness that dissuades/prevents the mother of newly born children of forming a mother-and-child bond with her new-born infant. Medical science has learned over the past thirty years that In such circumstances, the mother of the newly born infant has no desire to bond with her child and cannot bring herself to feed dress, bathe, nurse, cuddle or do anything maternal with the newly-born infant.
For the following year, I naturally discharged the roles of both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to my firstborn. My wife’s only interest was totally her Infant Teacher’s job in the school next door to our matrimonial home. One year after the birth of our first child, my wife asked me to have another child. Having failed to bond with our first child and seeing the closeness of his bond with me, when she became pregnant a second time, my wife said, “This child will be mine!”
While such a statement held a certain amount of foreboding for me, if by stepping into the parental background it would prove easier for my wife to step up as a mother, I was prepared to pay the necessary price and stay in the shadows. Within one day of mother and new-born child coming home from the hospital, the very same thing happened again, and my wife refused to establish any maternal bond with our second child as she’d done with our first child. It was 'Groundhog Day' all over again!
For the first five years of our children’s lives (born 18 months apart from each other), my wife never once put them to bed, fed them, dressed them, bathed them, nursed or comforted them. The only time she pushed their pram out on a walk, was if I pushed it with her. I was enacting the combined roles of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to our children. For five years I ‘waited in vain’ for my wife’s behaviour to change, but it didn’t.
This unsatisfactory marital situation eventually led to her demanding a divorce, eight years after we had first married. Being of Roman Catholic religious persuasion, I initially resisted the thought of marital separation and divorce for five more years, and regarding my wife to be ill, I tried to get her help. She refused all offers of help and wholly withdrew from her roles as wife and mother. While we continued to live in the same house, all shared contact of any description ended and never one day passed without her demanding that I leave her. After she threatened to take her own life if I didn’t leave her, I eventually felt compelled to submit to her wishes. We'd been married for 13 years.
I was obliged to acknowledge and concede that our marriage could not be saved and had run its course, I agreed to separate, but only on the condition that I would continue to exercise custody, care and control of our two children (as I’d done since their births). I agreed to give up my job as a Probation Officer for three years so that I could become a full-time house parent and added that she could have as much access as she wanted to our children.
At the time we had a modern three-bedroomed house valued at approximately £90,000 and which only had a few hundred pounds mortgage remaining on it (1980 house prices). When we married, we each had £2,000 that we’d received in compensation monies (myself for a childhood accident and she for the industrial death of her father). This money provided us with an ideal financial start to married life and enabled us to buy our £4,000 house outright in 1968 (Valued at £90,000 when we separated in 1981).
My wife agreed for me to have full custody of the children on one proviso. I was to transfer to her my half share of our matrimonial home in entirety and to get another house nearby, where I and the children could live. I agreed.
Two weeks after legally signing over the house to her sole ownership, my wife reneged on our agreement and refused to allow me the custody of our two children. She also pressed me for their financial maintenance for 11 years from 1981 to 1992. She then did the dirtiest of all moves when she prevented me from having any form of communication or contact with or any access to both children for the next two years.
Even when the court made an Access Order and placed an automatic term of imprisonment on it should my wife prevent the order being operated, she still refused access between myself and the children to take place. The only way I could have changed the situation was to have her term of imprisonment activated for failing to comply with the Court Order. I could not bring myself to be responsible for the imprisonment of my children’s mother.
I could not believe that any wife could behave so badly and cruelly to a husband who’d never done her the slightest harm. I could not believe that the mother of any child/children could have acted so heartlessly and vindictively to the father and sole carer of their two children ever since the children’s birth. For many years I remained very angry at the way she treated me and our children. After my anger eventually subsided, several years after our divorce, I accepted deep down that my wife must have been psychiatrically ill to have acted thus to me and our two children. There was simply no other explanation I found plausible enough to live with.
To complete the marital saga, it would be wrong of me not to report that after our divorce, my wife started to become the mother to our two children that she found herself unable to be, immediately after their respective births. For this, I was naturally pleased and I acknowledge that she tried her best to bring them up properly, although I cannot truthfully say that I agree with the importance she placed on the materialistic values she inculcated them with.
Over the years, I have come across so many people ‘waiting in vain’ for this or that; not being able to emotionally move on with their life in the meantime. This song reminds me of these early years with my first two sons, James and Adam, and being part of a marriage that was founded on untruths, broken promises and an absence of maternal instincts being displayed to our two children by my wife and the children’s mother because of her illness.
Please believe me when I say that all the anger I once possessed, and the resentment and ill-will I once held against my first wife because of the way she treated me and the children, I long ago ‘let go’. This unhappy period in my life is long ago behind me and I wish my ex-wife well and bear her no ill-will.
I must stress to the reader that my need to be honest about current and past feelings holds greater sway with me today than any need to disclose or not disclose personal matters. I get no pleasure from ‘washing my dirty linen in public’; but no longer do I fear the truth being known and prefer to tell it as it is and as it was, than to twist or suppress it for the purpose of convenience and self-image.
I am greyer in hair today, balder and wiser in head, longer in the tooth and more mellow nature. I am 77 years old, and I am reconciled to living with a terminal illness that is guaranteed to shorten my natural life span. I believe in self, family, friends, good neighbours, God and in the power of love and prayer. I am and have always been positive in disposition, and since 2012, I have been happily married to my wonderful wife, Sheila. I try to deal directly and honestly in all my communications with others, and I do not intend to go around any corners in saying it other than it is or ever was. Neither am I afraid to say precisely what I mean or to mean exactly what I say!
That, my dear friends, is the prime privilege of being 77 years old and living with a terminal condition. There is little point making it to this stage in one’s life unless one can truly be oneself and feel able to put up two fingers at the rest of the world if they consider me to be out of step with conventional expectations.
Love and peace Bill xxx