My song today is “A Woman’s Love”. This song was written and recorded by American country music artist, Alan Jackson. Jackson originally recorded the song on his 1998 album ‘High Milage’.
In 2006, Jackson re-recorded the song for his album ‘Like Red on a Rose’. This version was released in January 2007 as the album's second and final single. The song explores a man's thoughts on being loved.
This song tells us what a woman’s love can mean to a man. I could write a book on this topic alone (and probably have done), having witnessed what a woman’s love has meant to some men, as well as some women. I have also experienced first-hand what a woman’s love has meant to me. Whatever love means, it will always come to mean less to us until we have learned to love ourselves also.
My memory related to today’s song concerns two sisters who lived in the Huddersfield area of Emley. The parental abode was a small farm that had once been worked as a going concern by the sisters’ grandparents but had ceased to be a working farm after their death. The dwelling became a home for their only son and his wife, and their two daughters.
The older daughter trained to become a primary school teacher, and she worked in this profession all her life. Her younger sister had always been more of a handful for her parents to deal with and she left Secondary school at the age of 16 years without any academic qualifications. She never settled in any type of job and changed jobs regularly. When the sisters were in their late teens, their father died young. The younger sister had always been closer to her father, but her relationship with her mother was always strained. Following the death of the sister’s father, the relationship between the younger daughter and her mother deteriorated. They were always rowing, and the younger daughter felt that she was not loved by her mother as her sister clearly was. She got on well with her sister who was training in Bradford to become a Primary School teacher.
The younger sister found that she was unable to live with mum alone in their farmhouse after her older sister went off to train as a teacher for three years. This change in family circumstances led the youngest daughter to leave home and to travel to the Newcastle area where she lived and worked until her mid-30s.
After completing her teacher training course, the older daughter stayed living at the home of her mother. Her younger sister never returned home for visits over the following dozen years, but she would keep in letter contact with her older sister by letter. Occasionally, the older sister would visit the Newcastle area for the weekend to stay with her younger sister, but had it not been for her willingness to maintain contact with her younger sibling, contact between the two sisters would also have become estranged.
Both sisters remained single. There was never a relationship known to have taken place between them and any man. It appeared that they were confirmed to live as spinsters. When the older sister was aged 40 years, her mother died with ann incurable cancer. The farm dwelling was surprisingly left to the oldest daughter only. This ungenerous act merely confirmed in the younger daughter’s mind what she had always believed to be true; namely that her mother did not love her and had always preferred her older sister to her.
The younger sister had been persuaded to return from Newcastle to attend her mother’s funeral, and afterwards, her older sister told her that what her mother had done by cutting her out of her will was wrong. As far as the older sister was concerned, the farmhouse belonged to them both. From that moment on, the two sisters lived together in the farmhouse until the younger sister died.
The two women had always grown up as sisters at the parental dwelling in Emley and they naturally continued to believe themselves to be sisters until irrefutable information emerged to contradict that assumption after the death of their mother. When the youngest sister was 17 years old, it would seem that she started to develop what she called ‘unnatural feelings’ for her older sister and while nothing untoward ever happened between them, along with her poor relationship with her mother, it was enough to lead her to leave home after father died. So, she moved up north to Newcastle to live and work.
After mum died, and she returned home for the funeral, it was only after rummaging through private papers from her mother’s desk with her older sister, that the two sisters unearthed the ‘family secret’. They had been looking to see if mum had left another will, but instead of a new will coming to light, it was the true relationship between the two sisters which came to light.
The two sisters found their birth certificates and the marriage and birth certificates of their parents while going through their parent’s papers. What they discovered at least provided some explanation as to why mum’s relationship with her younger daughter had always been less favourable than with her oldest girl. The two women discovered that they had never been ‘sisters’ in the traditional sense of the word. The youngest of the two girls was her ‘adopted daughter’ whereas she had been the birth mother to her oldest girl. The man and his wife had adopted the younger girl as an infant. The blood mother to the younger girl had been the best friend of the older girl’s mother.
Her best friend had given birth out of wedlock and the father of the child was identified on the younger girls’ birth certificate as being ‘unknown’. This was a common practice where the father was already a married man. So, the parents of the older girl formally adopted the child of the mother’s best friend. The best friend left the area shortly after giving her daughter up for adoption and did not maintain contact with either her child she had given up for adoption or her friend). The two girls grew up as blood sisters until their parents died, and the adopted girl was never informed of her adopted status even after she had attained the age of majority (She was living in the Newcastle area at the time at an unknown address).
It was during the early 1990s when my Headteacher friend who had now retired and left his profession told me about the death of one of the two sisters, the younger one. It transpired that the 'family secret' had remain maintained until after the mother's death. The older sister told him that it was only after the death of her mother before she discovered that she and her younger sister had never been sisters as such. after her younger sibling’s death, the bereaved sister who had worked in his school confided in him that ‘her sister had never been her sister’. The discussion was difficult for the teaching sister to engage in ‘because of its delicate nature’.
Being faced with the proof that they never had been blood-sisters brought the bond between the two girls closer, and they maintained the deception of their true relationship to neighbours and all other persons thereafter. The teacher, who worked at my friend’s school, had once told him of her worst suspicions. It was something that she could not substantiate but was an explanation to their less than usual situation that had always haunted her as being possible. It was an explanation that would make sense as to why her mother could have been so magnanimous to the plight of her best friend, by being prepared to bring up her daughter as her own child. The teaching sister always wondered if her father had had an affair with her mother’s best friend and had fathered a child to her, which he later persuaded his wife to formally adopt?
Until her ‘adopted sister’ died with an incurable illness in the 1990s, the two sisters never spoke directly of the worse fear voiced by the eldest sister to my teaching friend and her old headmaster colleague. The oldest sister would always wonder if their relationship had been one of ‘adopted sisters’ or were they indeed ‘half-sisters’ who had the same father? She also wondered if her mother ever suspected a different reality, or did she knew the real situation when she agreed to formally adopt her friend’s child along with her husband? While the adoption agency knew the identity of the birth mum, it was not known who the youngest girl’s blood father had been, or if the father of the adoptive sisters had also been the blood father to each girl?
Whatever the truth of the matter, the one thing that could be said for certain is that from within the quagmire of relationships that existed between the parties, a ‘woman’s love’ had certainly been at play.
Love and peace