I dedicate my song today to my brother-in-law, Richard Lumb, who lives in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire with my sister Mary. Richard celebrates his birthday today. He has had a very difficult year with one ailment after another plus a few periods spent in hospital as an inpatient. I know that you don’t drink alcohol Richard and that you haven’t been in the best of health lately, but never forget how much the Forde family love and respect you. Love Bill and Sheila xx
My song today is ‘Tell Her About It’. This a 1983 hit song written and performed by Billy Joel, from the album ‘An Innocent Man’. An apparent homage to the Motown Sound, the song was Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ charts for one week on September 24, 1983. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA for US sales of over 500,000 copies.
In the lyrics of the song, the singer exhorts a young man to tell the woman he loves how he feels about her before he misses his chance.
This song came out just after my first marriage ended (I won’t say ‘broke up’ as marriages don’t break up; it’s people that do the breaking up!) I’d been married for thirteen years between 1968 and 1981, when we separated. My marriage had effectively ended five year earlier. Believing then that marriage was for life (through good and bad, sickness and good health), I did everything humanly possible to keep the marriage going after our two sons were born to it, but my wife withdrew completely from her roles as both wife and mother to our children. She had post-natal depression (a medical condition then known as the ‘Baby Blues’), and after the children were born and left the Maternity Hospital to come home, I was simply left in total disbelief when my wife would have no contact with them whatsoever for the next five years. She would live in the same house as them but that was where her proximity to our children ended.
For five years, I fed bathed, nursed bedded and got up in the middle of the night with them when they cried. Unfortunately, being an Irish Catholic, and not knowing that post-natal depression was a mental illness which the mother of our children couldn’t help, I was perhaps too quick to consider my wife as simply being ‘a bad mother’. Fortunately, I had a very good mother-in-law who minded the two children during the first four years of their life until she (Dorothy) sadly died with lung cancer in her early sixties. Dorothy (a widow) was the kindest of women and she treated me more as a son than the traditional son-in-law role. Dorothy obviously knew that our marriage was in difficulty and paradoxically (unlike the traditional mother-in-law) she kept out of interfering in our marriage and never raised the subject.
For the first four years of the children’s lives, I never told my parents or siblings of the marital difficulties I was having, although all of our neighbours witnessed it.
The daily function that my mother-in-law served enabled her daughter to continue in her full-time job as an infant teacher and myself as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield. During the last five years of our marriage, my wife repeatedly told me she wanted us to separate. She didn’t blame me for the collapse of our marriage but merely said that ‘she didn’t want to be married to anyone anymore’. I resisted separation for five years, but after her mother died and left her two daughters a sizable inheritance, my wife insisted that I leave her, ‘threatening to kill herself if I didn’t. Faced with this situation, I felt obliged to leave, but on condition that as I’d been both mother and father to our two sons since their births, I would exercise future custody over them. She agreed to this arrangement providing that I signed over full title to our three bedroomed detached house that only had a token amount of £200 mortgage remaining on it (we each had £2000 to almost buy the house outright for £4000 in 1968).
I signed over the house and started looking for a home nearby to raise our children. I planned to give up my work for five years and become a full-time dad of single status. It was agreed that I would buy another house in the same area and that both of our children would attend the infant and junior school where my wife taught. I indicated that she could have as much access to the children as she wanted.
After I had managed to buy an old property that required extensive renovation over many years, and had legally transferred full ownership of the marital abode(then worth nearly £100,000), my wife went back on our arrangement, refused to let the children live with me and did not allow me to see or have any contact with them of any description for two full years. For two years, I cried myself to sleep nightly with the loss of all contact with my sons. Despite the courts having made an access order in my favour and placing a term of imprisonment on my wife if she didn’t honour the court order, my wife persisted in denying me all contact! What was I expected to do? I could have the ‘order of imprisonment’ activated in default had I initiated enactment, but which man would do that to the mother of his children, I ask? My wife was simply demonstrating something that has always been known and which has never changed, ‘Possession is nine tenths of the law’.
I had told my family about it, I had told my friends about it, I had told the courts about it and I had even told the children’s mother about it’, but to no avail. At the first time of hearing the song, ‘Tell Her About It’, I felt a certain irony in the song title as I knew in real life that it wouldn’t have altered a damn thing!
Love and peace Bill xxx