I do not like secrets but I have held one for 36 years now. At first it was not something I wanted to talk about. I felt it was intensely private and something for my husband George and I. How I love him. I would do anything for him. When we first started to date, he walked into a room my soul would lift. He asked me to keep this one secret not to tell the world or even our close friends and family.
It meant in the early days that I did not have any support except from him. As time progressed, it felt like a black cloud hanging over me. I always wondered what happens if I just blurted it. Just like vomit “what happens if I just say it?”. I would picture his face and decide I could not break his heart.
As our children Michael and Sarah got older the secret changed, I knew I was actively keeping it from them. After all it affected them the most.
Every time I would try and discuss it with George, he would say “Not now Evelyn, you know we cannot tell them, we agreed. What happens if they do not want to know me anymore? They would disown us both for lying”.
It started to seep into my confidence, chipping away at it every day. I began to think if I tell the children I will lose him and them, and then my life would be destroyed for ever.
One day I went outside and just ran. I do not know where, but I just did. My mind was always exhausted but now my body was too.
From that day to now, I run. It helps me to clear my mind of my anxiousness and occasionally brings me joy. I regularly entered running events as George would question why all the running. I could not bring myself to tell him that my soul was broken by the secret. It meant keeping another secret but this one was just mine. I felt I had learnt to keep the secrets and my love for George separate but truthfully they had started to tarnish our relationship.
That day, the sun was shining, birds were tweeting and the air smelt of the sea salt, I started to feel content again but that was all about to change. I walked back in from my run and my mobile phone rang. It was an anonymous number. I answered with a sharp tone expecting a salesperson “Yes?”
“Is that Mrs Evelyn Jones?”. There was a serious voice on the other end.
“Yes, may I ask who is speaking?”. I began to realise this was a serious voice.
“Yes, my name is Sergeant Matthews; your husband has been injured in a car accident about 7am this morning. He has been taken to Christchurch Hospital and it being treated.
“Is he seriously hurt?” I interrupted. My mind was racing. Where was the car key, I need to get there and be with him. I need to ring the children and tell them. Where will they be?”.
“I am afraid I do not have that information. We will send a vehicle to collect you and take you to the hospital”. I could sense he knew more but was not telling me. His voice was wobbling, like he had seen the whole thing.
I was shaking; I knew I needed to be with him.
The next few hours were a blur; there were police, doctors, and the children were crying. I was numb. They sat me down and told me that George died on the way to the hospital. I kept thinking of the phrase on the television “dead on arrival”. It was too surreal. I was sure I would get home, he would be sitting at the dining table reading the paper, telling me the kettle is on and it has all been a sick joke. Instead they told me when and where I pick up the medical death certificate so I could register his death. I suddenly felt very alone and it dawned on me the secret is now only mine.
The next ten days passed in a blur of visitors. Telling me they have no words, what a wonderful man he was, funny stories about him that I had not known, and hugs. They were one way hugs. I had no capacity. I just knew this was our punishment for the secret; I understood then that I must tell the children. The weight of it was getting too heavy.
I had cooked dinner and arranged for Michael and Sarah to come. We were sitting around the dining room table and I felt George sitting at the opposite end. I was looking at his empty chair. I could see him shaking his head at me, begging me not to do this.
“I have something to tell you and this is going to come as a shock” I said in a hurry as I was serving the peas. I knew I needed to say it fast otherwise my courage would disappear.
“Mum is everything ok?” Sarah interrupted.
“No it is not. Your father was a wonderful man but he insisted I kept a secret from you both and I cannot do it any longer”.
“Mum what is it?” She looked scared and tears started to well up in my eyes.
“Your father and I were married for seven years before you Michael came into our lives and then Sarah you came 18 months later. We started trying for children a year after we got married. First your grandfather died and then your grandmother got breast cancer and died too. We thought it was not happening for us due to all the stress. On top I was doing a long commute and your dad was working two jobs to help us save for this house. We then realised that we had been trying for five years and nothing had yet happened so our GP suggested we go for some tests to check it was not anything else. Your father came back completely infertile. We were obviously both shocked.”
I paused and took a deep long breath. I could not look at their faces but knew I needed to. I saw it in their eyes they knew what was coming next.
“So we did a three month tour of Europe to think about what we wanted to do. During that trip we decided that it was nurture over nature and it would be better if you were at least 50% biological ours and we would use a sperm donor. So that is what we did.”
I explained “I have always wanted to tell you but your father was adamant, but now he has gone I know you had to know.”
Michael got up from the table and walked out through the hall and slammed the front door shut. Sarah sat and looked at me as tears streamed down her face. She screamed “why, just why would you not tell us he is not our dad? Who is our dad? This is our life and this is fundamental to who we are.”
I started to explain “He is your father, he was there when you were born, he went to every school play, he came to your ballet shows, he kissed you goodnight. He loved you more than anything. Your dad is more than biology”
But I knew she was absolutely right. This was no longer a secret but now we were all broken. The consequences of George’s wish were now only just manifesting.
Sarah looked at me and said “this should not have been a secret. I do not know how to look at you mum. We have lost our dad and now you want to confess. You are so selfish.” With that she followed Michael out the door.
I was now all alone. I saw George just sitting there saying “I told you so”. With that I chucked my plate across the room where his head would be and shouted “you ruined it all”.