As you may know, I am editing my novels for publication as e-books, novels I wrote quite a few years ago. Time has a wonderful way of putting everything in perspective, including things I created from my imagination.
‘Loving Judah’ is about how a couple cope with the loss of a beloved son and step-son, Judah, and how they make unexpected decisions which affect not only their relationship with each other, but the lives of others as well. When I came to edit it (again, having done so many times since I wrote it) I was struck for the first time by the character of Aislin. I thought I knew her so well, and indeed I did, but the distance of a few years since we last ‘met’ has enabled me to be more objective about her, and I suddenly see a whole different aspect to her which I never realised before. It was something her father-in-law said to her when she and her sister-in-law, Rosamonde, go to visit the old man in his retirement home:
The old man’s condition was physically frail but mentally he was alert, with the usual lapses in memory that any older person might experience, but since his grandson’s death he had become withdrawn. He’d never been communicative, but now he was anti-social. Rosamonde had asked her father to spend week-ends with her but he had refused. The head of care said he would brief Mr Whitamore’s care worker.
The two women went at last to see the old man. He seemed tired, but pleased enough to see them. He knew Peter had gone away but didn’t seem interested in where he had gone.
“Aislin seems to think he might have gone to India?” Rosamonde said brightly, arranging the flowers she had brought in a vase.
“He’s trying to recapture his youth,” said Mr Whitamore.
“What?” Aislin and Rosamonde said together.
“Oh, that’s not what he said, but that’s what he meant. He felt he’d missed out, school, college, teaching back in Copthorne. I told both of you to travel, broaden your horizons and you went off to Canada, Ros,” the old man was the only person to shorten Rosamonde’s name.
“Yes, I did. I was only seventeen, goodness, how brave I was!”
Rosamonde always seemed the epitome of the conventional housewife and mother; Aislin knew Rosamonde had met her husband in Canada but hadn’t realised she’d gone there alone and so young.
“But Peter was so unadventurous. He went to a college where he could live at home, married Trish, his first girlfriend, had Judah, and as soon as Trish died, he started looking round for a replacement.”
Mr Whitamore switched on the television as Aislin and Rosamonde stared at each other.
“I was surprised you married him, Aislin. I thought a girl with a bit of spirit like you would have found him boring.”
Aislin sat on the settee, she wanted to laugh, she wanted to cry.
“You were a great mother for Judah, though, I have to say that. You were the making of that young man, my dear,” the old man fiddled with the remote. “I’m sorry, but there is a documentary I want to watch and I haven’t mastered this recorder yet.” The television blared out “I don’t wish to be unsociable but you might as well go now. Thank you so much for coming to see me.”
They had been with him for about fifteen minutes. They kissed him and he smiled indifferently as they left.
Rosamonde apologised for her father as they walked back to the car. Aislin assured her she wasn’t offended.
“Father had a hard childhood, you know. He was a kind and loving man but outwardly cold, somehow distant. Any feeling he has are usually buried deep. Judah’s death has hurt him, but it’s eating him from inside.”
Rosamonde’s words surprised Aislin, not because they weren’t true but because she hadn’t realised her sister-in-law was so perceptive.
“Were you surprised I married Peter?”
“No, of course not. You loved each other, you loved Judah, what was surprising that you should marry?”
“Do you think Peter is boring?”
“Most ordinary people are boring. I suppose my father thinks I’m boring. Peter always had lots of interests, lots of hobbies. I don’t think he was any more boring than anyone else.”
“He’s trying to recapture his youth,” said Mr Whitamore… and I suddenly wondered if Aislin is trying to do the same. Early on in the novel, she and her best friend Sandi reminisce about their wild days when they were younger, then Aislin meets an old school friend Nesta who declares Aislin has not changed in the thirty os so years since they last met. After the devastating blow of Judah’s death, is Aislin trying to recapture her youth… or is she just trying to find out who she really is?
I hope when you read ‘Loving Judah’, you will let me know what you think!