The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 78

The Linnet´s Wings laxed, even friendly, now. Dare I, I thought, and discovered I did. ‘Tell me, Uncle Stuart, were you and my father ever in competition over my mother?’ He looked at me at first with a ‘what kind of a question is that?’ expression on his face, but something in my tone, and perhaps the use of the uncle again, seemed to reassure him. ‘Let’s take a little night air, Duncan’, he said. Outside, free from the noise and heat, I heard every distinct word. ‘Yes, we were. I was in the same hotel, and I fell in love with her at the same time’. ‘And you did what – withdraw in his favour?’ ‘No, not really. I would like to be able to say so, but there wasn’t that kind of nobility to it. I loved your fa- ther dearly, Duncan, but we were in competition in almost every respect from toddlers onwards, until we realised co-operation worked better. And in any case, your mother would not allow herself to be some puppet for us to fight over. She made her own choice, and she chose your father’. He looked at me with a sudden curious intensity. ‘And, of course, if you want to know the truth, every time I look at you, even now, I am reminded of his victory. You are both him and her, mentally and physically, the very epitome of their relationship. If I haven’t been as affectionate an uncle to you as I should have been, Duncan, that is some kind of explanation, but an inadequate one, I know I can never replace your father, nor will I try, but perhaps I can make up a little for not being much of an uncle’. We shook hands and managed a kind of clumsy embrace, and as I turned from it, I saw my mother standing at a window watching us, and there was an expression on her face which I hadn’t seen since my father died, a serenity and satisfaction that somehow signified a kind of closure for me. It seemed like the fall of my last eagle, perhaps the wildest and most vicious of them all, a wild beast hovering not for food but for vengeance. Poisoned by imagined grievance, it looks for some innocent lamb to vent its spleen upon. Only my father’s gentle but authoritative voice – because I shall remain convinced, to my dying day, that’s essentially what it was – was capable of downing that last eagle. In my mind, I buried it and all that accompanied it, like the golden eagle, in the ground of Scotland. Writing this has been cathartic for me. My mother, never as scrupulous about checking her health as she should have been, was diagnosed with a cancer too late to stop, and died in 2004, only in her late sixties. Stuart, as I called him until the day he died, was devastated and never the same again; he died in his bed eight years later of a sudden heart attack. So now, my good lady Josie and I, assisted by our full and growing family, rule the Murray estate, stewards of the land rather than rulers over it. The Murray eagles fly again, and that voice, whatever or whoever it was, is still there for me as and when either of us judges that it needs to be. --- 78