I am a recently separated sixty year old male with a sixteen year old daughter who lives partly with me and partly with her mother. I have dipped my toes in the dating scene and found things going swimmingly until I mention my daughter and then suddenly found that things have gone frosty.
It’s human to have a secret, but it’s just as human to reveal it sooner or later.
― Philip Roth
I used to think baring one’s soul was a by-product of being a writer.
And maybe it is. But not all writers are secret-sharers. I know writers who are keen observers of humankind but prefer to remain unobserved themselves. I admire them but can’t emulate them. Such people do well not to let me into their secrets. For while I’m a great sharer of my own, I’m a reluctant holder of others’.
On 25 April 2015, I left Australian shores for rural France.
I chose the date – Anzac Day – on a whim, a symbolic recognition of the culmination of a lifelong dream to run away to France. I made 25-4 my suitcase pin number. For six months, I house-sat my way from Normandy to Provence, mostly on my own, and lived like a local.
The raspberry canes in the vegetable patch yielded masses of delicious berries from July through to September. I would come up from the garden with my mouth and fingers stained deep crimson – ‘crushed raspberry’ – and my bowl full to overflowing with garden produce.
I have never been especially keen on the idea of being a grandmother.
Periodically my children would threaten me with it just for fun. I’m way too young, I’d say. Turns out I’m not as young as I thought. Or as immune to the lure of a newborn: first born of my firstborn, unwitting trailblazer of a new generation of my family, tiny repository of untold hopes and dreams.
It’s the kind of milestone that attracts commiserations rather than congratulations. I don’t see it that way. I held a Sunset Soiree between the senior-friendly hours of 5pm and 9pm to watch the sun set on my youth.
It’s not the first time I’ve done this. During my two years in the emotional wilderness following my separation, I regularly cried in front of people I’d only just met. Real estate agents, bank managers, municipal officers, shop assistants—no one was safe. Some of them – the consequential strangers – made a lasting difference to my life.