You and my mother divorced when my sibling was two and I was a baby. You earned a great deal of money, but my motherwas too principled to take alimony, so we were raised within the confines of her teaching salary.
As a child, you told me that I had to work for your love because “unconditional love is dangerous”. When it was your turn to have us in the summer holidays, you would cancel the cleaners that came all year round and leave us notes about chores to be completed. We were never allowed our own meals or new toys – these would spoil us, you said.
You remarried and I was happy for you; no one wants her father to be alone. Now you send me pictures of your new children, some of whom are 30 years younger than me. I have nothing against them – in fact, I enjoy spending time with them. What I don’t enjoy is how you grovel before them in rehearsed affection and let them speak to you in a way I would not dare to, even now.
You are in the process of giving your money away to charity and I am proud of you. You do not believe money should be given to your children, as they did not work for it. This standpoint is one with which I agree. And yet, you follow this ideology only with regard to your first two children.
Besides being a walking advertisement for couture fashion and the latest Apple products, your new children are showered with unconditional love and congratulated for their tenacity, when they crumple at the slightest obstacle.
Once, I mustered the confidence to tell you how I felt. I was crying. You just shrugged and said, “I don’t think I love them more, I just love them differently.”
Then you added: “This seems to be a sensitive issue for you. Maybe you should work on that.”
I will never say any of this to you because, in a twisted way, I still need you to love me. But it hurts. So I will continue to respond with practised emojis when you send me the newest photograph of your burgeoning family.
Like Cordelia in King Lear, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. But now, as I wait to find out whether our first round of IVF has been successful, it is all I can do to suppress the sadness I feel that it should have – could have – been different between us.