I was told I’d have to give him away
Pauline 71. Widowed from Blackpool. She has three children, 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
How are you?
They say it gets easier the older you get but I’m not so sure. Since my husband died I’m envious of my friends, they have each other. They go out together and whilst I'm stuck at home alone I think they're having a good time. Roofs keep the rain off our heads but that’s all, I want to get out and live life - life is for living.
Whats’ your most memorable experience?
Having my second son was wonderful especially after what I’d gone through with my first. Having got pregnant at 17 I was told I’d have to give him away - imagine that? My first experience of pregnancy and motherhood and then having to give him away, that experience turned to sheer horror and trauma. It wouldn't happen nowadays but back then it was very different especially if you were Catholic. I had to give up work and was whisked off to live at my aunts house to avoid the shame. Both my Mum and the doctor told me it would injure my mind to have an abortion so I would have to have him. I had no choice. When it was time to have him I was in a convent. In my mind it was an awful place, lonely and frightening. Handing my baby over to a nun. I remember, she walked off down a corridor with him and he started to cry, I could still hear him crying for ages. I can still hear him to this day.
Many many years later when he was all grown up and had children of his own I got him back. He was always in the back of my mind, how could he not be? Although having him back was nearly as traumatic as giving him away - I had the guilt I’d felt for all those years all over again. But life is wonderful now, he and his family are part of us.
What do you like about yourself?
I think I look pretty good for 70. I like to dress up and look nice - I like to make the best of myself.
How do you feel about marriage?
I was married for 45 years. I loved it a first but I became really lonely. Sometimes he’d work away and where we lived at the time was at the top of a steep hill and I had no car. I felt isolated and cut off. He worked hard and I can’t say he didn't provide for us but he was selfish. He didn't pay me much attention. We never saw eye to eye with the kids and he could be quite rude about my job. I worked as an auxiliary nurse and he would say “you’re only a maid”. I loved my job, my Son would say he wanted a job like mine because I never moaned about going to work so my Husbands comments were quite hurtful. I don’t think men and women should be tied together all their lives, you need a new spark every now and then.
How do you best express yourself?
I speak the way I think. I think people know if I’m upset, it’s written all over my face.
What do you think about religion?
I’m not religious now because I had it drummed into me from a very young age. When I was four I was put in a convent boarding school, the nuns slept in the attic. I used to get up in the night and go to them and tell them I wanted my Mummy. I was brought up to believe that you’d go to hell and burn in fire and when your four years old - that’s terrifying. It was harsh but it taught us to fend for ourselves. You just had to get on with it, you just had to mange, there was no choice.
We used to get up for mass at 7am and if you didn't you’d get into endless trouble. “The Lords watching” they’d say. I used to snuggle under the blankets and wonder if he actually was watching me.
Before I got married my Godfather who played the organ at church said he would play at my wedding, when the day came he played but as soon as he finished he put down the lid and never spoke to me again because I married out of faith. If that’s religion you want to take a second look. I don’t understand religion - it’s all gone to pot.
What do you think about life?
I often wonder what it’s all about, I reckon you have to make the best of it.
What do you think about death?
I don’t want to die but I think that when the time comes you're ready. I’ve seen so many people die when I worked as a nurse. They're ready to go when it’s their time. I’ve laid out quite a few people too and it always scared me. I never liked to be in a room by myself with the body, sometimes I’d get nervous and laugh. The ward Sister would always open the window to let out their spirits.
What would you like to leave for the next generation?
I just hope the world doesn't get any worse. There doesn't appear to be a lot going for it at the moment - it’s a sad world with bitter people. My generation has had the best years.
Are you free?
Yes, I’m free as a bird. I can put my feet on the mantlepiece and spit on the hearth if I want to! (laughing)