Forbidden Love

Cricket has started a new blog called Slice of Life Sunday where she provides a series of prompts to choose from which her readers can use to submit relevant experiences from their lives. This week one of the prompts was A Forbidden Love. Believe it or not I have actually had such an experience. Yes, it freaks me out too. Here is my story….

When I was 19 I had a bit of a bad year. I think the best way to describe it was that I was steeped in disenchantment. I don’t really know what triggered it but as I have mentioned before in my late teens my mother became intent on curing me of depression. I was subjected to a variety of treatments and supposed cures which left me, even awake, feeling like I was in the midst of a nightmare.

So I fled to Ireland and the comfort of my Grandmother’s arms and my cousin, Patrick’s, anarchic attitude to life, both of which did a great deal to cheer me. I was burnt out, I was faded. I held my breath as the chill air from the North Atlantic settled on my skin, but it restored me.

Patrick had a friend from University. Aiden O’Flaherty was typically Irish. Tall and lithe with a crop of black hair that looked like it had never seen any side of a comb. He walked with ease through the village. I feared he was too sure of himself but people treated him with affection.

As I got to know him I experienced something other than the feeling that the earth was oppressive. For the first time in months. I grew ardent, exuberant. My Grandmother’s expression grew stony.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in Ireland in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, I need to explain to you that a type of civil war existed at the time. Catholic was pitted against Protestant under the guise of seeking a unified Ireland.

I saw some horrible instances of violence and bigotry which still shock me when I think about them. All in the name of religion.

Although an extremely devout Catholic, my Grandmother could be open-minded when necesary. When Aunt Jo got divorced from her alcoholic, abusive husband she was supportive. When my Catholic mother married my Protestant father she swallowed her misgivings and opened her arms. But when she learned I was seeing Aiden she assumed the guise of vengeful Angel.

‘He is not welcome in this house,’ she said. ‘Under any circumstance.’

At first I couldn’t figure out why she was so adamant, why she had taken such a dislike to someone she barely knew. Aiden was bright, good-looking, studying Economics at a prestigious University. Then Patrick filled me in. Two words – Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein is the political arm of the IRA. It seems that Aiden’s father had worked for a while as an advisor to Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein. It was anyone’s guess as to where his sympathies lay but the connection was enough for my Grandmother. You see she hates the IRA. It is the only time I have heard her use the word. Hate. Ever.

It was often assumed that if you were a Catholic living in Ireland back then that you were completely in agreement with everything the IRA did. That was actually a bit of a fallacy. Hardly anyone I know sympathised with the brutality of their methods. I remember being horrified at some of the things they did in the name of the Irish people.

My Grandmother never forgave them for the death of her brother who was caught in one of their blasts in the 70s when visiting friends in Northern Ireland. She referred to them as murderers from that day forward. ‘We are all Irish and we’re fighting each other,’ she often said. ‘For what?’

I was starry-eyed and careless. I didn’t believe for a moment that Aiden had any ties to the IRA. He was a free spirit. We walked on the beach, eating hot chips from newspaper, talking of art and music, laughing at The Young Ones. He was just like me. He cared about people. He could never condone violence of any kind, especially brother against brother.

As my Grandmother’s eyes grew colder I decided to broach the subject with him, to see exactly where he was coming from. ‘We’re fighting our own people,’ I offered as we discussed recent problems in Belfast. ‘They’re as Irish as we are. It’s wrong to hurt them. To kill them.’

‘No,’ he countered. ‘We’re more Irish. They’re British lapdogs. They’re nothing.’

His eyes were black, pitiless. My head was filled with a roaring sound which I thought was fear but later realised was dismay.

For a few days, a week, I played with Aiden’s limitations, hoping things would change, but the wind grew raw and the light grew sallow. And my heart grew sad. And I knew I had to choose. It’s the first time I’ve ever put my principles ahead of what I felt in my heart and it hurt like hell. But I knew at some place beyond where my heart lay, that my Grandmother was right.

So Aiden and I parted. He protested, painting a picture of a happy life. I asked him one more question. It was a test the way a maiden tests a knight.

‘Would you save the life of a man who was a Protestant?’ I asked.

Aiden didn’t answer. I was full of grief and could do nothing but see how it really was. The air was quiet with loneliness but I couldn’t refute his position. I didn’t stay.

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18 thoughts on “Forbidden Love

  1. How bitterly disappointed you must have been to have discovered such a dark heart under that carefree exterior. And….how wise of you to recognise the reality for what it was and not let your heart rule your head. There are people who are around twice the age you were then who would have ignored the obvious in favour of keeping their illusions alive. You were very brave Selma but then I have never doubted your courage.

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  2. Good for you for standing up for what is Right. As painful as that must have been.

    On another note – it’s strange to be confronted with the idea that those we are taught to see as “Monsters” have souls too. That they are capable of loving… and being loved.

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  3. My family were horrified when they realised my first-ever girlfriend was not Catherine Lamb, but Catherine Lam … and Chinese! (or, rather, of Chinese extraction; legally, she was as British as I am)

    And, the number of times in the Services we had to intervene in an officer/enlisted relationship … not exactly forbidden, but one of them had to go, because they weren’t allowed to serve on the same base.

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  4. How disappointing to find out that someone you thought you knew, was not what you thought they were.

    On a lighter note, I remember “The Young Ones”. I only got to see a few episodes, but they were hilarious. And…I had a wonderful Girl’s Weekend! There was lots of good food and alcohol involved. The weather could have cooperated, but we had fun.

    Linda~

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  5. Whoa, that is a story.

    I was going to say my forbidden love has always been with cheese, but then I read your story and realized I really haven’t lived.

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  6. How sad to have found someone so interesting only to learn he really had a closed mind. Yes, it is very difficult the first time we come face to face with a situation that requires a choice between our principles and our heart. You were very wise at such a young age to make the choice you made. It has been my experience wisdom does not begin until at least age 30. Thank you for aprticipating this week. And what a wonderful slice of life for the Pie Safe!

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  7. GYPSY – I didn’t feel courageous at the time. I guess the expression was ‘between a rock and a hard place.’ It’s hard to make a decision like that when you’re just a kid, you don’t fully appreciate all the factors involved, political or otherwise. And the problems in Ireland are extremely complicated. There are mixed loyalties all over the place. I will confess that I was scared at the intensity of my family’s reaction so I bowed to their wishes to a certain extent. I wonder if faced with the same situation today, would I let Aiden go?

    BRITT – as always, you have hit the nail on the head. Despite his family’s political affiliations Aiden was a good guy. I met him again about five years ago. He is married with adorable little twin girls. He worked for a while for Sinn Fein who have since developed a Peace Accord with the British government. So perhaps he wasn’t as bad as my Grandmother thought. I wanted to say to her at the time that pre-judging people because of their politics was as bad as what the IRA did in the name of Ireland. But I didn’t dare. I cried after I saw Aiden again and after I wrote this. He was one of those guys you meet and you instantly think: “Oh, you’re here at last.” It was a very hard piece to write.

    TRAVELRAT – I have heard about those romances in the services. I believe it also applies in the Police Force. Love is not allowed when duty calls!

    LINDA – so glad you enjoyed your weekend. That is brilliant. The Young Ones were something else, weren’t they? I loved them!

    MICHAEL – well it depends what cheese you’re talking about. i had a little dalliance with a bit of roquefort once. I haven’t been the same since. πŸ˜‰

    CRICKET – I really loved participating. I will be back!

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  8. Selma,

    I love and respect people of principle, one you indeed are. I can see how your safety net just collapsed in front of your eyes when he expressed his feelings about protestants.

    The irony for me is the demography of my own America. It has always been a protestant-based country. Generally, the evangelical protestants think very little of Catholics, referring to them often as second-rate Christians. And as a Jew living in the Georgia Bible-Belt nearly 30 years ago, they drove me up a proverbial wall.

    I guess that’s why my focus is on spirituality. I have no use for organized religion anymore or all the wars and friction it has caused.

    Peace,
    Glenn

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  9. What an amazing Slice of your life. Thank you for sharing it. Choosing between your head and your heart is never an easy thing. You made the right decision. So Wise you are. Very well written, I did not want to miss a single word! Thanks!

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  10. GLENN – I am so glad to have come across you. I can’t handle religious warfare any more either. It upsets me on a very deep level. I will definitely check out your spirituality blog.

    MICHAEL – she wouldn’t be the Great Goddess of Cheese, would she? You do realise that if you worship at the Church of Cheeseology you have to give a tenth of your personal cheese holdings as a donation every month. I’m just sayin’… Oh, and you have to do book reports on Rachael Ray’s best cheese recipes. πŸ˜€

    GREATFULLLIVIN – so nice of you to stop by. I really appreciate your kind comment. Thank you.

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  11. i am happy for you that you didn’t choose to abide by his politics for the sake of love… i fear he would have brought you much unhappiness… what a beautiful little window you opened into your world… thank you…..

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  12. TRAVELRAT – hahahahaha. That is brilliant!

    PAISLEY – do you know how much I love reading and getting your comments? You always make me feel good. Thank you.

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  13. Unfortunately, the same religious hatred brainwash dialectic is playing out on the world stage with the U.S. led “War of Terror.” I could imagine many in the U.S. refusing to answer the question you posed at the end if a Muslim was the one whose life was in danger. Fear and loathing breeds hatred, bloodshed, and corrupts many hearts and minds.

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  14. Selma, I have a bio on Gerry Adams here, and refuse to read it in its entirety….
    I am so glad you chose to embrace your principles, instead of following your attraction to this fellow….
    Thank you for your meaningful “Slice of Life”. Peace.

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  15. LISA – Gerry Adams is a complex man but sometimes I feel his thinking is inherently flawed. I am glad I stuck to my principles. Staying with a guy like that would just plunge everyone into a state of misery. Peace to you, my friend!

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