Last week I went to a play called "Angels" by Ronan O'Donnell. It was a spellbinding, hour-long monologue by an actor playing a young, working-class Edinburgh security guard hauled into the local police station for questioning.
The security guard has a number of flashbacks, and one of them is of the one and only time his grandfather ever hit him.
It was clear from the monologue that the security guard was raised by his mother, grandmother and grandfather. This was not an unusual arrangement for working-class Scotsmen of my husband's generation. It is not all that unusual for a Canadian boy of my nephew's generation. God knows a boy needs a father figure in his life, and if he doesn't have a responsible father or even a grandfather, he's very likely to go looking for a father in all the wrong places, e.g. the local gang.
The grandparents in the play were married. I think this is significant. I think it is significant that single mothers (and presumably single fathers) lean on their married parents to help house and raise their kids. But I have suddenly been struck with the thought that we can no longer rely on older marry couples as parental stand-ins. I had this thought when reading this.
Okay, so the grandfather has only been charged. Innocent until proven guilty. But we in the UK have read dozens and dozens of stories about mothers' "partners" being charged in connection with the murder of children. This is the first time I have come across a story about a grandmother's "partner" being charged. Oh, and he's 37.
A partner, incidentally, is a politically correct term in Britain for a person another person acknowledges as their primary object of sexual expression. It is a way of eroding the differences between boyfriend, fiance and husband. It can be even be used of someone else's husband by the woman who is now sleeping with him. Presumably if you leave your husband for his father, and everyone knows it, your father-in-law becomes your "partner." Incidentally, you don't have to live with your "partner" for him to be your partner.