The further adventures of Stan -2
I won't go into great detail about those first days after Stan moved in. He settled in very easily, and my life was so much happier, so much less lonely. I didn't mention to the children that I had a lodger, but knew that eventually I would have to, and was prepared for their negative feelings on the subject.
Stan finished painting the minister's house, and did a good job on it. He seemed much more confident, in himself those days – and having advertised widely in the area, his ability to take on inside or outside painting jobs, he kept pretty busy. Mostly he just accepted local jobs, where he could walk or go by bus to wherever he needed to go. We are lucky to have an hourly bus service not far from my house, which goes into the town, and from there into Stockport through the little suburbs in between. So he felt comfortable taking jobs in any of those areas, as long as they let him store his supplies on the premises. He seemed to have as much work as he wanted – keeping a day or so free each week for long walks in the lovely nearby countryside.
I told him that it was dishonest to keep on collecting his dole money, once his earnings reached the stage where they were sufficient to keep him going. I did start charging him a small amount for room and board, but he had no idea that I was putting it way below the usual rate. He was so naïve in many ways and I didn't want to change that innocence which was so much of his charm.
I tried to get him to go to Church with me, at least on the odd Sunday, but other than Christmas and Easter, he firmly said that he preferred communing with his God through having a long walk. I'd hoped he'd join in the community groups through the church – get to meet some young people that he would have something in common with, but he seemed most comfortable just watching TV with me in the evenings, or using my son's computer, which he got more and more familiar with as time went on.
My girls each live some distance away in different directions, and I would go off to visit them perhaps one weekend a month, leaving Stan on his own. I trusted him fully. He had confided in me about his previous history including his being charged with theft, but I never for a moment thought that he would do anything like that to me. Not only had we become good friends, but he knew he was to some extent indebt to me for his current well being – and he knew that if he did anything to jeopardize our relationship, he would be the big loser. I can write those words, but the honest truth is, I don't know what I would do if I was forced to make him leave. He is so much a part of my life now.
I'm not intending to make it sound like I was controlling Stan's life. He did sometimes go out to the pub – more when he first came than he has been lately. And on occasion he has stayed away over night. I suspected that he was with a girl – but I never asked, and he never volunteered the information. I would wait for the sound of his key in the door when he was out, but knew better than to try to check him in any way. He was a lodger – and had a right to his own life and privacy.
After Stan's business grew sufficiently for him to be pretty much self sufficient, I suggested that it was perhaps time for him to register as a business, and get a website. I helped him with the paperwork, and when it was all in place, we celebrated with a bottle of champagne the launch of Stan's Your Man, Housepainter. I cringed a little at his choice of a name for the business, but he liked it, and had a little cartoon picture that he used on his website to represent himself. For his birthday, his 21st, I bought him a second hand truck – so that he could be much more independent in his choice of jobs.
I knew the day would eventually arrived when my children would get to know about Stan's existence and how important he was in my life. My son had moved with his American girlfriend to Connecticut, so I knew that he wouldn't be coming home and wanting his room back. My daughters had come to visit from time to time, but as they usually came for Sunday lunch, and Stan usually went off for a long walk with a pub lunch on Sundays, so far I had managed to avoid explaining the situation.
But now here it was coming up to my birthday, and being a milestone one, they decided that they would like to come over for the weekend – not staying with me, as they both had children and knew there wouldn't be space for everyone, but staying in a guest house, not far down Church Lane. They both arrived mid afternoon on the Saturday, and once they had checked into their accommodation, came up to the house. Stan was out at work, but due back about 5. The plan was for them to take me out to eat on the Saturday evening, and for them to cook me dinner at the house, after we all went to church on the Sunday morning.
I didn't really know how to bring up the conversation, and the worry of how to do it was taken from me when my eldest daughter, Sarah, came back into the living room. “Why is Jeremy's room such a tip?” she asked. “He hasn't come home for your birthday too, has he?”
“No,” I quickly answered. “I've been meaning to tell you. I have taken on a lodger. You'll meet him soon when he comes back from work.”
“Why did you do that?” said Sarah. “Surely you don't need the money.” Her attitude was not so much sensorious as questioning – why anyone should choose to share their house with a stranger, when there was no financial need for doing so.
“He's somebody I met through my work at the church,” I said, trying to make it sound more acceptable than it would do if I told the absolute truth. “He needed a place to stay, and I offered him a room here.”
“How long as he been living here?” asked Angela, my younger daughter.
“Oh, I suppose it has been some months now,” I said vaguely, “but we get along well, and I can see no reason not to continue the situation.”
“But you hate having people to stay for long periods,” said Sarah. “I remember when you volunteered to have those Chernobyl mothers and children. You could hardly wait until their three weeks stay was up.”
“That was different. They took advantage of me, and I didn't like their attitutude. Anyway, I have made my decision, and that is all there is to be said on the matter.”
Stan arrived just as we were about to take off for our early meal out, as the grandchildren were used to a 5 o'clock evening meal.
“Oh, Stan,” I called to him, “come in here and meet my family.”
So looking a bit sheepish and shy, Stan came into the room. He still had on his painting clothes, and looked quite untidy, but they couldn't help but notice how young he is.
“This is my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Alan, and their daughter, Susie, and this is my younger daughter, Angela, her husband Geoffrey, and their daughter Natalia. This is Stan Barber.”
He shook hands all around, and then said, “I don't want to get in your way. I know you are going out for a meal.”
“There should be pleanty for you to eat in the fridge, Stan,” I said. “Help yourself.”
He could sense my uneasiness, so he took a clue from it and said as politely and formally as possible, “That is very kind of you, Mrs. Reynolds. Thank you very much.”
I had chosen La Dolci Vita in the village for our meal, as pizza was one thing my granddaughters both were happy to eat.
“Mum,” said Sarah, as soon as we had driven down the road. “You didn't mention that you cook for him too. You do, don't you? You give him his meals.”
“Well, he pays for it. Room and board, he has. He gets his own breakfast and makes a sandwich for his lunch. As I'm cooking a meal for myself anyway, I share it with him. I hardly think that is something to get worried about.
“I don't like this at all,” she said. “I think I will look into his background. You cannot be too careful, lviing on your own. You have a very valuable property, and lots of very nice things. He could steal from you and get away, and it would look as if you had given it all to him.”
“Sarah, please drop this subject right now,” I said. “This is my birthday dinner, and I won't have it spoiled by your wild imaginings. I am an adult, and my decisions are none of your business.”
“Well, most mothers would be pleased that their children take an interest in their lives,” she said, obviously very hurt by my attitude.
“I do value your interest, dear. But give me a bit of credit for being able to look after myself. Stan is a young man who needed help. It was my Christian duty to help him. Now, please let's talk about something else. Did you say you had been looking into play groups for Susie?”
I won't go into detail about the rest of the meal and the weekend visit. Sarah did manage to
keep away from the subject of Stan, and he conveniently made himself scarce from a very early time on Sunday, meaning that they didn't have to be reminded again about him. But I could also see out of the corner of my eye, that the two sisters were whispering in a corner about something several times during the afternoon.