Swallow Falls


When our sister’s cancer was first diagnosed she chose not to tell her partner, Jim Perrin.  She deliberately withheld the news in order to protect him, as she had no wish to give him any extra cause for grief or worry: she knew how hard it was for him – how anguished he was after his son’s recent death.  And with the book – which he later described in a letter to her, as “ – this book which has been an albatross for years” – nearing completion, she did everything she could to give him the peace he needed for his work.

Unfortunately her efforts were never quite enough: he, in his bereaved distress, compared unfavourably (with criticism and accusation), the actions and behaviour of her sons, with those of his own son.

How could one imagine Jim Perrin’s sense of devastation – his own beloved son no longer there? – not lost by illness or by accident – but by a last despairing act, whilst our sister’s sons, for whom he felt no natural affinity, were alive and very much in evidence.

His resentment against them grew: it became carved in high relief.  At first his ire was for the eldest son; gradually the focus changed to the younger.  Nothing that Jac could say or do would mollify him.

Later, he blamed her for the fact – he said in one letter (Jim Perrin applies more pressure), that her sons had prevented him from being able to relate properly with his own son, and to his daughter, when they had come to visit him.  It was sad that he should see it in that way as Jac’s children, in the short time that they had known them, very much liked them and they had all enjoyed each other’s company.

To such a crescendo of fury did he build, over this “perceived” lack of care and understanding, and of “right-mindedness” (a favourite phrase) that things went from bad to nearly unbearable.

One of Jac’s sons wrote in the book of condolences, a message – trying to find the right words, which so infuriated and incensed Jim Perrin, that he never, from that day, forgave him.

Neither Jac nor her sisters, or indeed others, could quite understand his exaggerated fury at the comment which this son had written.  It was certainly not a “run of the mill” platitude, nor a clichéd condolence; he had thought about it carefully and had tried, most sincerely, to write as one young man, to another who was no longer there.

Jim Perrin, in a worked-up rage, quoted this comment – incorrectly – in a heated conversation, yet another – when he was castigating her sons and her loyalty to them.  She denied that the words which he had “quoted” were correct, and leaving the book open at the page, with a token to mark the comment to show that he was in error, she left.

Jac went from a situation which was by now becoming ever harder to endure.  She stayed away for three days, in a little hotel in Betws y Coed, a place which she had always loved and had been to many times, near the magical ”Swallow Falls” – a waterfall of renowned beauty.  She would not divulge her whereabouts, but let him know through a third party, that she was safe.  This of course added to his feelings of outrage.  He later said of this time, in a letter to her, “ – When you walked out on me”.

She was appalled by his attitude to her sons: she was facing the battle of her life with her cancer.

After this brief interlude for reflection she returned to her home.  Jim Perrin angrily refused to believe that she had been staying in a local hotel, and it was only after seeing the credit card statement that he was obliged to accept that what she had told him was the truth.