Alethea remembered Theo’s story, and thought about Dymas, the grandfather she had never known, and wondered what was going on in his life all those years ago to make him leave a lovely wife and two young sons he obviously adored.
Finally, she recalled her conversation with Casta. As foretold, Casta began the conversation easily enough, but it quickly became difficult for her, and she allowed herself to become distracted by attending to one of her grandchildren. Casta’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, had finished her mother’s story.
Of all the Galanos women, Casta was the one who hadn’t fully come to terms with her loss. Eleanor told Alethea that she had never known her father, as he disappeared just a week after she was born. She explained that Casta still believed that Stepan would come home one day. When Eleanor was born, Casta was on the threshold of postnatal depression, possibly triggered by Stepan’s irrational behaviour of the previous months, but the loss of her husband made the depression so much worse. Sitting waiting at the front of the hospital that fateful afternoon, left her with deep feelings of abandonment, rejection and betrayal.
Deep down Casta believed that Stepan had left her because she was a bad wife, and that she must have done something to make him leave. Thinking this meant she could allow herself to believe that he was still alive. She didn’t want to accept anything else. It would mean admitting that he was dead, and this she wouldn’t do. It was better to suppose that it was her fault, because that way he might come home one day when he could find it in his heart to forgive her. Eleanor said that it was also more understandable that Casta should reason this way than subscribe to the idea that Stepan was mentally unwell, since she had always rejected any suggestion of mental illness.
Alethea thought again of her conversation with Caterina. There was no way that any of these women believed this about their men, though it frequently nagged them all in the dark hours of the night, or so Eleanor told her.
Now that Alethea knew Casta’s story, she thought that she understood her better. Like Casta, she, too, had been holding on to her pain and keeping it close. But Alethea knew that she was further along the road to recovery than Casta.
She didn’t know why it was becoming easier. Maybe it was just the passage of time. She knew her mother and Mila were also finding things easier this year, but they had been sharing their pain and hurt with others for some time while she had closed herself away. She had been mourning her father for nine years. It was a long time to cherish grief, she thought, but Casta had been doing it since 1967—for forty-three years.