A Rare Family Get-Together

img_1537We had my 86 year old mum staying with us for a few days last week and my brother and sister-in-law were able to make the trip up north from the south coast to spend the day with us on Friday. They had only recently returned from a family visit to the US, and Paul was suffering a creaky back from the plane journeys and playing with babies and toddlers, so I was extremely grateful that they made this special trip.

Mum only gets to see them about once a year as they live so far
apart and they spend a lot of time in the States visiting their son and daughter’s families.
She is very restricted in her mobility now and extremely deaf, we don’t know how much longer she will be able to travel here as it is a real struggle for her to get in and out of our car and up the single step into the house, so these get-togethers take on greater significance as the months go by.

We had a lovely day, swapping photos of our grandchildren and funny stories from our childhood. Mum learned about a few things my brothers used to get up to! She is always amazed at my powers of recall but she later told me a story I didn’t remember at all, of when we were very young and she looked up out of the front window to see cows in the garden, and in her neighbours’ gardens. They were trampling the borders and churning up lawns. Some roadworkers had left the gate open to the field they were in further up the street and they had escaped. This was a brand new urban council estate, so although we lived on the edge near surrounding fields, this was an unusual sight to say the least. We were the only ones in the street with a phone and someone suggested she call the police. She said she lived to regret it as she was called as a witness in the prosecution of the elderly farmer, whom she felt very sorry for.

Before Paul and Jila had to leave, we managed to perch on our new very firm sofa for a rare family photo:


The Three Not-So-Wise Monkeys!

The following day was really warm and sunny and Mum and I were able to have lunch outside in the garden. She’s not able to sit out in her own garden and loves the peace and quiet here. We are very fortunate to have a back garden that is an oasis of sun and tranquillity, despite living on a very busy road. Often, there is just a distant hum of an airplane and the thwack of willow on leather from the nearby cricket club or a cheer from the bowling green around the corner. Mum loves the birds, but unfortunately can never hear them singing (she refuses to wear hearing aids!), which is a shame because the robin was trilling his heart out in the hawthorn tree for her. She is developing cataracts too, so she couldn’t see him, either.

She did however have some afternoon entertainment watching her son-in-law ‘scrumping’ or picking apples from the tree for her to take home. He was bumped on the head more than once from falling produce. He hade made an apple crumble the previous day which she enjoyed and she was going to take some apples back for herself and her neighbour.

I am always on pins when Mum is here in case she has a fall, but the visit passed without incident. She enjoyed speaking to our daughter on the phone on her last evening here and we sat up relating more stories from the past. I am always conscious of soaking up all the details when she speaks and I jot down dates and places. Her memory is starting to go in and out now, so I make the most of these moments.

My husband drove her home on Sunday, checked all her lightbulbs, plugged in lamps, checked the timer and clock on the heating and fixed the timer for her security lights. She is always happy to be home and is much more confident in her own surroundings. I am grateful that he does all this for her and makes the long and difficult journeys to bring her here and take her back, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see each other.

Some October garden photos (copyright: me)

Mum’s Birthday Trip Out – A Day Late

This isn’t a sad tale – it has a happy ending – but I need to set it in context, so please bear with me.

imageThe 16th July is a sad day in our family as it is the anniversary of the death of my brother, aged 22, in a terrible accident far away from home. It is also a day that is slap bang in the middle of several family birthdays, mine and my son’s included, which makes it difficult to celebrate them without an undercurrent of guilt and sadness.

It was my mum’s birthday last Friday, the 15th, she was 86. We usually try to bring her to ours to help keep it special and her distracted so she’s not home alone thinking about Dave. She rarely gets out, other than to the local corner shop and on the community bus to Asda, and misses her trips to the coast and to local markets.

We had planned lunch out, but the weather was awful, typical St Swithin’s Day weather (legend has it that the day he was buried, the heaven’s opened in floods of tears and that’s been the way ever since on this day). It was cold, windy, dark and rainy.

imageSo, Mum opened her cards and presents and was all set to sit at home, do her crosswords and watch the rain. However, my daughter had sent her a garden centre gift card and we had given her a new bird feeder, so we persuaded her to go to the local garden centre and buy some birdfeed and whatever else she needed. She took some persuading, resigned as she was to a quiet day doing nothing in particular, but she went.


  She has restricted mobility so getting her in and out of the car is quite a mean feat and walking is limited. But she came back pleased to have got her bird feed, a gorgeous purple African violet – the last thing my brother bought her (this one will no doubt go the way of all the others and be dead this time next year!) and some little gifts for her neighbours. My husband made a vegetarian curry for dinner and at her request, they had apple pie for dessert – she didn’t want cake and candles. We hoped for better weather next day.

Nope. The weather gods were busy elsewhere. Husband and I despaired. This was terrible. He had planned a trip to the local canal junction to see the boats, feed the ducks, have an ice-cream. Mum and Dad used to spend holidays on the Norfolk Broads, and despite being a non-swimmer, she loved being on a boat and we knew she would enjoy this.

However, after a couple of hours and with a break in the drizzle, I suggested we take a picnic – we could always eat it in the car if necessary – get in the car and see what happens, if it pours down we can turn around and come home, but at least she will have been out, seen some countryside and would have something to tell her neighbours.

I silently asked Dave if he could help with the weather and we set off in the direction of the canal junction.

Lo and behold, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun – yes, the sun! – came out. Whoopee! Here are some pics of Mum’s Birthday Trip out, which she said she enjoyed every minute of. She saw the boats, watched the ducklings and had her ice-cream. She was tired, but all smiles at the end of the day.

And I’m sure Dave had something to do with it. Thank you, we miss you.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan