Friday, 6 March 2009

Happy Families

Regrettably every word of this story is true. Charles Dickens could not have come up with a better story line.

My parents met after World War II and married two years later. Another two years on and I was born. Then two years and eight months later my brother made his entrance into the world. His arrival is my earliest memory. I can remember my father giving me breakfast then taking me over to my grandma's. I also remember sitting in the car outside the nursing home where he had been born at 3 am in the morning on 29 June. Young children were not allowed in hospitals then as they are today. After about two weeks my mother was allowed home with the new arrival. A few days later I arrived back home from grandma's. It was a fine sunny day. My old Silver Cross pram was parked in the back garden. I was lifted up by my father to have a look at what was in the pram. I remember looking at the bald sleeping head- it wasn't small, he weighed nine pounds - and thinking 'so that is what all the fuss is about'. He turned into a cherub with white blond curls and blue eyes with the sun shining out of his backside. By contrast I was an olive skinned gypsy with green eyes and brown hair. My pale and freckly mother couldn't quite identify with me. I was my father's daughter. I had inherited my dark skin and my looks from him.

Life was good. The little family was now complete. The children grew, went to school, had childhood ailments - chicken pox and measles (no MMR jab in those days), they broke arms and legs, wore braces on their teeth, passed exams, went to university, graduated then got jobs. My brother was the first to marry. A girl that my mother did not approve of and still does not after 27 years of marriage and two bright and attractive children. So determined was my mother that I was not going to marry an unsuitable husband, that I nearly did not get married. And we were not able to marry on the day of our choice because it did not suit my brother.

A few weeks after my husband and I married, in June 1991, my father was in hospital with what was to be the beginning of his final illness. Shortly after he was discharged from hospital my brother announced that he was going to the US to work. Three years earlier my brother's mother-in-law had had similar symptoms to my father and had subsequently died from lung cancer. My brother admitted to me that he recognised the symptoms but still went off to the US suspecting that our father was dying. My mother and I were not to know how ill my father was until the day after the 1992 election when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died 29 days later.

My grieving mother desparately missed her blue eyed boy. The gypsy girl was a poor substitute but tried her best to comfort her mother. After all I had lost my father, who was the first love of my life. After a minor operation life became so stressful that I had to stop work. My husband was made redundant and I thought that we were destined to live on benefits. Around this time my mother moved from the house that she had shared with my father, to a bungalow near my brother, who was now back from the US but, conveniently at the time of the actual move, was abroad on business. Never mind, my husband and I were on hand to help.

In May 2006 Mum had a mini stroke which resulted in her very mild dementia becoming more severe. She came out of hospital on a cocktail of drugs and my brother was pointed in the direction of carers, which he did not do anything about. In November 2007 his son became ill. Still, despite numerous suggestions from me, he continued to do nothing about carers. February 21 was Mum's birthday and my brother spoke to me briefly on my mobile phone, when my husband and I were on our way to see her. On February 22 we drove the 200 odd miles back to Chester. Late on February 24 my brother sent an email to me, telling me that on February 20 that Mum's GP hold told him that it was time that she went into a home and demanding that I drop everything to go back down to Sussex to find a home for my mother. How I wish that my father was here to talk to.

Happy Families. Oh what a game!

23 comments:

The Dotterel said...

That's hard. Does he make such unreasonable demands because he knows you will (drop everything, I mean)?

Maggie May said...

Life is hard, isn't it?

I loved this post even though it is sad for you and I really hope that writing it down will have brought some kind of healing from the hurts. I do find writing down my hurts to be very therapeutic.

My husband was treated like this by his mum and dad and he was the one who did everything when they were alive.

Maybe things will be sorted out in the next life.

Gilly said...

Hard, isn't it? My mother favoured my sister, and said I was "hard". My sister was the one who sat and cried with her while I ran around setting things to rights, organising and generally being active.

But its not good hanging on to things. I could be bitter about the way it was, but my sister and I have a laugh about it now, and just put it down to her being "Mum".

Stand up to your brother, tell him to visit a short list of homes and you will come down and look at the two or three he has chosen.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Really hard... the previous three have said so well what I think too... I hope you feel better for writing it down... and getting some good feedback. Makes one feel less awful about it all. I wish you well. X

French Fancy said...

What is it about mothers that they so frequently favour the son (who usually behaves like a shit) over the loving daughter. I've heard it quite often over the last couple of years and have seen this syndrome on many a blog.

Poor CW, you have a lot of worries at the moment.

(on a trivial note, I've always wanted to be olive-skinned instead of the pasty pinkness of me)

jinksy said...

Daughters seem to always bear the brunt, in my experience - only hope I can avoid similar traumas for my kids, when I get to the 'awkward age' i.e. a jolly sight older than now!

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

That's rough, you are the strong one it seems and get put upon. I see this in others. Go easy on yourself.

Moannie said...

That is it in a nutshell eh! honey? I have already written so much about my life that you all know how my mum favoured her two sons who more or less abandoned her to the care of JP and I. I do not, truly do not understand how any mother can favour one child over another...love expands,in my experience, it never lessens when one becomes two or three.

now you are doing what I did, and there will be times when you want to scream 'NOW DO YOU LOVE ME!'
Mum did, at the end, she asked her nurse to place her arms around me, and she cried out that she loved me. And the pain went away...just like that.

Huge hugs, be brave, you are the better person and your dad will be proud.

Akelamalu said...

I don't want to upset you m'dear but your brother is very selfish and needs a good smack! You have a lot to bear. x

CG said...

Without going into details, I'll say I can understand a little of how you feel {{hugs}}

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

That is tough on you CW. I find dealing with my elderly mother tiring and frustrating at times but I have no brother or sister. So much worse for you I think when the caring and decisions could be shared. A x

Susie Vereker said...

What a sad post. I don't think parents realise what they do to their offspring when they appear to favour one over the other.

All my sympathy, CW.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Family-- you can't live with them and you... can't live with them. I've been reading Moannie's stories, I only hope after hearing yours that you find the peace she did. I am sorry for what you're having to deal with (home searches) and hope this all goes smoothly for you!

Catharine Withenay said...

I am so lucky to have a sister who shares the burden - possibly too much, taking it all upon herself and not allowing me to take some of the strain. But that is partly her make-up. I'm sorry your brother is less than helpful, but hope the words in the comments above are both helpful and encouraging. You are doing a great job!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

There is usually always one in a family that does not seem to pull their weight. Families can be close if everyone is willing to support eachother.

CJ xx

Grumpy Old Ken said...

A sad but very honest post. All this makes you what you are today, for better or worse. Life is never simple. Plus trauma seems to go on for ever. i know the feeling. I have been writing re my background for several years and it almost takes over. But writing about it does in fact help.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

Unfortunately, Mothers' do tend to think of their sons as the end all and be all, why is that ?
I've never experienced the resposibility of an aging parent, but I'm sure if faced with the decisions, I would do the very best I knew how, as I think you have.
Sometimes we just have to do what is right, and not let what others "don't do" influence our decisions.
I admire you !

Rob-bear said...

Such a sad story, and one told by too many families. When my parents became less able, I went through the tribulations of helping them get good care. They were pretty capable, but I helped. Of course, they lived about 1,500 miles from where I am (Canada is rather large).

On the other hand, we moved my wife's mother to our city to help her. That worked out reasonably well (as well as such things can work).

It's my experience, from watching other peoples' experiences, that the relatives from furthest away are the ones who think they know what's best. Being an only child, I didn't have to deal with that. And my wife was very helpful.

deb1712 said...

I know. I wish that my dad was still around but I comfort myself that he does know what's going on - he would adore Oscar.
I can imagine how upset you must have been while writing this entry - you're braver than me!

Troy said...

Oh dear, I share the same birth date and possibly even the same birth year (? 1955) as your brother, but hopefully I was born with a higher dosage of compassion.

cheshire wife said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and your support. It has helped to write this post and to get other bloggers views.

Maggie May - I am hoping that things will get sorted out before the next life!

Troy - you were not born the same year as my brother and I am sure that you are more compassionate than him.

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