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!