Remembering My Dear Mother
After being shunted from one relative to another we finally arrived at Dr Barnardo's Homes, from where soon after Chris and I were fostered out to a family at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire, it was also the last time I would see my sister Ruth until fourteen years later.
My next contact with mother after a period of four years although not physical as the brief visitation lasted less than an hour due to the dissension between mother and foster mother, resulted in us being removed back to Barnardo's Homes, after which Chris was sent to Watts Naval College at the age of eleven and I followed him there a year later on Wed 16: Dec: 1936, aged then ten years five months; after having been fostered for a year in Cambridgeshire. Later in Jan 1941 Chris joined Royal Navy at sixteen and a half years of age.
During the summer of 1941 after another absence -this time of six years, Mother visited the naval college with her new husband ( who was indeed a saintly person whom I admired for his continuing sufferance to the end of his years in 1973).
Six months passed and I was sent to join the Royal Navy Wed: 7: Jan: 1942, I was 15 years and five months of age and my next contact with my dear mother was in 1947 long after the war had ended. So from the age of five until twenty one, my total contact with my loving mother over fifteen years had been approx Four Hours. My brother Christopher did not make contact with Mother ever again. Despite of all the past misgivings I still maintained a respect for my Mother and remained in contact over the years until coming to Australia in 1971.
However, blood being thicker than water, we paid for Mother's visits to Australia from England
In 1974, 75 and 77 when she stayed for about two months on each occasion. It was a shame she had little tact and was so intolerable.
In July 1983 we received a letter from England informing us Mother had passed away on the 20th of July, the day before her 86th birthday.
An excerpt from my memoirs follows.
My mother’s last visit was full of problems. I had picked her up at the airport in Sydney at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning. During the trip back she kept saying, “Watch this, watch that” and “How long now?” It was piddling down with rain. I thought the only people daft enough to be on the road in this weather on a Sunday would be devout Catholics on their way to mass. Then it happened. My Ford Cortina wagon was halfway through the lights on the Parramatta road at Concord near ‘Cullen Motors,’ a busy intersection, when the blessed gear lever came away in my hand.
Mother asked, “Why are we stopping? Just keep moving and stop all that swearing.” I was stuck in first gear, so I put the hazard lights on. Braking hard by the side of the road, we shuddered to a stop. I explained my problem to an enquiring police officer. I then went to find a phone that hadn’t been vandalised, which took some time. No one answered the phone at home. While trying to retrieve my money, I found far more money than I expected. A tow truck arrived within minutes of my call. Back at the car, my eighty-year-old mother was creating hell for the copper and waving her cane at him. I told the police officer she was my mother and was just starting a six-week holiday with me. He replied, “You poor blighter. You have my deepest sympathy.”
The trip home took about thirty minutes. Mother whined all the way. When we arrived home, the noise we created unshackling the tow awakened my family. Our large Bitser dog had a dissident attitude to unknown visitors. After it saw me alight from a truck dishevelled and in a long raincoat, it flew at me. Fortunately, it grabbed my shoe. My other shoe caught it in the goolies and it went off yelping. All this frightened the life out of my mother.
She said, “If my stay is going to be like this, I’m going back home.” My mother decided to put up with the pain of staying with us (or was it the other way around?) The children, who enjoy a bit of mischief now and then, were never able to get along with my mother. My Rosemary, who was painfully polite to my mother, told me, “Never again!”
My attempts at diplomacy concerning my mother failed miserably. I began to feel guilty that I couldn’t make my mother happy during her stay. My mother’s ‘holier than thou’ dogmatic attitude always won hands down.
I often wondered how the poor people sitting next to her for twenty-four hours in a plane felt. The last time my mother departed, the flight was held up for three hours. The whole family waited five hours. After she left, we all felt relieved.
Sickness and incontinence kept my mother in the UK until her passing on 20 July 1983, the day before her eighty-sixth birthday.
I shed a few private tears. After all, she was my mother.
Vest. Have a loving 'Mother's Day.'