In 1974, we paid the airfare for my mother’s eight-week visit. Her visit was full of discontent, especially with our children. One year before my mother’s first visit, Mary’s father died. He was a wonderful person and greatly respected. Twenty-one days after Mary’s mother died (truly a lovely mother-in-law) my stepfather, who could only be described as a Saint, also passed away. In 1975 and again in 1977, my mother paid her own fare and came for a six-week visit. My mother was not an advocate of tact. It was a shame she was so intolerable. 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 Mary, 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 for 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, Daily Gaggle.
Vest, Daily Gaggle.