Sometimes it can be difficult to write about what’s been going on. The last few months have been particularly difficult and in my last three blogs I have been concealing something of great import to both myself and my family. My Mother became very sick prior to Christmas and by February it was confirmed that she was suffering from a terminal cancer. It seemed that the doctors believed she might see through the year but, on Sunday 10th April she died after a short illness.
I was fortunate enough to be able to return home some two weeks beforehand and spent some time with my Mom while she was weak but still able to converse; those are very precious moments for me. It would have been very difficult for me to stay over in England, so the news reached me in Qatar that she had died; Dad and my two eldest sisters were with Mom at the time.
The whole family reunited for the funeral service which was held on Thursday 21st April. The church was packed for Mom’s funeral, an indication I believe, of the respect with which both she and my Father are held.
I believe this is the last time when my parents and all their children were photographed together. Barbara, on the left, died in 2009, one of the worst things my Mom had to go through in her life.
This journal is therefore dedicated to my Mother, although not all of it focuses on her, but it is not an outpouring of grief, more a collection of happy memories.
It has never been established why I have always used the term “Mom” and my sisters use the “Mum”, which is the more normal English term. Of course “Mom” is supposedly the Americanised version of the word, also used partially in Canada, whereas “Mum” is used throughout most of the English speaking world. Being married to Andrea had no influence on the matter at all; I’d been using the phrase for many years before I met my wife. In letters and emails to me my Mother often used the sign off “Ma”, a phrase I’ve never used in my life except in jest. My own family have ceased to comment, perhaps they rarely see me use the term in writing; but recently both friends and complete strangers have picked me up on it. All I’d say is that Mom was never bothered one way or the other. (Bridget now claims she switched ten years ago as Mom preferred “Mum”!)
But when you check this anomaly out you find that “Mom” and “Mommy” are actually Brummie and have been used in the West Midlands for centuries. It is highly likely that the term “Mom” predates “Mum” and that this earlier version was the one which went out with the first American colonists and convicts. (Ooooo...I love to use those three words together!) Another example of this is the word “pitcher”, which to my sister Dinah is something you hang on the wall, but to the rest of us is more commonly known as a jug. Andrea and I have actually stood in front of the stove looking at each other in disbelief as we fail to communicate on matters concerning kitchenware.
It is these little things that can lead to arguments; it’s funny how the major issues are rarely matters that generate heated dispute. Anything serious is generally dealt with calmly, in quiet discussion and compromises reached. The fact that Andrea fails to pass me a jug in the kitchen having been asked for the twentieth time causes a major ruck; Mom and Dad have spent their lives this way!
The photo to the left was featured in an article in the Birmingham Mail as a celebration of their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Not many couples would choose to focus on domestic disharmony at that particular time but I suppose it is another indicator of the strength of their relationship.
Just before I left Birmingham last month I confided in Mom that I had set the shower head high, so as to deliberately wind up my eldest sisters. One remarkable fact about our family is that the females all fall in the height range 150-155cm (4’11” to 5’1”) but my Father and I are an identical 176.5cm (5’9½”) thus if you lock the shower high none of the girls can reach it. On occasion I had annoyed my Mom by accidentally leaving the shower too high but, now she was basically confined to bed, the only people to suffer would be Sue and Dinah. Mom thought it was a gas; it was only later that I found out that Sue is scared of the downstairs shower and Dinah didn’t appear to use it. Bum!
I think I mentioned the sterling efforts of my sisters in previous blogs. Bridget, Sue and Dinah (in that order because it matches the picture) have all given selflessly of their time in the last few months, something that has made me feel somewhat guilty. It should be pointed out that all my sisters are grey, like myself, and in this shot I guess Bridget had just had a touch up job. Various sisters also get upset about precedence, which is why I had to qualify the order of their names! I’ve always found it’s important to keep them slightly riled, it brings out the best in them; too much contentment would lead to complacency!
Being away from your “home” country can be hard for many reasons and being unable to help out the family is one of those aspects. In eleven years overseas there have been many times when I’ve wished I was home for someone or something and I know that my Uncle David, Aunty Nancy and Cousins Glyn and Kate in New Zealand have experienced similar feelings even though they emigrated in the early sixties.
From an entirely selfish point of view, Mom provided my umbilical cord to the “home” country. It was she who wrote once a week and she that read these blogs, keeping up the continuity of contact that is so important. Obviously I have regular contact with friends and other members of my family as well, but Mom was consistent. I saw the biopic about John Lennon’s early life recently and discovered that he spoke to his Aunt/Mom (singular - its’ confusing unless you know the story) every week throughout his life.
Moms make their children feel special; when you have five that can be quite a balancing act! Of the five of us I think we can all remember a moment when we thought we were specially favoured; we probably were not, but it felt like it.
Of course my family’s focus is now on ensuring that our Pa is alright. At least there’s no confusion over spellings on this one; it’s “Dad”. Dad’s struggling to get around a bit, at least that’s what he always tells me on the phone when I get a moment or two of conversation out of him. Arthritis has impacted his knees to the extent that stairs provide something of a problem but he’s managing. Dad would be the first to admit that his memory has never been top drawer and he’s becoming a little bit more forgetful, something that can be excused seeing as he passed his 87th birthday yesterday.
The latest reports from Birmingham indicate that Dad is coping reasonably well both practically and emotionally. I’m sure he’ll get round to reading this piece so I hope there’s nothing in it that might upset or offend him and that there are a few things that will make him laugh.
We’re thinking about hiring out Dad as a gardener, if anyone’s interested. It would have to be fairly local to him but he’ll do a good job for lower than the usual rates; even with Sue’s 15%. As Dad was also told that he has the liver and kidneys of a 55 year old (Dad keeps insisting 25 year old) by a doctor recently, we’re also offering a kidney for sale. Obviously the latter could well interfere with the former so think carefully before making your choice and contacting us!
Dad has been surrounded by his offspring now for nearly two months, which would be enough to make a nun blaspheme, whereas he has managed without getting too uptight. In the next few days he’ll be left to manage things by himself but we can be assured he’ll have lots of visitors and phone calls to keep him on his toes and ensure he has washed behind his ears.
I guess it’s time to change the subject because there is nothing that Mom, or Dad, would dislike more than being the entire centre of attention of this piece.