My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
A somwhat sad tale. My Father writing of the death of his Mother but also of the arrival of her dementia. Sad perhaps to the reader for the very nature of the written content. But sadder also because my Father and his parents were not close at all. You will already have read that my Father and myself and his Father and my Father didn’t share the typical Father/Son relationships that many share. We loved each other, but that was really it, nothing more, nothing terribly emotional.
The same was said for his Mother, when he left home, he couldn’t wait to escape her hands – she had wanted him to be a priest and he had wanted to distance himself from his parents as much as possible, and Australia some 12000 miles away was ample.
So reading this written by my Father piece about his Mother is slightly uncanny from my point of view. In his closing days my Father started to hallucinate and saw both of his parents in his back garden, he was terrified of seeing them again.
The Coming of Twilight
She had been christened Agnes, but was often called Patsy by her husband. I don’t know why, but it was Patsy as often as it was Agnes. Agnes was of average height, but seemed to grow smaller as she grew older, and was dwarfed by her two adult sons. She was thin, almost to the point of being skinny, and was seen as a bit angular and bony. She had pale blue eyes and her grey hair was kept short and frequently ‘permed’ as was the fashion of the day.
She had married, at the age of 23, a couple of years before the War and had four children, one born before the War, two during and one after peace had returned. Like so many of her generation, life had never been easy, and money often difficult to find. As a result, she had worked as a waitress most of her life, an occupation which had not much benefited her legs. Having once waited on the pre war Arsenal team, she became a lifelong supporter. Pat, her husband, was a Manchester United man, but they never came to blows about football. Nor anything else to the best of my knowledge.
Agnes was the smart one in the marriage and ran most aspects of her life with Pat. This easy going, simple man was content to hand over his wages to his wife, and receive his pocket money for the week. It worked and this determined lady, with positive views of her own on many subjects, was married for almost fifty years. Agnes enjoyed a whiskey and her cigarettes; Pat was tee total and a pipe smoker. Their four children all liked a drink but eventually all became non smokers.
Sometime in the early 1980’s Agnes started to forget things, little things mostly at the start, like the names of people and places or where she had put her keys. This was attributed to getting older and was regarded as harmless and amusingly eccentric. Eventually, unfortunately and perhaps inevitably, the occasional swirling mists of forgetfulness were overwhelmed as a great fog of disorder and confusion filled her troubled mind.
The proud and dignified woman, who had raised her family to successful adulthood, became someone who could no longer hold meaningful discussion with that family. She lived in a twilight world that others could not enter and from which she emerged less and less often. On one occasion while walking in the garden of her older son, she said, “People think I’m mad, you know, but I am just ill.”
Even in this alternative existence, she was capable of causing little cameos of comedy. Walking around her daughter’s house she remarked, “This isn’t a very good hotel.” Her daughter replied, “This is not a hotel, Mum.” This produced the classic reply, “You’re telling me.”
There was a black side to her condition as when she accused her husband, aged 77 of having an affair. Pat, already in pain was hurt by this, even knowing, as he did, his wife’s condition. In her ramblings she talked about a child who had died in 1942. None of the children had any previous knowledge of this event.
At last Agnes no longer recognised anyone, not even Pat. It is a cliché to say that death was a happy release. It was preceded by a stroke and the cause of death was pneumonia. A happy release indeed for this dignified lady. Agnes died in October 1985.
She was my mother.
Written By BM