15 August 2007


Last night I undertook the pub quiz at the local with three of the four most important women in my life - my wife, my daughter and my niece Katie who was on a flying visit from western Ireland. Suffice it to say, we didn't win.

Today I drove Katie over to Beverley where the fourth member of the quartet resides - my mother Doreen - born in 1921. She has been in a residential home there for two years now but she is really starting to fade away. Once a robust and hyperactive lover of life, she is now skin and bone, drifting in and out of her slumbers, lying in her bed, unable to walk, barely able to raise her baby beaker to her mouth, showing only a very dull interest in the various items of news we brought from the outer world.

And the best news of all was that Katie is pregnant at the age of thirty. Hurrah! It will mean so much to her and Seamus and to her parents Gloria and my brother Paul who was sixty last week. The shared secret of a new life coming should have filled my mum's eyes with delight but instead there was dull, spaced out emptiness. I can already see that the new baby will never meet its great grandmother. The baton of life will be exchanged.

Mum in December 2005 at the residential home.

As I descended the stairs, my heart was heavy. Outside a thin rain continued to fall. That was my mum that was - at least it was the vessel in which the real mum used to live - the mum who stayed up till the early hours knitting and sewing and weaving baskets, fashioning leather gloves and lampshades, the mum who could run like the wind and sing like an opera star, the mum who ironed huge piles of clothes and made rice puddings with a nutmeg skin, the mum who read me stories on her knee and yelled at us when we'd been bad, the mum who taught me to read and write when I was three years old and the mum who blushed with embarrassment when I made my first innocent enquiries about the processes of human reproduction, the mum who learnt German at night school and led the WAAF band in Delhi during World War Two.

I can feel it in my bones, she's going just as Katie's unborn foetus is reaching for life.


  1. YP, I've heard that said before - one goes, as another arrives. I hope for you that it isn't true.

  2. It's a hard truth YP. Here's to long life and your cluster of women.

  3. I feel for you, YP. I went through similar experiences and thoughts in 2001 when my mum was in a similar position.

  4. Very sad about your mum. I'm very lucky that mine is still very much on the ball.

    And great news about Katie!

  5. I'm thinking of you YP. I think the hardest part is the waiting for the inevitable. Chin up.

    Thanks for your kind words BTW.

  6. They always say that as one life leaves, a new one arrives. It's a harsh truth that I learned for myself. I hope it's not the same for you.

    Hang in there.

  7. M&M In this instance I fear it will be true but none of us go on forever. Mum is 86!
    MOPSA. It's strange then when death comes to families, it can sometimes give everybody else a lift - realising that each day is precious and life is a gift.
    JENNYTA. Thanks for your sympathy.
    ROB CLACK. Yeah, it's all about ups and downs.
    STEVE. Thanks. I know you know what this all means and how it feels.
    DAWN. Thanks for dropping by again. Your words are appreciated.

  8. is this a yorkshire bit of folk law, mother in law quoted it when son was born, & yes one arrived & another went, the circle continues,

  9. Bless mothers everywhere!!

    Hardest job in the world I reckon, and the lowest paid too!!

    Where would we be without 'em??


  10. tonkabella6:11 pm

    I have just come across your blog, whilst looking for something else. Your Mam by the sounds of it had a very full and happy life surrounded by family. I'm sure she has no regrets and enjoyed it all. I hope when she passes she passes like my Mam did, peacefully and quickly with no pain what so ever. I shall keep an eye on your blog, it's abit like home from home, I now live in the North East and miss Yorkshire and all it holds.

  11. Anonymous11:03 pm

    What moving words describing your Mum and the baton passing. Makes me shed tears even though I have neither met you or your Mum. She sounds like a wonderful person, and undoubtedly special to you and your family. If new baby can inherit a little of her qualities he/she will be a lucky being.

    Hope your Mum gets to pass the baton personally, and you can keep looking forwards.


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