30 August 2015

Orphan

Though I am an orphan of long standing, I sometimes experience a strong urge to speak with my parents. Dad died of a heart attack in 1979 and Mum died in an old folks' home in 2007. They were both good people and I loved them dearly as they loved me. It was mutual and natural but when I reached the lofty plateau of adulthood my relationships with them evolved beyond the loving condescension and forebearance that colours parenting in the early years. We were now much more equal and could talk together as sentient adults.

Dad was still alive when I began my teaching career. He was the headmaster of our local village primary school and enormously proud that one of his sons had followed in his professional footsteps. When the going got tough during my vocational baptism of fire at Dinnington Comprehensive School on Doe Quarry Lane, Dinnington, Dad was there to listen and to proffer advice. He gave me several useful tips even though there was a world of difference between a sweet country primary school and a secondary school in a tough mining village that accommodated over two thousand pupils.

He also taught me about growing vegetables and working with wood and he took me to my first ever Hull City football  match and he bought me my first ever bell bottom trousers and let me wear one of his old rugby shirts when I was a part-time hippy.

Mum's early journey through life was very difficult. At the age of eleven she was more or less abandoned by her hapless parents and had to walk four miles to my great grandparents' humble terraced house in Rawmarsh, holding her brother's hand. And there she lived till she was nineteen. Inspired by  a recruitment notice in 1940, she signed up with the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Airforce) and was soon posted to India where she met Dad who had left teaching the moment that war broke out to join the Royal Airforce as a meteorologist.

Mum was always on my side. No shrinking violet, she had a combative spirit. It is sometimes said that the English characteristically hide their true feelings, living in a nether world of coded messages and politeness. But that was never true of Mum. Though enormously kind, when anybody crossed her or behaved stupidly or arrogantly they met her unbridled wrath like a full broadside from "HMS Victory". She said what she meant and meant what she said.

She often said that when I was three years old I came downstairs one evening and said "Mummy can you teach me to read?" I sat on her knee for an hour or so and she taught me the rudiments of reading. After that I hardly needed any further instruction. Before going to school I could read quite fluently and was way ahead of my five year old peers when I finally joined Miss Readhead's infant class. So much for the car sticker - "If you can read this thank a teacher"!

As an adult, I could talk to Mum about relationships, politics, injustice, cooking, antiques, wallpapering, village matters, memories and our shared loathing of Margaret Thatcher and all that she stood for. When times were tough she was there at the end of the phone (Mum not Thatcher!) or in person  to listen and reply. She was a very empathetic person and it was so nice to know she was there for me.

It's not easy being an orphan. Though it is thirty six years since Dad died and eight years since Mum left us, if I close my eyes I can still hear the sound of their voices. But there is no conversation any more. There are things I want to say to them both but the words seem to shrivel inside me and turn to dust. It is so frustrating and so unfair.

31 comments:

  1. Neil, this was a touching read. My parents are both alive and (relatively) well, and my sister and I know how lucky we are in that respect. So many of my friends, former classmates and colleagues who are my age have already lost one or both parents, or are facing very difficult decisions about how and where to care for them.
    RJ's father is currently in hospital and it is not improbable that he will die there. He is the same age as my Dad. So, your post has a special poignancy for me right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I envy you Meike because your mother and father are still here in the land of the living. Cherish them - as I know you already do - and ask any questions you may still have. If there are family photos from long ago, sit with your parents and label the pictures so that you know who is who and what happened when.

      Delete
  2. Without trying to diminish the grief you still feel for your parents, technically an orphan is a child without parents. Perhaps that distinction will help you in your grief YP. I lost my Dad at 14. I won't elaborate how traumatic that was for me ~ this is your blog post. I know as an adult I am much more prepared for my Mother's death than I was at 14 ~ but I dare say she will outlive us all. Big hugs x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I am a child without parents Carol.
      See this from "The Age":-
      http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/09/07/1062901937647.html?from=storyrhs

      To lose a parent at 14 must be awful and if I might be so bold, an event that must have lasting reverberations for the loser.

      Delete
  3. I always meant to ask my mom why she wanted children when my dad was 27 years older than she was. There had to be the thought that she might have to raise these children on her own some day. I was never able to get up enough nerve to ask her those questions.

    When I became the "keeper of the keys" after she died in 1999, I became privy to information which concluded that it was not she who desired children, but my dad. Which explains a lot about what kind of childhood I had with my mom after my dad died when I was nine years old. I was the middle child and, honestly, the one that she really did not want to have. As a result, .....well, you can guess the rest. But, she did persevere and did raise three children to adulthood. And, I loved her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You look back and you see that you had your chances to ask those niggling questions that now remain unanswered. Saying we have to move on and look to the future is trite advice. Human beings always have one foot rooted in the past. Did she tell you she didn't want you or was this just your deduction?

      Delete
    2. She did not tell me, per se. I always felt it and then after had death had proof in letters and documents.

      Delete
    3. I find that confirmation disturbing MT. So many babies are born "accidentally" and families make the most of the situation. Usually their initial displeasure turns to happiness when the newborn makes its first helpless cries and the "accident" is forgotten forever. I bet you made sure that your own children knew beyond doubt that they were wanted and loved.

      Delete
  4. Your parents sound wonderful, as were mine. My mom died in 1971, way too young and my dad in 2007. They can never be replaced; I live in hope to see them in heaven :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you are an orphan too Terra! Maybe we should form an orphans society, In my view of life and death the only place I will ever "see" my parents again is in my memory and in photographs

      Delete
  5. An emotive post, Yorkie...a wonderful expression of your thoughts and of your love for your parents.

    They're are always with you....these days it's just a one-sided conversation, that's all. :)

    I've been an orphan since 1976. My mother passed away in 1974, and my Nana, two years later. My late brother passed away in 1998. Our father never played a role in our lives; we never knew him. Mum and Nana raised my brother Graham and me...and those two women did a damn good job. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They must have taught you to always have the last word Lee!

      Delete
  6. A very poignant post Yorkie, thank you. However old you are when you lose both patents you are an orphan. I remember when my grandmother died and my mother on her 60s said to me 'I am an orphan now', well I tear up just writing that . My father died from a massive heart attack when I was 10 and my sister 13. We were alone with him when he died . Your parents sound lovely and I loved reading about your relationship with your parents . I am a mother of three boys and my heart responds very much to this post . Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! To be alone with your dying father at ten years old! That is an awfully heavy load to carry through life Leishy! Thanks, as usual, for calling by this weird blog of mine.

      Delete
    2. Yorkie I only really recognised the trauma of this recently , bizarrely as I am a Social Worker! I love your blog and your sense of humour and you write so well .

      Delete
    3. You can be my social worker any time Leishy!

      Delete
    4. Thanks Yorkie, I would be happy to be .

      Delete
  7. Damn auto correct , first sentence was meant to say parents not patents.....

    ReplyDelete
  8. We too had parents who loved us and were very very good to and for us and whom we loved and respected in return. Indeed so much of what you said resonated with me. I am sitting here late at night with tears streaming down my face.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are a true human being Graham.

      Delete
  9. Great tribute to your parents. You did find words to pass on. Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday and he would be 103. He died in 2008.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell, your Dad had a long life and you are heading down the same track Red! You have a quarter of a century left in you/ I wish that I could say the same but I know my family history.

      Delete
  10. Your post struck a chord in many of us YP. As you know I still have both my parents. Both 93 and life is becoming a struggle for them. They will have been married for 70 years next year and are still very lovie dovie , always remembering all sorts of anniversaries. I very much fear the future when one leaves the other behind and how they'll cope on their own, the depend on eachother so much and I can only imagine the huge gap they will leave in my life. ( Now you've made me cry !!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My face is green with envy that you have had your parents so long Helen. Such a lovely thing. Your tears prove that you are aware of your good fortune and I am sure that you cherish every moment with your Mum and Dad.

      Delete
  11. Oh dear....I'm sorry you're missing your parents. It makes me sad for you. They sound like wonderful people, and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak---they raised a good son!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Proof is in the pudding! Ha! That is very droll Jennifer! Thank you for your nice comment.

      Delete
  12. I could barely get through this post Pud, my mum passed away three weeks ago, and in reading your words, it has just hit home to me.....
    Dad long gone, and now mum too, yes, I join you in your orphan club sadly :(
    ~Jo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear, your feeling of loss must be very raw Jo. Welcome to the orphan club but there are no social events just the sense that other adults have experienced these farewell forever feelings. I am sending you a big Yorkshire hug by FedEx.

      Delete
  13. I noticed something too about this topic on another blog.Amazingly, your linear perspective onto it is diametrically Intelluxopposite to what I just read before. May I post part of this on my page if I post a mention of the this site?http://www.healthcaresups.com/intellux/

    ReplyDelete
  14. It is really rare to discover a professional in whom you will surely have some trust. In the world in the present day, nobody truly cares about showing others the solution in this subjecttopic. Intellux How fortuitous I am to have actually found a wonderful web site as this. It is really people like you exactly who make a genuine difference in this world through the thoughts they discuss.http://www.supplements4help.com/intellux/

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.