Monday, 22 October 2007


Before speaking about my dad I felt it important to discuss the family goings on in order that the whole journey makes sense, not only to you but to me.

By now I am 5 and a half, at school and still an only child, it was not sensible for my mother to have considered another child while we were in our one bedroom flat, moving to our 2 bedroom house when I was 3 wasn't to bad for timing I don't suppose, but there was a house to furnish/carpet and only one wage, but of course that one wage covered drinking costs first. I believe my father gave my mother £10 a week and she would have received family allowance, all this money (ha ha) had to pay rent and rates and food etc etc. granny was always good she bought me clothes and shoes. Having granny stay with us for months probably didn't do my parents love life much good either. My mum was waiting for the right time to consider having another child, always hoping I'm sure that when my father promised to 'be good' that one day he would and she would have that other child. At the age of 32, when I was 7 she thought she had accidentally fallen pregnant as it certainly wasn't planned, however, it turned out to be an early menopause, the decision was taken from her hands, so an only child I have stayed.

Granny gave us Uncle Berts car, as she couldn't drive, I remember it well, it was a red Renault 5 and very new. My father took it to the pub and it lay in the pub car park, I assume too he drove it back up the road, we only stayed a 10 minute walk from the pub, so gran took the car back and sold it. I don't remember much about it but I remember feeling the embarrassment, whether I felt this for my mother or I was embarrassed I'm not sure. I've got a feeling she sold the car and gave the money to my mum. We lived in a brand new house that had a gas fire and central heating downstairs, there were no radiators upstairs? We had a plug in Dimplex radiator which would heat my room and then be moved into mum and dad's room. My mum used the money to install central heating upstairs.

I have no strong recollections between Xmas 1977 until I was about 8, whether this means everything was rosy I'm not sure.

My dad had a few jobs, there was the blue transit van job, whatever that might have been? Then there was a green van - Go Plant was the name on the van. He drove a road sweeper but was found 'outside his territory' whatever that meant and was given his books. He was probably found in the pub. He then worked for a local haulage company, he was their mechanic. He fell out with the owner and either left or was given the sack. He was never stuck for a job though because he was a great mechanic. Those were the days wages came in brown packets, dad would rip the wage slip into minute pieces so that my mother did not know how much money he got paid. He did always go to work, I have no idea what time he finished work because he went straight to the pub, probably no later than 4.30, the pubs closed at 11, so he would come home at about 11.20 and then heat up his dinner which had been left in the pot for him. He often worked a Saturday morning, til 12 and always came home at 3, why 3? because the pubs closed between 3pm and 6pm on a Saturday and a Sunday. He always sat into the corner of the couch with his smelly feet resting on the underneath of the coffee table, he always had an aroma of oil, mixed with stale beer, but that was just dad. I would nestle in to the corner with him, his arm around my shoulder and we would watch the wrestling. Easy Easy we would chant at Big Daddy, this was real wrestling, none of the WWE nonsense we have on the TV these days. We would have our family dinner and he would shower, the aromas of the day all washed away and exchanged for Old Spice aftershave. Back to the pub for 6, leaving a disappointed little girl wishing he would stay home, occasionally he would come home at 3pm with some Tenants lager, 4 bottles of Babysham for my mum and a can of coke for me and we would have a night in, I occasionally got a little sip of the Babysham. But this was rare. Although I was disappointed it really didn't occur to me to question his going to the pub, as I've said before I thought this was a mans way. I do remember if he came home unexpected I was so pleased to see him.

My mum tried to keep things normal for me, I was not allowed to have friends into play at the weekend when dad was due home, simply because my mum was embarrassed, she didn't want parents of other children coming in with my dad there being making a fool of himself. He would not have been rude or argumentative in front of other people, in fact most people thought he was great fun. There were plenty of heated arguments but they mainly happened during the night, obviously because my dad wasn't in any other time. There was screaming and shouting on both sides, I would go downstairs, I'm not sure how I felt, I was frightened by the shouting, upset because my mum was upset, as soon as I was wakened by shouting I would run down stairs, open the living room door and it would stop my dad used to always say 'Hello doll' as if everything was normal, I would immediately go to my mum who would be red faced with crying, my dad would put his arms out to offer a cuddle and reassure me, it's ok, but I knew it was not, I could sense it from my mum. I wonder how he felt as I passed his offer and went to comfort my mum, she needed me. There would be no more shouting if I had been up. I was never ever frightened of my dad, I was frightened by his shouting towards my mother I did not like it. My mother had every reason to be angry with my father, he kept her short of money while he drunk the rest, he was of no help in the house or with me. She started going to a ladies night with some of the neighbours and he came home the first few weeks to look after me and let her go but after that he would just not come home, she would be all ready in anticipation and he just didn't come home, she made her excuses and never went again. My mother has a temper, takes it from her father and sometimes she would not let up, she would push and push until she got a reaction, he would ignore her questions 'one night you're asked to come home, one night' if you want to push my mothers buttons ignore her! I remember one night she slapped him, I was there, but he slapped her back. I don't think she expected that. My dad would get up in the morning and wonder why we were ignoring him, he really didn't know, you put it down to drink. For years my mother used to say 'you're loopy' and she meant it, she was convinced he had a mental health issue. They would have these arguments and then dad would come home every night after work, we had a normal life, it would last for a few weeks and then he would go to the pub one night, then two.......

Gran decided she wanted to move back nearer us and bought a great flat about 20 minutes drive away, it was huge, it had a very formal sitting room, gran furnished it with a self coloured cream carpet, I would lie on my back and make an angel on this carpet, there was a walk in cupboard in this room all shelved, grans jewellery box, photo's stored, lots to keep a little girl amused. The bathroom was very long, there was a cupboard on the left as you entered, then the wash hand basin and then the bath, a huge bath, with a pulley above it, the ceilings so high you could have and bath and have your washing hanging up, the toilet was straight ahead, felt like you walked for miles to get there, encountering a step up half way, it was like heading for the throne, quite literally. Then there was the other room, I've gone blank, I have no idea what we called it, probably the living room, this was the hub of the flat, dining table as you entered, a partitioned off corner behind the dining table which was the kitchen, it was tiny. To the right of the room where 2 chairs, placed at either side of the fire and if you swivelled right again you would see the bed recess or hole in the wall bed, my gran used to call it, this was the bedroom, dining room, living room and kitchen in the corner room. The bed recess was the exact size of a single mattress, 3 walls shaped around the mattress and a lower ceiling, my gran had a cane curtain hung at one end of the recess to separate it off from the room, it was also partly separated by one of the chairs. I played in the recess for hours, it was dark, private and cosy. When I stayed my gran slept in the fold-up bed in this room and I slept in the bed recess. She would be up early, dressed have the bed away and potter about, I would be cosy, drifting in and out of sleep, safe in the knowledge she was there. Apart from the security of a loving granny it was a safe flat. It was a tenement flat on the first floor, it had a half glass panelled door and then storm doors, one storm door always lay open during the day, you knew you were in for the night when the storm doors were locked, one door bolted into the ground and then into the solid panel above, the other had a huge solid, I was going to call it a bolt, but it was a long silver, flat piece of metal with groves cut from it, that had the most unusual shaped key to open it from the outside, the key wasn't really a key, it was equivalent to what I know now as an Allan Key, this 'key' slid though the keyhole and latched onto the groves in the long silver piece of metal thingy, turning the key to slide it open or closed, there were other 2 other locks, a Yale lock and a mortise lock. Safe. Absolutely. In all senses.

I'm doing a bit of self analysis now. I want to talk about my dad, but I want to sort out everything. At this stage in my life, that is the 5-14 yrs, there isn't much to say about dad, he went to the pub every night, so that's covered, but I have to talk about the memories, the things that bring joy to my heart and go through it rationally, the important things. I will get to dad, but gran played such a major part in my life and she features so strongly in these early days. I feel bad today as she is in a nursing home, with severe dementia and doesn't even know who I am anymore, I haven't been to see her since June, I'm not making excuses but I've worked all summer with the uniforms, hubby has been on night shift and takes car and works at the weekends, I don't take kids to see her anymore as it gives her no pleasure and makes her unsettled, they don't understand dementia and make fun of her unintentionally as they were so used to what she was like before very on the ball and funny and my daughter was the absolute be all and end all in her life. This makes me cry and I am because I have lost my granny, she took TB and pneumonia in May 2005, she was still my granny then. We lost her about 12-18 months ago when she became institutionalised in the home. She knows only her daughter now. I was going to visit on Sunday as hubby now has a works van, mum was going to watch the kids and I was so unwell I couldn't go. I will go on Wednesday.

My gran is 85 years old I miss her, if anything was to happen to her and I haven't been to see her, would she forgive me, would she know. I have been selfish. I feel ashamed and upset. This can only be therapeutic I have just cried buckets for the last 30 mins.


Suzy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your gran. She certainly seemed to be the matriarch of your family.
Those special times you spent with her are embedded deep in her heart and although the dementia has taken hold, trust that she adored you and continue to hold you in her heart.
Dementia can take away the memories, but not love, security and happiness you had together.

Self employed mum said...

Thanks Suzy, very nicely put. x

Frog in the Field said...

I share so many of your memories, your writing is very moving and intensely gripping.
My father went to the pub every night, the rows, so much is the same, I thought we were the only ones! I feel glad in one way that someone else would understand yet saddened that some-one else has gone through it.
SEM, my loving Grandmother is 92 and I cannot go and see her because she has dementia and I can't face it.
The last time I visited was last summer, she was very happy to see me and knew who I was, it was a fantastic last memory if you like. I don't want it spoiled.
I've spoken to her daughters about it and they are very understanding about it. She know longer would know if I saw her or not.
Your Grandmother would not mind in the slightest that you haven't been and she passed away, you are the one who she adored and was adored back. Snuggling down with your grand-daughter every night must have been wonderful and seeing your children grow and you succeed in life will have reassured her and given her huge pleasure.
Stop beating yourself up, you've been a fantastic grand-daughter. Just follow her terrific example with your family.
I'm in tears now!

Self employed mum said...

Hi Frog, thanks you sooooo much, it is nice to know you are not the only one, that's true. I am finding it difficult because I haven't been for so long to go and see my granny, but I am going tonight and I know I'll find it upsetting, she looks at me so hard, I see her trying to figure out who I am, I sound so like my mother it makes her confused. But at the same time I feel she was so good to me over the years, I can't just not go because it upsets me. There is also only my mum who goes to see her, if I go it gives my mum a break xx I'm glad I write moving and intensely gripping posts, it's not intentional, it just comes from the heart. Nice to see you, thanks for coming over.

Manic Mother Of Five said...

Hi honey. You must be exhausted emotionally. Don't feel guilty about your gran - if she needed a kidney you'd be there in the queue getting tested but dementia is a horrible illness and there is nothing you can do to help her. My mum and I were discussing it only last night, looking at the long term for our family. You gran would tut and tell you to look after YOUR children if she knew how you have churned yourself up. Chin up sweeite. Keep going xxxx

Self employed mum said...

Hi MMOF thank you. You are all so right and it's so nice of everyone to pop over. I am doing this for me but it's nice to know there are fellow bloggers there to support me on the way. x

Anonymous said...

Obviously your granny has always been the security in your life. Dimentia is only an illness of the physical mind and body. Your granny's soul will still be very much on a level with your own, take comfort from knowing that. It doesn't matter that you haven't seen her since June. She knows (even now) that you love her and hold beautiful memories of your childhood. It is hard to see someone you have loved so very much, suffering from a mental illness. I went through that with my own Nana and just like you, I didn't go to see her for months before she passed. Now, however, she is fine. She visits me and has reassured me that she understands my reasons, always loved me and will go on loving me as she watches me from her new life.

I wonder if you wanted desperately to put your dad on a pedestal, you could see how much he loved you in those childhood days. And he did. It's always natural to protect our mothers when witnessing a heated argument between parents, yet the pedestal emotion will never leave you.

If you have read any of my previous blogs about my own father, you will see how deeply I respect him, he passed in 2001. I had him on a pedestal all my life and I still do.

I look forward to your next instalment. Take care and don't be too down about your Granny. She will understand.

Love Crystal xxx

dgibbs said...

Just because you can't remember a time in your life doesn't always mean it's because everything was rosy. It could be the other way round.

I don't know how in the world your mother got the family by on so little money! I'm sure your Gran was a lot of help.

As you have said your Gran is not really with you anymore due to the dementia and she only reconizes your mother, would the visit be for her or you?

And am sure when she passes she will be more than understanding.

Casdok said...

Grandmothers are special.
And they know...

Self employed mum said...

Hi Crystal, you've hit the nail on the head, my granny was and always has been the security, I feel better after my good cry the other night and I am just back from visiting her tonight, she has not deteriorated in the last 4 months and she was quite chatty, not sure what she was chatting about but sometimes she hardly responds, I know she will come to me when she dies and I wait to have my old granny back.

I know my dad had an addiction and my issue is he couldn't beat it - even for me!

I will certainly go back and have a look about your dad.

thanks again x

Self employed mum said...

Hi Dgibbs, I know, if it wasn't for my gran I don't know how we would have managed and that's another issue. The money was to help keep his daughter!

I'm not sure the visit does her any good, but I can't be sure so I will continue for me and my mum.

Nice to see you. x

Self employed mum said...

Hi Casdok, you are so right, I had 33 bloody brilliant years with her and both my kids got to spend time with her, for that I am grateful.

Thanks for coming over. x