Remembering Mum and Dad and their Role in my Life; A Brief History of Me. (My 100th Page on HubPages)
In 2012 I lost my father. And ten years before this, I lost my mother. Most peoples' lives are closely shaped by their relationship with their parents, but mine more so than most. It would therefore seem appropriate to write something in their memory. It is not their life story - just a few personal reminiscences loosely based upon reflections I gave at their funerals; reflections which capture the essence of the relationship I had with them.
The page also covers how my life has developed through all the years in their company and since losing them. Forgive my self-indulgence here, but this page marks a special landmark occasion for me - this is my 100th web page on the HubPages site.
Everyones' experiences of life and family relationships are different, so there may not be very much of value in these reminiscences for others. Maybe there will be. But here they are for the record, because I wanted to write them down. Read if you wish.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF MY PARENTS' BEFORE ME, AND HOW I CAME TO BE
My father was born in South Wales on the 7th February 1926, and brought up in the town of Neath in the County of Glamorgan. This was a traditional coal mining town, and he was the son of a miner. He had one younger sister, Joan. Then three years later on 13th December 1929, my mother was born in Trimulgherry, a suburb of the City of Secunderabad in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. Her family was in India at the time because her father was serving in the British army as a military policeman. My mother was the second of five daughters.
My knowledge of the early years of either parent is sadly too limited, and will perhaps never now be acquired, but I do know that as a child my father attended the Grammar School in Neath and with good grades and a developing interest in engineering, he later studied courses in Engineering Science and subjects such as Applied Mechanics, Mathematics and Machine Design at Swansea Technical College. He was on his way to becoming a qualified Instruments Engineer. By the late 1940s or early 50s, and following a brief spell working in Persia, he was taken on by the UK Atomic Energy Authority in their nuclear fuels site in Preston in Northern England. My mother meanwhile, had left India when her father's military posting came to an end, and she then spent time growing up on the lovely Scottish Isle of Skye. She later trained in secretarial skills, and I believe that after the family had moved once again back to mainland Britain, she acquired a job as a typist - working at the Atomic Energy Authority in Preston. And so they met.
How the relationship developed, I do not know, but my parents were married on 22nd November 1951 at Wokingham in the County of Berkshire. In the early 1950s my father began work as an engineer in a petroleum company which involved uprooting from England and living briefly on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. By this stage my mother had given birth to a daughter, Christine, and whilst living in Trinidad the family was increased with the birth of two sons; the first of these was my brother David, and the second was yours truly. Sadly (given my later love of nature) the family would leave the exotic tropical islands of the West Indies for good when I was just one year old, primarily because education was becoming an important consideration for my older siblings, and the education in Britain was fundamentally better at this time. We sailed back to England on an oil tanker, and settled soon afterwards in a suburb just north west of London.
And it was sometime soon after this, that my first recollections of life begin.
MY FATHER'S ROLE IN THE LIFE OF THE FAMILY
My father's career progressed after we moved back to England. He worked at various times in several electronics companies - British and American - ultimately assuming the position of Sales Director in an American company based in New York State - 'Rochester Instrument Systems' - which sold electronics equipment worldwide. In this and in other capacities he travelled widely, notably spending time in America, in India, in South-East Asia, and Eastern Europe. (He was in Czechoslovakia at the time of the abortive anti-Soviet uprising in 1968). My father was indisputably bright. Indeed, recalling some of his opinions and comments on news events, financial affairs and other matters, and also his handling of his many business activities, I maintain to this day that in his prime he was probably the most perceptive person I have ever met. That is not a biased opinion - I am objective and I can recognise faults as well as virtues in my parents. But in the case of my father, intellect was not an area in which he was found wanting. Unfortunately my father's career meant that he commuted long distances to work, and his overseas travels meant that he also spent much time away from the family. And when not at work, his hobbies and interests were few. D.I.Y was a forte, and he enjoyed watching sport, but little else of note.
MY MOTHER'S ROLE IN THE LIFE OF THE FAMILY
My parents' marriage was very much a traditional one of the time, in the sense that it was my father who went out to work and concerned himself with the bread winning. My mother's role was that of housewife, staying at home throughout all of the childrens' younger years. Her role as she saw it was to provide meals, keep the house clean, and generally look after us. In this she worked tirelessly, seemingly spending far more time in the kitchen than relaxing or enjoying herself. This applied throughout our childhood, and later on in her role as grandmother to my brother's two young children. She was the gel which would hold the family together when dad was so often away on business, and when the children - and later the grandchildren - were young. it seemed she lived her whole life without personal ambition, drive, or desire to develop a career. Her only genuine interests other than the needs of the family were knitting and gardening.
And she doted on my father. Sadly my father was much less 'touchy-feely' and he couldn't always give the obvious affection she would have craved. About a week after she died, dad uttered one sentence to me one day - 'I think I was the luckiest man alive' (to have her) - it's not the kind of sentiment I'd ever heard him express when she was alive, but I hope he did at least in private to her.
MY LIFE WITH MY PARENTS: A PECULIAR HISTORY
I'd say my life has been oddly normal or boringly different. To explain the oxymoron, I've done nothing of great note in my life, and yet some aspects of the way I have lived have been less than conventional.
I developed an intense shyness in my early teens. Although the reasons are not entirely clear even to me, I had become a child who rarely ventured far from the home on days away from school. It didn't help that we lived some distance from my school and my school friends so it wasn't so easy to visit their houses. I stayed alone. My nature was also that I wasn't into the normal kinds of social activities which appealed to others - I wasn't into pop music and I never liked social crowds, and I never developed a taste for alcohol - almost a pre-requisite in that era at a teenage social gathering. Instead I was quite content to engross myself in solitary activities such as reading or watching television or following my own personal hobbies. I lived in my own little world with my parents. My sister and brother would soon leave home, but I would stay.
I did head off in due course to the College of Swansea in the University of Wales to undertake an Honours Degree in Zoology and Botany, but when that was done, it was back to the family home that I headed. I had failed to develop close friendships which lasted beyond the university years, and I failed for various reasons to find a career in the fields in which I had studied. I had also failed to find a girlfriend, hanging out as I had with just a select few friends in the university common rooms. I blamed shyness for that.
So I was back to living with my parents, and that was the way it stayed throughout my 20s and even for most of my 30s. The reasons were threefold:
- It was practical. I was not earning much money and it was cheaper and hassle free to stay at home.
- It suited my nature. It saved me from having to make life-changing decisions, such as buying my own house and generally having to look after myself - not easy for someone who was rapidly developing an acute indecisiveness to go with the introvertedness.
- It became important for the family. Circumstances which I cannot go into meant that it was essential for me to stay with my parents in the 1980s during what was a difficult period for them. I am proud that I did so.
Living all this time at home meant the relationship with my parents was becoming unusually close, and I relied on them so much for everything. The downsides to this lifestyle were that I could find neither the courage nor the motivation to go out and meet people - the introvertedness and the indecisiveness just grew, and with it so did the inability to lead an ordinary social life. Career-wise, I initially took employment with a pest control company, but when this proved dull and uninspiring, and I couldn't find an alternative job which satisfied, I chose to do my own thing and open a small pet and garden supplies shop, in which my mother worked with me as unpaid voluntary labour. Even so, income was not good, and not enough to truly support myself long term. I was in a depressed rut, and things had to change.
I decided to enrol in a second degree course - this time in radiotherapy, which was a vocational course with a guaranteed career and a decent income at the end of it. I also undertook a mental aptitude test run by Mensa - I knew I was quite good at solving logic problems and I felt that membership of such an organisation (whilst limited in its true significance) could only help to boost my own self confidence and might stand me in good stead in any future job applications. And now some aspects of my life were to gradually improve. The degree course led to a secure job as a therapeutic radiographer at Southend Hospital in Essex. At least equally importantly, the worst aspects of shyness began to recede - the combination of daily interaction with customers when I was running my shop, followed by my second bout of student life, and then a hospital career treating patients as part of a team of radiographers, all meant that I became more and more used to speaking to people. At the age of nearly 40, I began to acquire a new set of friends and the beginnings of a social life.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY MOTHER
Throughout my adult life until the turn of the new millennium, I'd never really settled anywhere with a home or a family of my own, and because of that, no matter where I happened to be living or working during the week, I nearly always returned home to my parents at the weekends, on special occasions and on holidays. And when I was driving home, I knew that my mother would invariably be looking out for me, and worrying about whether I'd arrive safely. And when I did arrive, she would almost always make sure she got to the door to open it for me, to greet me. The kettle would most probably be on the boil, and if it was evening, dinner would soon be cooking.
That was typical of mum. Throughout her life, her all consuming interest was her family. She devoted herself 100%, to being a wife, mother and a gran, looking after us as best she could, and worrying about us, and it was through this care that she showed her love. I'm not sure my mother ever really thought about her future, or even about our future. All she wanted was to perform the 'duties' of a housewife, look after us, and for us all to be happy.
And I think that because of my unusual circumstances, she was especially close to me. Some time after she died, my father was going through the bedroom drawers when he found buried under some of her clothing a short letter. It was a letter in which she made a request on my behalf. She said in the letter that she believed I had sacrificed so much for her (by staying in the family home at a time when she felt in need of company). But of course the truth is she had sacrificed much more - her own personal life for my sake and for my father's sake. The letter is undoubtedly one of my most treasured possessions.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY FATHER
People show their feelings in different ways. Dad maybe didn't always find it easy to show his feelings. He wasn't at all sentimental, and wasn't given to great shows of affection. He left that to my mother. For most of his life, he found it easier to show he cared in the ways in which he felt comfortable, with helpful advice, in practical ways, and in generous financial ways.
After he was widowed in 2002 and his health and physical abilities began to seriously decline with the onset of Parkinson's Disease and associated ailments of old age, so my relationship with my father began to change, and in some ways it was for the better. As his dependency on me became more significant than my dependency upon him, so he began to show his feelings in non-practical ways - more human ways - and as a result he and I were undoubtedly closer in the final ten years than in all the previous forty. We probably spoke more too because we talked daily on the telephone.
Towards the end, he moved into a care home, which was not something he’d ever wanted to do before. But he accepted his lot. His final year was not easy to cope with, with many difficult and depressing aspects, but the one up-side was the way in which perhaps we became closer than ever. He now needed me for companionship every weekend, and even though he could no longer offer advice as he once did, I still felt a need for him as the only person who really depended upon me. Whenever I left him, it was always with very mixed feelings. At times I’ll admit everything seemed so stressful that I just wanted to get away and back to my home where I could relax. But when I did leave I’d immediately feel guilty because he would always insist - despite his frailty - on trying to stand to watch me leave through the window. He’d have to wedge himself between his chair and a chest of drawers, and I had to hurry to my car and drive off quickly so he wouldn't have to stand too long. As I drove away he would be watching and feebly waving. In earlier, better years, he’d never normally have even bothered coming to the door to say goodbye. But now he was making considerable effort and risking a fall, just to wave to me.
And that’s probably actually how I’d like to remember him best - he wasn't at his physical best, but he was showing his true feelings and affection more than he ever had before. As far as I was concerned, whether it was offering advice or helping in practical ways, or whether it was wanting to talk on the phone every evening or just trying to wave goodbye - he cared a lot more than he ever liked to make apparent.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
Circumstances make for a special relationship. My circumstances, and those of my parents, led to a closeness and dependency which no one other than the three of us would totally understand. Now I am alone with that understanding. With my mother's death, some family communication ended. When my father died, sentiments left largely unexpressed came to the fore, leading to problems between some members of the family. I will not say more, but the relationship was a special one which could not really be appreciated by anyone who was not there at the time.
Relationships were not perfect, and there are of course regrets - some real and some the natural inevitability of things left undone or unsaid at the time of death. My extra close relationship with my parents shaped my life and in some ways handicapped my life. but I would not have it any other way. They could not have done more for me.
THE PHASES OF MY LIFE
My life has passed through three significant phases - but not the traditional and natural changes of childhood, youthful adulthood and then settlement into life with a family of my own. My significant phases have all been related to my parents.
The First Phase: The first phase was by far the longest. All of my life until the age of 45 had been one of close association with my parents. Through all this time I remained lacking in the maturity, self-confidence or motivation to really follow my own star, pursue my ambitions, or make my mark. I was trapped in a mind set which eschewed risk and change. I allowed the world to just carry on spinning and revolving while carrying me with it, just living with whatever life threw at me; hoping that life would treat me well, but doing nothing to ensure that it would.
The Second Phase: With the death of my mother and the deteriorating health of my father things changed, and I entered the second phase of my life. I began to realise that I could no longer rely on my father to help me. Quite the opposite. I was moving into the position whereby I would have to help him. I felt ill-equipped to do that and perhaps unwisely preferred to leave as much as possible of that to others in the family. The loss of my mother coincided with another major change in my life - I had always lived with my parents, or else in student or work-provided accommodation, but now at the age of 45 I was moving into a home of my own, and that of course brought with it new responsibilities, and also financial concerns for the first time in my life. I also realised, 20 years too late, that life was passing me by, and there was a need to get out, and live a normal adult life.
I began exploring the world, making good use of my vacations to visit foreign lands. I also began to feel the need to enjoy life in other ways. I'd long held extravagant ambitions to achieve so much in my life, but absolutely no confidence to go out and pursue them. One by one, age and practicalities had led to the abandonment of these ambitions, until just one remained - creative writing. One can do that at any age. So I began to write. And lastly I also decided it was time to actively try to have someone else in my life; a girlfriend. I took the only route to finding a girlfriend which I felt was still open to me - Internet dating. However, home and family circumstances were still leading to low level depression, and with that depression came a lack of motivation. At the very time I was feeling the need to get on with my life, I couldn't motivate myself to anything much more than a half-hearted effort.
The Third Phase: The third phase began with the death of my father. Now there was no one truly close to me. Family and estate issues led to disputes and the breakdown of some of the family relationships. Others, I still have a good relationship with, but rarely see. Simultaneously I received a lot of warmth from people at work, but these are people with their own families and lives to lead. The net result is that I felt more alone than ever.
TODAY - JUNE 2013
I am now free to do entirely as I wish. I have the worries and the requirements to make decisions which go with freedom and personal responsibility, but I also have the opportunities. My weekends are not tied to anyone - they are mine to do with as I will. I am like a bird who has lived its life in a cage, dependent on others to feed it. Then one day the cage door is left open, and the bird is free to fly. But does it do so? Not at first. Fear of the great outside world is not easy to overcome. It takes a bit of time to build up courage to spread one's wings and explore. Slowly but surely the urge to move beyond the confines of the cage overcomes the fear.
My life has been full of contradictions. There has been some self-confidence about my capabilities and yet huge fears of failure in everything I do. There has been a desire to move on with my life and yet an inability to make decisions to bring about change. And there has been a desire for a healthy social life and yet a lack of the social skills to achieve this. But now I am alone in England and there has to be change in all these areas, and that is what I've been trying to achieve.
In the past few years I have developed my writing on the HubPages website, yet without the confidence to venture further out into the big wide world of professional writing. Perhaps that will happen in the future. And I have also developed a habit of acquiring girlfriends. No, don't take that too seriously, but first on a holiday in Cuba and then again in Thailand as a result of Internet dating, I have found myself in my first ever serious relationships. This article is not about that aspect of my life, but suffice it to say that such is their convoluted nature that any of these relationships could form the basis of a movie melodrama. And one of these girls - despite the many obstacles I've put in place - still wants to be with me. Alisa's lifestyle is the subject of another page (A Westerner in a Thai Village) and may be the subject of some future pages as things develop. I'm not sure my parents would have totally approved of the way this has come about, but they would certainly and happily approve if the end result is my happiness.
THE VISIT OF A GIRLFRIEND
At the time of publication, my girlfriend Alisa has acquired a visa to visit England, and as I conclude and publish this 100th page of mine, she is preparing to spend several months with me. This visit is all-important. It is about discovering whether she can adapt to a different culture, whether she can adapt to life away from her family and friends, and whether she and I can really be happy together in an environment very different from that in which we meet in Thailand. It's about whether two people who are seemingly mismatched in so many ways, can truly love and be happy together. We will try so hard to make it work. And the motivation is there to make it work. But whether or not it works, I feel I am entering the fourth phase of my life.
THE FUTURE - A ROAD WITHOUT SIGNPOSTS
The future is a road without signposts. We walk down the road perhaps with purpose or perhaps with great caution. Some do not walk, but prefer to drive without due care and attention - not knowing what lies around the next bend or beyond the next hill. Sometimes it will be calm and uneventful, whilst other times the road will be laden with potholes and hazards. We just take the route which we believe is best for us and hope it leads us where we want to go. My particular road may have as its destination depression, loneliness and an intense sensation of a life wasted. Or it may conclude with a loving relationship, exploration of new horizons, and doing the things I always wanted to do. A life of contentment. For the first time in my life I may live in the way I truly want to live. I know my parents would wish that for me more than anything else.
Thanks for reading my 100th hub page.
POSTSCRIPT - JANUARY 2014
Since writing this article, the relationship with Alisa has come to an end. Amicably, but to an end. She returned to Thailand after a short visit to England. With support from friends I've coped reasonably okay with that, but the loneliness which results is definitely not something I want. I need to move on. Who knows what will happen in the future?
ALL MY OTHER PAGES
- Greensleeves Hubs on HubPages
I have also written several travel guides and film reviews, as well as pages on many other subjects including astronomy and linguistics, and essays on various philosophical subjects. All can be accessed at the above link
- A Westerner in a Thai Village
In the past few years I have spent several weeks living in a small village in the North East of Thailand, as the guest of a Thai family. This page is a short introduction to the village, the people, and the countryside