A Eulogy to a Very Special Mother

17th July 1930 – 16th August 2014

If I pull this off, I’ll be amazed. I struggled writing it. Also, please be aware I’ve kept naming to the minimum so as to avoid missing people out, such was the breadth of friendship that Mum had established through her life.

Mum was lucky enough to have had a good, happy, and richly varied life, and in the short time we have here today we can barely scratch the surface, but I’ll do as best I can.

Born on the 17th June 1930, Mum’s early years were spent in Kirks Road, Lancaster, Lancashire with her Siblings: Edna, Raymond, Ronald, & Norman.

In her teens, she met another Ronald (from here I’ll call him Dad). They were married in Lancaster but shortly afterwards, they moved down south to a small town called Portsmouth where Dad was based, in Eastney Barracks.

During the early years of their marriage, Dad was required to spend a great deal of time away from home on active service with the Royal Marines, yet despite this they managed to produce three of the most beautiful, lovely & clever children: who now stand here remembering her.

The date was the 21st November 1953. Two very special people were celebrating their wedding anniversary: Well, they should have been but instead, they were in the Maternity ward where Mum presented Dad with [Me]. I can just imagine the conversation: Well, I`m sure you could have done better than this Vera, says Dad. But, hey, it`s a start. And so started a new life as a Mother, for Our Mum.

Did she have an easy time as a Mother? Of course she didn`t. Ian, Corrinne and – yes – even I seemed to do just about everything we could to give our Mum grief. And I think I speak for the three of us, that we all did a pretty good job at it.

For many of us, when we started our adult life, a twin tub washing machine was state of the art in laundry. When Mum started adult life, it was a copper (boiler), pans of hot water boiling nappy`s and a mangle. Drying clothes was an arduous task what with no central heating so only the natural elements available for drying. And Mum had a lot of washing to do. First with me, and my nappy`s, then Corrinne with all of her nappy`s and my laundry, then Ian and all his nappy`s, Corrinne`s laundry and my laundry. Yet somehow, she did it all and coped with what was then normal.

As I said, all of this was while Dad was playing at soldiers in the Royal Marines with many stints of being away from home. Fortunately, she had the support of the Royal Marine family: both the Royal Marines themselves and of course their wives. Without a doubt, the Royal/Marine Family played a significant part in Mum`s life.

Mum had quite a bit to put up with. Money was tight and bringing up 3-children can’t have been easy. Even less so when you factor in the numerous times she would have to spend going to the doctors and hospital, mostly with me. I was a very sickly child requiring frequent hospitalisation or home care, much of which was done on her own. But somehow, Mum coped, how she coped I shall never know – she just did, and admirably so.

Even more incredible is how Mum even managed to take on work as a waitress at the Holiday Camp in Hayling Island and then in the Curzon Rooms in Waterlooville. Just as an aside, when Mum was at work, I was often left with a child minder until one day, she came back to pick me and found me in a playpen with real live monkey (don’t know was sort). Mum was always blamed for bringing back the wrong one.

Now obviously, children being children, there was various incidents that Mum would have to deal with. Me coming home from a stone fight with blood running down my face from a rather large head wound; Corrinne coming home after I’d led her into the path of a vehicle, while we were out train spotting: I still remember as Corrinne went flying through the air and bouncing on the road. I don’t think it really that dramatic but nevertheless, Mum was presented with her bonny little girl now sporting some rather fetching bruising and road rash. Mum dealt with me, the culprit, as only a Mum can. Then of course, there was Ian, the fire starter – I still believe it was him who burned down my den I had built in a hedgerow. Naturally firemen and police don’t take kindly to fire starters. But for all this and so many, many other incidents Mum, quite often on her own, took it all in her stride and well, she coped, admirably.

In the early 60’s we moved into a nice brand new house in Hilda Gardens in Denmead. Things were starting to improve for Mum. For a start, there was central heating: drying was becoming easier and of course the nappy stage was history by this time.

While at Denmead, Mum was lucky enough to make so many friends’ living as we were in a cul-de-sac and such friendships proved to be forever enduring. Denmead was a good place for Mum. She was, as all mothers are, in charge of her domain and ran it to her strict rules, and was more than willing to meat out corporal punishment when required. The backs of my legs still smart just thinking about it. I think the back of Dad’s head had a few smack as well.

Mum was proud of our new home and she always kept it clean and tidy: she would while away many an hour hoovering & dusting while Dad was outside playing with his engines. Sometime playing with engines, especially I the winter, meant bringing them indoors and using the kitchen table as a workbench. But Mum dealt with it, worked around him / us and tidied up as soon as we were done. I can even remember her expressing her concern when he was showing me how to load his SLR7.62 with real bullets. I still don’t know how he managed to bring it home, but he did. Still, Mum Coped. We also had, by this time our own phone, not even a party line, it was all ours. This is probably the one device never ever really mastered.

Of course, not everything went her way. I do know how proud she was of her new cooker and always kept it as clean as new, so you can only imagine her reaction when she opened the oven door one weekend to find parts of Dad’s engine inside drying off. Actually, we can only imagine as we were sent outside while Mum ‘spoke’ with Dad. I think Mum won.

Dad was due to leave the Royal Marines in 1970 and so there was going to be a change in their lives, not least of which would be that Dad would be forever around. Would Mum cope with having not only us three but also her other naughty boy under her feet all the time? Of course she would: Mum would just do as always: she would cope, and cope admirably.

Eventually, both Mum & Dad agreed that they would like to be Landlord and Landlady of their own Pub, and so started the search for the right business / opportunity plus of course training. You can’t after all just walk into a pub and just run it.

As luck / good fortune had it, they were given the opportunity to take on the Red Lion at Chalton, which as we all know, has got be one of the finest pubs in the area and certainly the oldest. It was here that Mum moved from coping to excelling. Mum truly did become the Landlady and Queen of her own domain. The Red Lion was their new world and Mum was in charge, believe me, ‘she was – in charge’.

Over the years, business grew and Mum started to offer a slightly more comprehensive menu that that of a Ploughman’s Lunch or Pasty. She was now doing Chicken and Chips or Scampi and Chips, in the basket. I think I can safely say this now by the way: I’m not convinced that all chickens were fully defrosted before cooking, but everybody came back.

To her menus’ she added her meat and potato pies and even as I stand here saying this, as I did when I wrote this, I start to salivate. They were the best pies in the land, loved by all, devoured by all.

Then came the functions, Christmas, Valentines, Halloween, Vicars and Tarts parties (not sure if I should have mentioned that last one). Mum would have a major say in the organization of these events while Dad followed orders, hey, he used to be a Royal Marine, he was used to it. J Then as the end of such parties drew close, it was always easy to find Mum, not behind the bar, not in the kitchen, not is the washroom. No, she was out in the middle of dance floor laying down some pretty groovy dance moves. A trait that would stay with her for years to come.

Then something happened that was to rock us. Mum fell ill, very ill. This time, it was Mum who was to go into hospital. She had contracted Guillain-Barré Syndrome – an attack on the nervous system, which can, and did in Mum’s case, become so severe it needed urgent hospitalization: for many days, Mum wasn’t even able to close her eyes and needed help with her breathing. These were scary days. Yet, Mum did what Mum did, she fought it, dealt with it, coped with it and beat it. Though ever since then, she did have trouble with her eyes streaming. This was when Mum proved she not only coped with adversities but she could also conquer them.

After recovering from this, Mum and Dad came to the most sensible conclusion they could. They had to retire from life as publican. And so, the very day before the Great Storm of 1987, Mum and Day left the Red Lion. That day was a sad for everybody and was evident by the turn out for their last day. Mum, and Dad, had proved themselves to be very popular members of the local community and were sorry to see them leave.

Mum and Dad then retired back to the north near Carnforth and Dad went out to seek work – he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. He briefly fond work at a local school for ner-do-wells but was always looking for something else. Then he found a job back down south, so with offer of new employment, Mum was once again left alone while Dad went out following his career adventures. As always, Mum coped with being left along although if I’m honest, by now, I rather suspect she was happy to have time to herself.

Moving up north was supposed to reunite them with old friends and family but they realized that their real friends were down south and so they started to look to sell up and come back. They did move back down south and into Rosemary Way, Waterlooville for their retirement, proper.

Then Mum found herself once more caring for the sick. Not me, not Corrinne, not Ian but this time it was Dad. Dad been taken seriously ill with Cancer of the Liver, which was too advanced for any form of effective treatment. The outcome was inevitable and yet still Mum coped. I don’t how she did but somehow she did (obviously behind closed doors, we don’t know) and maintained an air of control throughout. Dad finally passed away on the 4th June 2008. Mum was now alone but maintained her independence.

After a while however, changes were noticed. Her breathing was bad, it was getting worse but controllable and she would boast on how many different inhalers she had, but there was something else. She would forget things, she would ‘lose’ things, and she even started to claim other people were in the house. Something was clearly wrong with Mum and we needed to know what it was, although I think we had an idea. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia so confirming what we believed.

I’m not going to dwell on it but eventually, the illness became such that she needed round the clock care and so with that Mum moved into Bayith Rest Home. I just want to say that Mum couldn’t have gone to a better, nicer care home. They were wonderful with Mum from the beginning. One thing that was notable from the beginning: Mum’s breathing had improved as she was now having her medication controlled. Her dementia however was only going to go one way.

It sounds cruel, though Mum always laughed at it anyway, but it always made us laugh listening to two or three people with dementia having long and meaningful conversation where not one of them made any sense. In reality, during this phase, the pain was ours not Mums.

Eventually however Mum fell gravely ill. Hospitalization seemed a logical course of action, but we knew that Mum didn’t want that, we didn’t want that, the doctor felt it would be a bad idea, so the burden of care then fell on Bayith: where they happy to take this on. They were emphatic that Mum should not go into hospital and that she should stay where her friends were and be looked after by people who cared for her as Vera and not just another patient. And so that was to be case.

Yet, even through all of this, she seemed to cope, possibly too well. Her cheek and naughtiness was still there even to the point of, despite being heavily sedated, telling Corrinne to ‘bugger off’ albeit goaded on by Mervyn.

But now, Mummy, You no longer have to cope.

Mummy is once again with Dad.

We love you Mum, we all love you so much.

Now, go give Dad an earache and a slap from us all.

 

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