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Annus Horribilis

By Belinda

The Queen had one in 1992, and I had mine in 2003. My own, personal Annus Horribilis.

On the eve of the new year 2003, Dad was taken to hospital and died before the end of January. Between Christmas and the end of January I flew to England and back twice; once to be with him and the second time to help plan his funeral with Mum and Rob and say goodbye to him one bitterly cold January day.

In May, a dear friend of our family, Stanley Houseman, a man with intellectual disabilities known as Poppa Stan to our grandchildren, died. He had been part of our lives for almost 40 years and we loved him dearly. 

And then in July, another old friend with disabilities died, who I knew because she had been supported by our agency before moving to a nursing home: Evelyn, who can still bring a room alive with just the shadow of her memory when we talk about her. She nearly drove us all insane, but oh, I loved her, and I think she might have loved me, if she could have got beyond the next plan that she was hatching. When she died I was surprised at just how hard it hit me. A fighter, it had seemed that she would live forever.

Mum and Dad had lived such a sad life together, and Rob and I had always wished for happiness for Mum, but Dad's death hit her hard. Even a tortured relationship takes up space in a life, and when gone it leaves an empty hole. They needed one another in a strange mutually destructive way. 

Rob and I worried about her. I started getting calls late in the evening from Mum. It would be 8.00 p.m. here, which meant it was 1.00 a.m. in England. Mum had always been a night owl. She liked to be the last one up, tidying up and turning off the lights for the night. A creature of routine, normally the last thing she did before going up to bed was read her Bible and her Daily Light, and pray, but she would normally be in bed by 11.00, a little after Dad.

Now she was up alone in their empty house at 1.00 and calling me. She sounded unlike Mum, her words slightly slurred. I recognized the signs eventually and worried even more.

I wanted so much to have her here, look after her, spoil her, love her and bring back joy to her life. And we made plans, hoping that she could make it here for September and join me for a trip to British Columbia for the wedding of a dear friend's daughter. She had something wrong with her leg that the doctor had been treating; a redness and heat--cellulitis; but he cleared her to fly, to our relief and joy.

On September 17th I wrote:
Last night I met Mum at the airport. What joy to have her under our roof. She managed the journey without too much difficulty, and, as usual, made friends of her seatmates. What an extrovert!
She was with me...once here she had no need to anesthetize pain. She was so happy, surrounded by three generations of family and our circle of friends who all simply loved her. We were so grateful to be together at last.

To be continued....:)

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