Mother surviving child (Lorraine surviving Rob)
When I was 22 years old, with my eldest son only weeks old, my dad died. He was not an old man: he was in his early 50s. Whilst he had been ill for many months, and we knew his hospital folder had been marked “TLC” (tender loving care), we all continued to speak in riddles.
“How are you feeling today, Dad?”
“You look a little better today, Dad.”
“When this is all over… When you come home…!”
I look back and I absolutely know Dad understood he was going to die, but he played along for the sake of the rest of us. It perhaps seemed kinder. Now, I’m not sure for whom? But it meant that Dad died in hospital, a place designed for treatment, for fixing people; although at that time I’m not sure where else we might have taken Dad except home, which would have been very difficult. It also meant I feel I never said goodbye. Our inability to articulate the truth of the situation had consequences. Twenty-nine years later, that lesson could not have seemed clearer.
I can remember, as if it were yesterday, aged 15, sitting in my careers lesson at school. The question was simple – “What do you want to be?” Friends around me were full of ideas: teachers, firemen, nurses, hairdressers. It was an uncomfortable moment, my private interview was coming up and I had to say something. The answer I wanted to give was wife, mother. The answer I gave was helicopter pilot. My careers adviser told me I was a silly girl!
Being a wife and a mother continues to be the best career I could have dreamt of – even after all that my husband and I have survived together – I feel lucky. Imagining myself as a mum, however, reached as far as feeling that extraordinary deep well of love for my three boys; it did not include watching our vibrant, handsome, funny 19-year-old face leukaemia.