Imagine a ten year old boy and his seven year old brother are sent away for a holiday with family when their mother goes in for a gall bladder operation. Then imagine their dismay and grief to return from that holiday to find that their mother is dead and buried, with all traces of her existence removed from the house.
Imagine these brothers then go for another holiday with family again a year later, returning to find their father had remarried without their knowledge.
Unfortunately, this is not a fictional tale; it is my father’s life.
One last bewildering thing about this story was fifty years later, when my father was told by a long lost relative that his mother had in fact died after an operation to remove a cancerous tumor, not a gall bladder operation.
Maybe back in the 1950s cancer was considered something shameful and the lies and omissions were to protect the family’s reputation? My father and uncle were never allowed to discuss their mother and had no keepsakes to cherish in her memory. I assume acting like my Grandmother had never existed, was my Grandfather’s way of coping.
I recently ordered my late Grandmother’s death certificate for my own selfish reasons of wanting to know her medical history and how that may impact on my health.
When I held her death certificate in my hands I was overwhelmed with sadness that this poor woman had not only died alone in hospital without her beloved sons by her side, but then her sons were denied the right to keep her memory alive after she was gone.
She was the same age as I am now and her sons were similar ages to my youngest two kids. It breaks my heart when I imagine myself in her situation. Not only did she not live to see her young boys grow into men, she missed meeting their lovely wives and exceptional (cough, cough) grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Luckily my father’s step-mother was a loving mother to the boys and a caring grandmother to us, but she should have been an addition to the family not a replacement. When a mother dies, surely the very least that can be done is to allow her memory to live on through her kids.
So although I never got to meet my biological grandmother, I hope she knows she is not forgotten and that her legacy lives on through our family.
(Photo courtesy of topstep7, freedigitalphotos.net)