If anyone had told me when I was younger that I would land up living on a farm with my mother, I would have said that person was one sandwich short of a picnic. But here I am, in the country with my 87 year old mother, Edna, and both of us as happy as Larry.
After my father died, 10 years ago, my mother was in need of a change of scenery. During the last couple of years of his life my dad, Ted, suffered from Alzheimer’s and oesophageal cancer. Edna cared for him at home during his illness and when he died, I think she just wanted to get away from all the sadness. So we built her a “wee house” (as she calls it) on the farm and she moved up to the Midlands.
She is an indomitable soul; she lives on her own, does all her own housework and gardening, and makes very few demands on me. That’s not to say that we don’t have our moments of irritation and frustration with each other but I do cherish the fact that I get to spend the last few years of her life with her in such a beautiful place, not to mention the fact that she does my ironing! Her mother died at the age of 99, so maybe it’s not such a few years left.
I never knew my Grandma Lambert, or any of my relatives for that matter. Edna and Ted left their families in England and immigrated to South Africa just after the Second World War. I only ever met my grandma on two occasions when I visited the UK as a child with my parents. She was originally from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, but left when she was 18 to find work in England. She settled in Scarborough, Yorkshire, where my mum and her two siblings were born. My grandfather died when my mum was a child, from a brain hemorrhage caused by shrapnel injury during World War 1. Grandma Lambert was a tough, old bird by all accounts and supported her family by working as a chambermaid in hotel.
Edna remembers when she was young, a woman called Lillian visiting them from Ireland. She was introduced as my grandma’s sister. However some 30 years later, on one of Lillian’s visits to Scarborough she broke down and told my aunt Elsie that she was in fact Grandma Lambert’s illegitimate child, which of course made her Edna and Elsie’s half sister. Grandma Lambert had been sent away to England because of the disgrace of being an unwed mother and she had left her baby behind to be brought up by my Irish great grandparents. How sad that all those years later Grandma Lambert still could not overcome the shame to acknowledge Lillian as her own child.
I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my children and really get to know them. I love being a mother.