Tuesday, 28 June 2005

the long goodbye

B's Great Aunt, Kate, is visiting us this morning, while Vic helps me with a bit more of my wall.

Kate has recently moved in with Vic and Kate (B's mum Kate is her niece and is named after her - sorry, confusing, but true).

She's moved in with them and given up her own house because she has become increasingly frail and needs some help - not with her personal care, but with cleaning, cooking, making sure she takes her tablets etc. etc..

She is a game old lady of 86, who was a tram conductor in Liverpool during the second world war and who has an enormous stock of dirty jokes. She was one of nine children - eight girls and a boy - and there are now only two of them left, her and a sister who emigrated to Australia in the 1950's.

Kate has a son, who is married with four children.

Between them, the four children have about ten children of their own.

For a couple of years before Auntie Kate moved in with Vic and Kate, her son and daughter in law were 'caring' for her. This involved them effectively using her house as a doss-house. Her son Harry is a taxi driver who works the night shift, finishes in the early hours and then comes home and sleeps until early afternoon. His wife, Kerry, keeps the same hours. Auntie Kate hardly saw them. They would come and go without telling her when, or if, they'd be back. So some nights she'd end up sitting up for them until midnight, waiting to see whether they'd come in or not, so that she could lock the door.

Apparently Kerry and Kate have never had a particularly good relationship. This became more and more evident during the two years, and culminated in Kerry one day packing up her husband and her things and moving back to her own house. The reason? Auntie Kate had knocked on their bedroom door and then opened it to peep in at 1pm one day, to check whether they were there or not.

Kerry also went through all of Auntie Kate's things and threw lots of things out without consultation - knitting patterns, old photographs and personal items of her husband and her deceased son.

Kerry is a bully. She bullies her husband, she bullies her children and she bullies Auntie Kate. She keeps telling everyone in the family how Auntie Kate has spent forty years making her life hell. By doing things like not giving her and her husband money to go on holiday. She can't let the past go.

Last night, we went round to Vic and Kate's for tea. While we were there, Harry and Kerry called in to drop off some of Auntie Kate's post. Kerry wouldn't come in to the house, so Auntie Kate went out to the car to say 'hello'. And Kerry turned her head away and wouldn't speak to her.

Auntie Kate asked her if it would be possible to arrange to meet up with the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren at some point.

Kerry replied that it was not her place to arrange that any more, it was down to her daughters.

So later on last night, Auntie Kate asked Vic to dial the number of one of her grandaughters.

The grandaughter's husband picked up the phone, Vic had a brief word with him and then passed the phone over to Auntie Kate, expecting him to pass his end over to the grandaughter, Jennie.

Instead, the husband spent fifteen minutes telling Auntie Kate how Jennie no longer wanted to speak to her or have anything to do with her, because Kate had treated Harry and Kerry so badly.

Auntie Kate was in tears.

I'm nearly in tears, typing this.

Kerry won't discuss whatever her issue is with Auntie Kate. Instead she is busy turning the children against her.

I know families don't always get on. God knows I had enough problems with my ex-mother-in-law. And I know that grandmothers can be sweet little old ladies to outsiders and viragos to their own family. My own grandmother was a case in point.

But to use the children in a personal vendetta against an old lady - who, let's be frank here - probably only has a couple more years of life left - is evil.

I am fuming. Vic is really distressed - his Kate is away this week and he is dealing with this without her. Auntie Kate is downstairs talking to B and trying to pretend that it doesn't matter and that we are enough for her. We love her and she knows it. But however much you love your niece and their family, it doesn't make up for being cut out by your own.

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