I could tell Mum was distracted; the lack of concentration, the furrowed brow, the fidgeting hands.
We had been back in England after five years in New Zealand and were staying with my parents until we got our lives established again. I had just had Ross, our youngest child. He was a couple of months old. There were two other children Kerry was three and Vince was two. Mum had loved having me home but the stress of the house full and what she was now facing, was too much.
“We have to sell the house.” She finally stated. “Dad’s business is in trouble, we can’t keep going”. This unfortunately wasn’t really news. My delightful father, a brilliant builder was the world’s worst businessman. Papers were piled in every corner, invoices floated about in his office. His ‘accountant’ left a lot to be desired, as he mostly enjoyed the drinks Dad offered, and did little to help past the third beer. My Father had just built a beautiful estate of houses made of Cotswold stone, it was elegant and exclusive, but the extra work he did was often not paid for. Dad would present the bill for extras like a copper fire hood, or a special stone feature and they would dispute the cost, and not pay, Dad then would shrug and give up. He was easily duped.
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I felt so sorry for my Mother, she had waited all her hard working life for this house, and it was everything she had dreamed of with polished wooden floors and all the features she loved. The garden was full of roses and to her this house was perfect. I told her we would leave that week so she could have the house ready for sale.
So we went to my husband’s parents, very reluctantly. They were at a sad time too! His father was ill with an undefined stomach complaint, his Mum was a shy retiring person who was not really able to deal with children. They had always been such quiet, contained people, with no friends outside of a small family.
I used to keep the children away from them as much as I could; I walked miles with the pram, and then in the evenings took them up to the big bedroom and kept them there to give Mum and Dad some peace. Luckily they were good children, but I was pretty busy with a small baby and two toddlers, and the strain was intense.
Inevitably there were problems, I was trying to rinse some things in the bath to keep away from the small busy kitchen, I put them on the side of the bath and the water must have seeped down the side of a crack as it dripped through to the room below. Hell broke out and we decided this couldn’t go on for all our sakes. We decided to move, even if it was a caravan…
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The outcome was actually better in one way; we found a new house the builder wanted to promote in the area and we got a 100% mortgage. This put a severe strain on our money situation, but we had a home. The problems didn’t get any less from there though!!!
The baby, Ross, got bronchitis. The house was cold and it was hard to keep him warm. My father went bankrupt and was stripped of everything. Mum and Dad moved into a flat over a shop. My husband’s father became really ill and eventually it was diagnosed as cancer. We tried to support his Mum but nothing much could be done. We were just there for her when he died, and tried to be some comfort.
I have never felt so lonely or so isolated. Where we lived was a flat and featureless area of Gloucestershire. Not many shops, no friends, and it was hard for me to get to see my mother, as it meant a bus trip with two toddlers and a baby. Not easy! Just to finish the cycle of bad luck, we had very little furniture as we had left a lot in New Zealand, but we found ways of coping, at first we slept on a mattress on the floor. We had a small TV that seemed to have snowstorms more than pictures, and we had a car, so life slowly improved. The final straw though was a huge abscess that appeared on my arm, the pain was cruel. I remember going to the doctor and bursting into tears, sobbing and saying “I think I’m depressed”. No wonder when I look back!
He mumbled and offered some pills, he didn’t offer me any other support. I went home and flushed the pills down the toilet. Then I looked out at the empty fields and saw the sun, and realised I was the only one who could do anything about my position. I had three beautiful children, a husband who was working hard for us, (and also taking bags of washing each day which he did at the laundry for me) I was only twenty five, and the rest of life stretched before me. So I shrugged my shoulders and cuddled my baby son. Life had dealt some bitter blows that year, all I could hope was it had been the worst year of my life for a reason, and that surviving had been the lesson I needed.
What has been the worst time in your life? How did you see the light at the end of the tunnel and find a better place?