By the time Mey Ling had her first scan in March of 2008, I guess we’d accepted the fact there was be another child in their family. There were concerns of course. Being disabled, how would Mey Ling cope with a new baby and a toddler around the place? How would she feel being at home alone with two children instead of pursuing the courses she’d intended to take? How would Angel react to another child, being still short of two and adjusting to life in England? What would happen if the whole relationship went belly up and a blood child was involved? But, I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where possible scenarios threaten to swallow us up and have to come to the conclusion it’s best left to destiny. After all, a new baby shouldn’t be bad news, but rather something to rejoice in. Even my Mum, rapidly deteriorating with dementia, worked out she would have a first great-grandchild and seemed quite thrilled by the idea.
In April my husband and I left for a much needed week's break in Majorca. While there we received the news the baby would be a boy, swiftly followed by a worrying phone call from my sister informing us my Mum had been admitted to hospital, with undiagnosed problems. Not really conducive to a relaxing holiday, but thankfully by the time we returned she was back home, though not in a very good state of health. The hospital had picked up on her dementia, but it seemed there was little they could do. The same applied to the niggling health concerns no one seemed to be able to identify. By the beginning of May she was back in a local hospital for assessment, very confused, frightened and longing just to return to the safety net of her own home.
During this phase our son and family moved house, so as to be nearer his work and to have more room for the forthcoming addition. I can clearly remember the tears I shed as I scrubbed floors and surfaces at the house they were leaving, helped shift heavy furniture into the new place, all the time worrying about my mother in hospital, scared and in denial of her deteriorating mental state. I’d borne the brunt of her anger and frustration, knowing only too well these are symptoms of this heartbreaking condition, but also acutely aware there was nothing I could do to change it.
The family settled into their new home, Angel came on in leaps and bounds, Mum came home and eventually I managed to secure some outside carers to help look after her. The relief was very welcome and on the strength of things looking brighter, in early July we took our son and his family away for a week of glorious sunshine on the Isle of Wight. There were a few sticky moments and Mey Ling being quite heavily pregnant by then needed a lot of help and rest. But it was a pleasure to watch Angel enjoy her first visit to the seaside and I think we all felt a little more refreshed on return. It wasn't to last.
Saturday, July 12th 2008 will always remain with me as a date I’ll never forget. The day haunts me involuntarily on a frequent basis and I suspect always will. I had visited my parents the previous afternoon, met Mum’s lovely carer for the first time, witnessed Mum cleaner, more lucid and chatty than in a long time and as I left their house later that afternoon, I offered up my private prayer of thanks.
The next morning, a grey and drizzly one, my husband and I spent a couple of hours at the gym about eight miles away. When I’d showered and dressed, I came out to the car park, to discover our car wasn’t there. I concluded hubby had nipped into town to do a bit of shopping, so walked to the top of the nearby hill to wait for him. After a few more minutes I was getting cold and agitated, so took out my mobile phone to call him. Unusually, there were five missed calls on it, two from my parent’s, one from my son and two from a number I didn’t recognise. Instinctively I knew something was wrong.
I phoned the unrecognised number first, which turned out to be a paramedic. I wasn’t sitting down as requested when he informed me my Mum had passed away and could I get to their house as swiftly as possible. I tried to phone my husband but there appeared to be no signal to his phone. Alone, in shock and not knowing what to do, I phoned my son, knowing how much the news of his Nanny’s death would upset him. He was gutted and sympathetic, but said he’d been trying to get hold of us to tell us Mey Ling had lost all the water around the baby and had been rushed to hospital. I still couldn’t contact my husband so had to stand waiting in torture until he arrived back, completely unaware of all that had happened.
The next few weeks passed in a blur of tears, grieving, formalities, the funeral I’d dreaded all my life, while trying to support a frail father and offer support to my son and family. Mey Ling was discharged, but had to visit the hospital daily in order to check out the baby’s condition. The plan was to help her pregnancy through to thirty-five weeks when it would be safe to deliver the baby by caesarean section. Every day carried a risk as we prayed and waited with baited breath for what we now considered our treasured grandson.
Our prayers were answered on this occasion. On August 6th 2008 my first official grandchild arrived in the world five weeks early, the day after my own birthday and just over three weeks from my Mum’s passing. The river of tears threatened to reach bursting point as I welcomed our new family member, contemplated the cycle of life, the fact my precious Mum didn’t make it to see her great-grandchild, the acute awareness I was now in the position my Mum had been when I gave birth to my son and the concerns for the precarious future of us all. But life goes on doing what it will whether we like it or not and from loss come new beginnings.
Our Dylan - August 6th 2008
All I know is, since you’ve been gone
I feel like I’m drowning in a river
Drowning in a river of tears.
River of Tears – Eric Clapton