The best laid plans…and two birthdays to remember
For some time now my sister has been worrying about how she is going to manage when her daughter, Rebecca, gives birth to her first baby. A London resident, Rebecca is due at the end of this month and, understandably, my sister wants to be there and help as much as possible.
Known to our family as “Aunty Doo Doo”, my sister already has a lot on her plate. She has been caring for our parents at her home in Yorkshire since my mum became seriously ill last autumn. Along with mum’s devoted carer Ruby, my brother-in-law and the two dogs, it makes for a full household!
I wrote recently about the dinner that took place at Aunty Doo Doo’s when her second daughter, Abby, brought her fiancé’s parents up to Yorkshire to meet the family. It was a chaotic evening, but nothing compared to the anticipated bedlam surrounding the arrival of my sister’s first grandchild. The worry was that while helping to nurse Rebecca’s baby, Aunty Doo Doo would still be needed by my parents. How could she travel between Yorkshire and London to be there for the birth, while continuing to look after our parents? It was a question that preoccupied the whole family.
There was also the unspoken thought of whether my parents would get to see the new baby. Travel is almost impossible for them. My mum is very unwell, needing around-the-clock care due to the long-term and terrible effects of her diabetes. Her condition worsened recently with a pulmonary infection, but as we have discovered – mum is also an incredible fighter.
There was yet another complication. Today is my father’s 80th birthday. It’s a milestone, but how should we celebrate it with everything else that’s going on? We decided to have a sit-down family dinner at my sister’s, because there was no question of my mum travelling anywhere else. We all hoped that she would be well enough to sit with us and celebrate the 80th birthday of the wonderful, quiet man in the background for whom nothing was, or ever is, too much trouble.
The manner in which my dad has devoted himself to my mum, particularly over these last few years would win him a knighthood if his duty, selflessness and non-stop care were ever to be officially recognised. Dad is a champion; a man who came from the poorest background and worked like a Trojan to succeed. A man who at the age of 23 was supporting a wife, a baby and caring for a newly widowed mother; visiting her every day until she passed away thirty years later. He is a great dad and grandfather whose qualities of infinite strength and comfort precede him. His handshake alone always seals his word. He is my hero and role model, and I love him dearly.
Yet with all the worries about my mum and heavily pregnant niece hundreds of miles away, dad’s 80th was becoming difficult to plan. We decided things would just have to be casual and hoped that all the grandchildren could get up from London in time, despite the weather. We would all be together to wish dad a happy birthday, and all the rest of our never-ending concerns would be stored away for another day.
But here’s what actually happened…
Last weekend, on an impulsive visit to Yorkshire, Rebecca went into labour. Her baby was born early on Tuesday morning and Aunty Doo Doo is now Grandma Doo Doo. Last night when Rebecca, her husband and their new baby came home from hospital, my parents got to hold their beautiful great-granddaughter just in time to celebrate dad’s birthday. It couldn’t have been better planned. And I am now a besotted Great Aunt, although no-one is ever allowed to call me that – nothing could sound more ageing!
It’s funny how things work out isn’t it? My dad’s 80th birthday will indeed be spent chaotically, just as we knew it would: he and mum staying in one bedroom; their granddaughter, grandson-in-law and great-granddaughter in another. Then there is my sister, brother in law, their other daughter and her fiancé, so the overflow is staying with us.
But there is quite a difference. A precious great-granddaughter has unexpectedly and unplanned, had her birthday too. On dad’s milestone day, my parents can hold her together – in the same way they have lived their lives: always together. That is the best possible birthday present for my darling Daddy.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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