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.

Happy Birthday!

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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6 comments

DT - February 10, 2012 at 11:34am

What a lovely story.

I believe everything happens for a reason and it clearly did here!

Marilyn Stowe - February 10, 2012 at 12:03pm

Thanks DT. Of course you are right.
You should see all the cards for the baby, the parents, the grandparents, the great grandparents, the birthday boy, the presents, the flowers, the banners, the balloons…
Ive just had a lovely message from a reader in Israel saying “One Simcha is nice but two is MUCH better!”
Marilyn

Yaffa - March 6, 2012 at 2:18pm

מזל טוב
Congratulation on the new addition to your family, baby will bring lots of naches to you all, in particular to yor parents.
מזל טוב

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