This is a digital scrapbook page I intended to to make. I expected it to be fun, another page my Mum might pin to her freezer door. Instead it’s about remembering my Mum, specifically on Wednesday 25th October 2017.
This wonderful lady, aunt, mother-in-law and friend to many, left us all a little too soon by our reckoning.
Though the Autumn sun shone brightly, for us the world seemed darker on Sunday 29th October. We have all experienced the loss of someone we love, it’s a story as old as Time itself.
This is our story.
How glad I am for digital cameras on phones and that I sometimes think to carry mine around the house. My Mum called in on her way home from town to show off her new specs. She looked fabulous, and I snapped this photo.
“I didn’t know I could look so good,” she said.
I planned to make a digital page for her; she likes that and pins them to freezer door, along with various cards I’ve made. She loved the YouTube video (I’ve also embedded it below) where I made a page for her when she was showing off her latest knitted creation. I was also planning her 80th birthday card for the end of December, wondering what I could do and hoping I do a good job!
I didn’t see her again. We shared a few laughs via message over the next few days, as usual. I expect we both thought we had plenty of time.
A Brief History of Winnie and Peter Richards
The story of my Mum also needs my Dad, who died four years ago on 22nd April 2013. Married in March 1958, they had over fifty years of life together full of laughter, hard work, worry, arguments and love.
My Mum worked as a Hosiery Mender, starting at a factory called Pretty Polly. If you ever wore stockings or knitwear in the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s my Mum may well have mended them. You wouldn’t know that though; the skill is the mending is invisible and Mum was good at it.
My Dad worked as a coal miner and he also loved his job. I recently discovered his certificates in engineering, stored in the infamous family Biscuit Tin, where all important documents live. Following a series of sad events from 1962 onwards, a serious mine accident requiring Dad to give evidence at an inquest and the death of both their mothers within a year, Winnie and Peter decide it’s time to have a family.
Perhaps this didn’t turn out quite as they expected. I joined the family on 1st January 1964, with a disability no one had heard of, no one could spell and no one could pronounce – at first. My Mum, for fear she might be horrified and reject me, was shown only my face. My Dad, after a New Year night of celebration had trouble understanding the nurse’s announcement, “There’s something wrong with her posture.” In his excitement of a daughter and a night of fun in The Little John pub he wondered what on earth could be wrong with my posterior that warranted such a pronouncement.
Mum and Dad learned on the job. The first operations to straighten my legs began when I was only six months old. How lucky were we that the best orthopaedic hospital we could wish for was only six miles away, Harlow Wood in the heart of Sherwood Forest. My Dad, faced with this great responsibility, worked tirelessly providing us with a comfortable and secure life. My Mum learned how to change nappies for a baby in plaster casts from armpits to toes.
Some people thought Mum and Dad put me away when, at the age of ten, I went away to boarding school. I was having the time of my life; a good education, meeting people from all walks of life and learning to be independent. My Mum went back to work during term time and I came home for holidays no longer sounding like a Nottinghamshire girl.
From my mid-teens to my mid-twenties my parents and I were not always best friends. We all had strong wills and this often led to arguments and much stomping around. I was good at stomping around.
My parents were my greatest supporters, even though I didn’t always know it. My Dad told me I couldn’t get a car and learn to drive after a trial run with a Mini didn’t work out. Volunteering at a local college for disabled people I met a driving instructor. I asked him if he thought he could teach me to drive and he said yes. I started lessons without telling my Dad and even ordered my first car on the Motability Scheme before I’d passed my test.
Mum didn’t doubt for a moment that I would pass and had the wine chilling in the fridge to celebrate. My Dad reserved judgment. On 7th August 1986 I passed my driving test on the first attempt. Someone in the pub that night hinted that disabled people take a different driving test that’s easier. My Dad was having none of that and soon put them straight.
In 1996 my Dad gave me the best gift ever; he bought me a second-hand converted Transit van. With its automatic rear doors and tail-lift for the powered wheelchair, travelling up the M40 and M1 was easy.
Our Happy Years
Even with the ups and downs we all agreed we have had happy lives. The years since 1998 have been our happiest. I met my husband-to-be, Ian, and now I was travelling between Berkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. In 2000 we travelled 2,000 miles across to Poland in the Transit van. We came back engaged. In his retirement Dad took up cross-stitch (yes, he did) and he immediately started work an a wedding sampler.
My Mum always could wear a hat!
What a day that was. My Dad handing out cigars, proud as punch, telling anyone who would listen he’d wondered if anyone would ever put up with me. My Mum in that hat, never once doubting someone might find me bearable. Ian, wondering what on earth just happened!
Two years later my Mum and Dad uprooted themselves to come live in Wigan, and we enjoyed fourteen years together. They lived on a wondefully friendly street, reminiscent of the close-knit mining community of our early years.
All week I have heard stories of how loved my Mum was. And we can’t talk about Mum for too long before we remember my Dad, and all those little memories they shared with people. We can’t quite believe we won’t hear Mum/Winnie greeting us with a smile and saying;
“Eh up duck!”
Mum would not want us to be sad for too long. She enjoyed life, right up to the last moment. When I think of her I see the photo I took that Wednesday, how happy she was planning an afternoon of Netflix and knitting. I sent the photo by email to a friend of Mum’s, and received the reply;
“That’s my Winnie!”
Indeed it is.
This is your Winnie. Your aunt, your friend, and my Mum.