Don’t do it, Uncle Dick!
Now we know why Dick struggled
Wriggling my toes as I lay on the sunlounger, I sighed happily. Mum, Elisabeth, then 48, was dozing beside me. Then, suddenly, she sat bolt upright.
‘Don’t do it, Dick, please,’ she begged.
Uncle Dick lived in Britain, while we were in Sydney. Agitated, Mum tried to call him.
In the 1960s, me, Mum, Dad, and my three siblings, lived with my grandad and uncle in Kent. Later, we moved to Australia, but Mum kept in contact with her brother. The doorbell rang. Police! Uncle Dick had gassed himself in the oven, they said. Mum was powerless to help.
On inheriting his house, in October 1972, we returned to England. Not before Mum had the gas oven replaced by an electric one, though. Only, that first night, my brother David ran into mine and my sister’s room. He’d been in Uncle Dick’s room. ‘I heard shuffling noises,’ David blurted. ‘Then, the room became cold. I could smell gas. I think it’s Uncle Dick.’ Chilling. Some years later, Dad invited me and the kids over. ‘Why aren’t you in your usual spot by the fire?’ I asked. ‘Last week, I was sat there when I heard Dick say, ‘‘You’re in my father’s chair.”’ Dad shuddered. Years on, I became a nurse. That’s when things made sense. When we lived with Uncle Dick, he was full of life one minute, shutting himself away the next. I realised it was due to bipolar disorder. In 2005, my daughter was diagnosed, too, so I told her about Uncle Dick. ‘Let’s plant a rose bush by his grave for his birthday,’ I suggested. Back home, we were met by the scent of roses. ‘It’s Uncle Dick saying thank you,’ I said. Now he knows we understand why he struggled so much in life.
In Australia: My family
Juliet Derry, 65, from Herne Bay, Kent Mum, Dad, my brother and sis