Lead­ing By Ex­am­ple

Mother knows best in this amus­ing com­plete story by Vivien Hamp­shire.

The People's Friend Special - - HERITAGE -

IT’S not al­ways easy to shake up your life and make changes. I sup­pose, for me, it was my mother who showed me it’s never too late to make a new start. If she could do it, sud­denly and un­ex­pect­edly wid­owed at the age of sixty-two, why couldn’t I?

“It’s great hav­ing the sea right on my doorstep,” she told me the f irst time I vis­ited her in her new bun­ga­low. “It’s lovely and quiet here away from all the traff ic and the bus­tle, and there’s noth­ing quite like wak­ing up to the sound of the waves crash­ing over the rocks. The bus into town stops right out­side so I can still get to the shops, and there’s a mo­bile li­brary that stops on the cor­ner once a week, and bingo in the vil­lage hall on Fri­days.”

“Bingo? You’ve never played bingo in your life!”

“There’s a f irst time for ev­ery­thing, Rosie. Might as well give it a go. It will be a great way to meet peo­ple. I’ve joined the lo­cal women’s group, too. They have some fas­ci­nat­ing speak­ers, and we’re making a big em­broi­dery to­gether to hang in the church. Yes,” she went on, “this will suit me very well. It’s just such a shame your fa­ther’s not here to enjoy it with me. We al­ways said we’d move to the coast one day.”

She took a swig of her tea and I had a good look around. It was a small place, af­ter the big house she was used to, with just two bed­rooms and a snug lit­tle lounge, but ideal for some­one on her own.

She’d had to get rid of a lot of the big­ger stuff, but I was pleased to see that many of her favourite pic­tures and pho­tos were still in ev­i­dence. She looked hap­pier than I’d seen her in a long time.

“Your sis­ter was a great help,” she told me. “I’d have strug­gled with all the lifting and car­ry­ing on my own. We put some of my pic­tures up on the walls, too, which made this place feel like home.”

“I would have lent a hand if I could, Mum, you know that. But I do have a job, and . . .”

“And our Bar­bara doesn’t? Yes, I know, she’s just a house­wife and a mum, like I was. And you’re a worka­holic. Still, you’re here now. Drink up and I’ll take you for a walk along the cliffs. Forget about work while you’re here and just enjoy your­self.”

****

Driv­ing home later that evening, I felt re­lieved. Dad had died two years ear­lier and my sis­ter Bar­bara and I had grown in­creas­ingly wor­ried about Mum.

She was still as f it as a f id­dle, a de­mon with a duster and a bril­liant cook, but Dad had al­ways done all the prac­ti­cal things like the DIY and the driv­ing, and tak­ing care of the f inances.

She’d been left rat­tling around in a big house with lit­tle idea of how to main­tain it. Roof tiles needed re­plac­ing, a tap in the bath­room dripped in­ces­santly, and the shed was start­ing to rot away. Not to men­tion that huge gar­den.

She could have got in an odd-job man or a gar­dener, but she hated hav­ing strangers stomp­ing about the house, or see­ing some­one else do­ing the things Dad had al­ways done be­fore.

When Mum con­sid­ered mov­ing house she set her­self a 20-mile limit, draw­ing a cir­cle on a map and re­strict­ing her search to places in­side it so she’d still be close enough to see the grand­chil­dren of­ten and to in­vite her friends to stay.

She’d de­cided on one with a small, man­age­able gar­den so, de­spite the sea right out­side her door, she’d still have her own lit­tle piece of out­door space, too. Now I’d seen her in her new place, I felt it was ex­actly the right thing for her.

Once home, though tired, I tried to catch up on a re­port I needed for a meet­ing the next day. Ever since John left me more than six years ear­lier I had been strug­gling, too, but there was no need for Mum to know that.

Money wasn’t the prob­lem, and it was easy to get a trades­man in if any­thing ma­jor needed done about the house. No, for me it was more what they call the work-life bal­ance.

My job was de­mand­ing and left lit­tle time for a so­cial life, and very of­ten I’d come home late, not feel like cook­ing, get stuck into yet more pa­per­work and f ind I had no­body to talk to ex­cept the cat.

I had al­ways been fo­cused on my ca­reer. That was one of the rea­sons things didn’t work out be­tween John and me. The fre­quent trips away, the late nights and the long hours.

We weren’t blessed with chil­dren, ei­ther, which per­haps would have given me a rea­son to slow down. John had said he felt sec­ond best, and the trou­ble was that I knew he was right. I just hadn’t loved him enough to change things, and I hadn’t fought hard enough to make him stay.

Us split­ting up might have left me feel­ing lonely some­times, but I knew it had been the right thing to do, es­pe­cially for John. It had given him the free­dom to start again, and to f ind some­one who would give him the love he de­served.

In some ways, I felt en­vi­ous of Mum. She had a new home, she was making new friends, and all her wor­ries about look­ing af­ter that old house were a thing of the past.

I wouldn’t have said no to a lit­tle of what she had right now. Time just to sit and breathe; li­brary books brought right to my door; a chair at the win­dow over­look­ing the sea to sit and read!

Some­thing was miss­ing from my life. I was forty-three and I didn’t want to have to wait un­til I was Mum’s age to f ind it.

As I bent over that re­port, with a headache that was start­ing to spread out from my tem­ples and across my fore­head, I re­alised I was sick of work­ing so hard, so

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