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  • This is my beautiful mum. When she met dad, she was a 'Clippie', clipping tickets on the buses in Birmingham. Like dad, she was devoted to her family, and like dad, they were both working class.

    Dad worked full time, mum only had part time work, so she pretty much raised me while Dad was working. That's not to say dad wasn't there, he was, it's just that mum was there more than dad.

    After dad passed away in '76, mum pretty much fell to bits. She lost her job, lost her self confidence, and we lived on benefits.

    I didn't see it happening. I was finishing school, working a part time job, trying to get through my driving test, discovering girls. I had so much going on in my life, I was missing what was going on in mums life. I was not a good son.

    Two years after dad passed away, I joined the Air Force. I asked her if she was happy with this, and even at the recruiting office, they asked her if she was happy, which she was. I joined, and I saw little of mum after that.

    I would come home on leave but it was just a place to crash, it wasn't to spend time with mum. I would just crash out at the flat, then meet up with mates. Leave was brief and without a car, was not frequent, especially as I had been moved to Scotland, and she was 500 miles away in Birmingham.

    In '96, mum was diagnosed with Cancer. Her diet of Players No 6 and cheap Amontillado sherry took it's toll on her body. I had been transferred to Norfolk when my Gran found mum crawling on the floor of her flat, unable to walk. I went home, and that was when I was told how ill mum was. She had lung cancer and secondary cancer of the brain.

    I spent the next 6 moths going back home every weekend to be with her. While she was in hospital, I would use her flat as a base, but after a few months, I was told she would be moved to a nursing home. She wouldn't be going back to the flat.

    I never saw the flat again. Everything that was there vanished. I was never offered anything from the flat. All that was mum's, dad's and mine was taken by the 'family'. It was also at this time I learned that I was blamed for mum's condition. It was my fault she had cancer. If I had not left home, this would never had happened. I was the cause of her illness.

    Suddenly, I was a carcinogen!

    Once mum was moved to the nursing home, I carried on visiting her every weekend. I spent as much time with her as I could. I would pick Gran up and take her to see mum, then return her home again, despite her accusations. Yet, every weekend, neither Gran, mums brother or step brother offered me a bed for the night.

    Because of how ill mum was, the home wouldn't allow me to sleep in the same room as mum, as they had to attend to her during the night. However, they knew I travelled every weekend and had nowhere to stay, so they would make up a bed for me on the floor of Residents Lounge for Friday and Saturday nights. The only 'rule' was I had to be up before the residents were ready for breakfast.

    I had just arrived back from detachment in Germany when I had a call to say I need to get home. I drove the three and half hours in what seemed to be a lifetime to be with mum. She was already unconscious by the time I arrived. If she was aware I was there, I don't know, but I spoke with her. Her breathing was heavy and laboured, Gran was there too, as were the doctor and her brothers.

    Her breathing became harder, the doctor applied a patch behind mums left ear. I took her hand and the doctor suggested to everyone else I be left alone with mum.

    In her last moments, I made my peace with her. I'm sure she heard. I had not been a good son, I was so sorry for everything, and while I held her hand, her breathing became softer and slowed, then she slipped away.

    I didn't have the courage to see dad after he passed away. It was a mistake I can't undo, but I was with mum, I had said my farewells, asked for her forgiveness, and was with her till the last.

    This was the one and only time I was offered a bed by anyone in the family. I declined. That night, the nursing home put me up for one more night.

    I think about mum every day, I miss mum and dad. Neither of them saw me grow up into an adult. That may or may not be a good thing, it depends on perspective, but I know that every day they are both with me, and I hope that whatever I have done with my life, they are both proud of me.

    I love you both.

    this photo of mum was taken 22 June, 1957
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