The Last Chapter.
Dad died December 1958. 1 knew he had gone before my neighbour fetched me to the phone. As I sat at the breakfast table, I had a premonition, a sudden feeling of loss. He was cremated Christmas Eve. I didn't cry until I brought in the Christmas tree. I had not intended to acknowledge Christmas but Harry upbraided me saying, "It's still Christmas, and you can't deprive the kids."
Dad had always made so much of Christmas but it was a long time before I could welcome this festival again. His death destroyed any belief I had left in God. I looked at his neighbours, some of whom were drunkards, others who had no one to live for and I thought why are you alive when Dad, who spent the greater part of his life trying to better the conditions of his fellow workers, is dead? I cursed his doctor who had not diagnosed his cancer. It was a locum who had finally referred him to hospital. I blamed Mam, for when I urged him to ask for a second opinion he said he wanted to see Mam through her cataract operation. Mam had been losing her sight for some time. Neither of us realised the hospital had lost her records. Most of all I blamed God.
I was so traumatised I was unable to accept my husbands love and it was twelve months before I could resume physical relations. To have done so seemed a kind of betrayal.
Was my despair unnatural? I know to lose a father is natural as King Claudius tod Hamlet "your father lost a father, that father lost, lost his" but like Hamlet I felt my Father's death to be unnatural. He was fifty-eight and I saw his doctor as no better than a murderer for failing to send him to hospital earlier.
Time heals, is a truism. Yet even now I cannot forgive that medical failure. It could be said that God answered my prayer for my father died a few days after his operation. He was alone since the nurse at the hospital sent us home saying, "he needs to rest." She promised we would be sent for should there be any change in his condition. We heard nothing until the following morning when we were notified of his death.
To my everlasting shame I was so overwhelmed by my own grief I gave no thought to my little boy's trauma. He had been so close to his Grandfather and I offered him no comfort. I sent both the children to school and took Royston with me to see Mam.
Gradually my bitterness gave way to a dull acceptance, I no longer blamed God for I realised he did not exist. I had believed as a child believes and I ditched faith along with Santa Claus.
My father still retains his influence over me. Every success brings the thought, "I wish my father knew" and every failure, "I'm glad my father doesn't know." I have never got as close to any one as I was to him.
I have said many goodbyes since the death of my father but none have been as devastating. As a child I desperately longed for his love and approval as an adult I believe I attained it. If he had lived I could have returned it, as it is he never knew how much I cared. Neither of us ever said, "I love you."
The summer following, Mary was sent home from school doubled up in pain. I couldn't understand how teachers could be so callous. We had had a phone since my father died; if they had rung, I would have gone to meet her.
She was obviously in great pain and had a high temperature. I rang the doctor who was very good but avoided visiting whenever possible since he was lame and we had a flight of steps to the front door. He gave me instructions to press her tummy and then tell him where it hurt. I found it strange that when I pressed over her appendix area the pain was round her navel. "Get her ready," he said. "She has appendicitis the ambulance will be with you before I can."
After she recovered, she was very frail and had several attacks of swollen glands. She was frequently off school and a school board inspector called.
At an open day I was told she was backward so I when I found a correct spelling marked "incorrect" and substituted by an incorrect spelling I took her book to the head. It was a mistake for he held her back almost a year and only moved her to her year group the term in which she was to take her eleven plus. Naturally she failed. The inferiority complex this gave her was to last for years.
They didn't care for Cliff either. The same headmaster told me Cliff was arrogant! When asked to explain he said the boy corrected his teachers. "Where," he asked. "Did he get his information from?"
I think he was under the illusion that Cliff was having private tuition, which he was opposed to but the only source was a magazine called "look and learn" and the books he read from the library. Although he had been late both in talking and reading, he was now very advanced for his age. He began speaking in sentences and reading in pages, missing out on the single word stage.
Life was very hard now and the truth of the saying re love and poverty came home to me. There was no time for outings now in term time and I couldn't afford the bus fare to go anywhere in the holidays. When I lived next door to my parents the children had ice cream every day now it was a special treat as a pudding.< p>At first, we didn't have a fridge, which made shopping difficult in the summer but then my cousin gave us an old huge gas fridge which we had for years. She also arranged for a mobile grocers van to call but I had to stop him after awhile as he thought a "hot roll" should follow a cup of tea.
My cousin Jean lived on the new council estate at Clifton and she was supplementing her income with outwork for Simon and May. As soon as she knew they were taking on more workers, she sent me for an interview. As I was desperately short of money, I was delighted to be taken on. The task was boxing handkerchiefs; the pay was abysmal, the best being £2/8s a gross. A lace edged handkerchief had to be folded pinned to paper backing. Then a ribbon bow made and attached before it placed in a plastic lidded box and sealed with sellotape. The worst was the two handkerchief boxes where the top one had to be folded into a fan.
Jean had organised a production line with her neighbours but when I was overloaded the children were pressed into service. The work was delivered and collected but often I was waiting weeks for the collection and until the current load was collected, payment was outstanding for the previous consignment. Often my stairs were blocked with cartons. It wouldn't have been so bad if the work had been available in the winter but August was the busiest period.
I also tried tagging labels but the pay was even worse. An attempt at machining was a disaster. I was sent blouses that had sides that didn't match and sleeves I couldn't fit.
Whilst I was working, I thought the children were safe playing out on the field and didn't worry even when they wandered since they promised not to cross the main road. Years later I discovered the old quarry, their favourite playground, was full of water and their den in the woods was a six foot deep pit with boards laid across it.
The estate was growing and a new neighbour adopted me. At first, I was glad of the company but when she began walking in at nine-thirty a.m. and staying until after five; I locked my doors and hid behind the settee. One day I looked up too soon and met her eyes through the window. I pretended I was looking for an earring. She was a lovely girl who suffered from recurring bouts of colitis. When she was rushed into hospital, I took care of her child. After two weeks, I was obliged to ask for £1 a week to pay for her food. When the welfare nurse visited I was told the council should have been notified that I was caring for a child for gain!
After my neighbour recovered it occurred to me that I could do temporary fostering. I asked for a boy, as Royston was very isolated. There were no other little boys living near and because of his poor health as a baby I had abandoned the idea of having any more children myself.
Instead of a boy, I was given two little girls for temporary fostering whilst their mother was supposedly in hospital. Later I discovered she was in prison. They were fetched away with as little notice as they came and their screams as they were taken to the car were heartrending.
Eventually a little boy of Roy's age came. My first shock was that the local school refused to accept him even though I had a letter from the education officer agreeing to him being a temporary pupil. The social worker couldn't help and so whilst he remained with us he had no schooling for there was no way I could have got him to his own school. Then I found that the neighbours would not allow their children to play with him and were boycotting my own three.
I had been told it wouldn't be wise in this area to have a coloured child (that wasn't considered a derogatory term then) but this child was white. I didn't know until then that a "Home" child bore a stigma. My eldest two had spent hours on the doorstep of a neighbour in Hyson Green who they called "our grandma who isn't our real Grandma" she was regarded there as a saint for rearing several children not her own. My own children did not take to this child as everything they had he claimed to have several. Again this boy was reclaimed without notice.
I had avoided vaccinations for my children as I was told I almost died as a result of a small pox vaccination and I don't think my doctor was in favour of inoculations. She put me off over Mary saying she wasn't well enough consequently none of them received their jabs until there was an outbreak of small pox in the area where Wes worked. Staff were advised that they and their families should be vaccinated. I was very worried about the effect it might have on Royston but it was Clifford who had a bad reaction. I was told he was bordering on encephalitis and I was fearful lest he be left brain damaged. Unfortunately, due to his illness, he missed the date for his eleven plus. When he returned to school he and one other pupil sat the exam in the headmaster's room. The other boy passed and Cliff failed.
We knew the other boy had been coached but it didn't do him much good since he couldn't cope with the work and had to be taken away from the grammar school after only one term.
I had accepted Mary's failure with the intention of sending her to a secretarial college later but I felt devastated at Clifford's failure, as I knew he was a bright child.
He sat the entrance exam for The Nottingham High School and was offered a part bursary but Wes said there was no way we could afford it. He did not share my view of education as the "Be all and end all" of success in life. His mother had obtained a place for him at the Mundella grammar school and he had been very unhappy there and left at fourteen to attend a business college.
I was miserable and frustrated by my lack of a private income to help my son and began to think of ways of earning money.
My first effort was in placing mail order catalogues, the money was good and I was quite successful but I hated the work and continued only until I had earned enough to pay for a holiday.
The aftermath was even worse than the work. Woman stopped me in shops and even in the street accusing me of ruining their lives because they had received letters from the company addressing them as Dear Agent" and their husbands had been furious. No amount of assurance, that they could put the letters in the bin and that they had not committed themselves to being agent, convinced them. I thought it pathetic that middle class supposedly educated women could be so dim and so afraid of their spouses.
I now took part-time work in the Nottingham libraries which I enjoyed very much. Although in the advertisement for the post it asked for School Certificate, I was not asked to produce it.
For the next three years I worked as a library assistant first for the Nottingham Libraries, just a few hours at the central library and on relief at various district libraries. The conditions at the older libraries would have made Dickens wince. One antiquated toilet which doubled as a cloak room, was not unusual. No facilities for making so much as a cup of coffee but I loved the work especially when I was alone and in charge. I began to feel I was "somebody." After a year with Nottingham I got a post at West Bridgford Library, twenty hours a week and overtime. I felt rich!
By this time Mam was becoming more difficult and the family resented being left with her on Saturdays, added to which she constantly complained about the children.
When I was no longer home at lunch time I arranged for the children to come home for lunch thinking it would break the day up for her but it wasn't a success and when I saw an advertisement for a part-time school laboratory assistant, term time onlyI felt I must apply.
It was at a large Comprehensive School and again I enjoyed the work except that there was a lot of heavy equipment to move about and some of the teachers were such snobs they wouldn't give you the time of day. I was appalled by the standard of teaching. In one class the children were gambling while the teacher read his paper. To my raised eyebrows he volunteered "If you can't beat 'em join them." A few years later I empathized with him.
When the head technician left I was offered promotion with the proviso that I worked full time. I refused. I then came under pressure to work during the vacation so when I saw a nearby Girls' Bilateral school needed a laboratory assistant I applied for a transfer on the very sexist grounds that my present work was not suitable for a female as it included carrying heavy physics equipment up and down several flights of stairs. I got the transfer.
This led to a totally unexpected turn in the road. After working there happily for two years and frequently being left in charge of classes, a teacher suggested I applied for teacher training. I thought he was joking. I was, after all, forty two and had no other qualification than a mediocre School Certificate. But teachers' salaries had become so depressed that there was a real shortage.
Another pleasant surprise was that my youngest son passed the eleven plus. I had not expected this, although I had paid for private maths tuition for him since he had great difficulty with this subject and I wanted him to make a reasonable grade before he started secondary school. I did not consider him to be an academic child. He had shown no interest in books and his boredom threshold was very low.
I too was finding my work boring as there were long periods when I had nothing to do. One lovely summer's day when the science department had gone on a field trip and I had cleaned the lab, topped up all the standard solutions and typed with one finger some notes left by the head of the department, on impulse I wrote a letter of application to the nearby College of Education. They suggested I contact the newly built Mary Ward Catholic College which was taking non Catholic mature students. At my interview I was accepted for the science course but when the term began I was told the science course had folded and was urged to take "Home Economics" which was no longer just cookery and needlework but involved a great deal of science particularly textile science.
My family was not exactly delighted at the prospect of Mum being a teacher and I don't think they really thought it could happen and they did not encourage me but nothing was going to stop me now.
At first I felt intimidated by the Sisters, regarding them as something outside of humanity. I soon learnt they were subject to all the temptations and vices of lesser mortals and Mother Mary put me in mind of my own dear Momma.
The young students were marvelous to me and I began to forget my age and I had an instant rapport with the science, maths and needlework teacher for I already knew them. The latter had taught me all those years before and she was very embarrassed when I realised this in the middle of a lecture and shouted out her maiden name. My skill with a needle had not improved with the years and she, dear lady made every excuse and allowance possible to give me a pass grade. The other two were men who had taught my own children at their Secondary Modern School. They had left the chalk-face when the school became a "Comprehensive." The Maths teacher, when I told him Mary was taking "A" levels including physics at the College of Further Education said: "If she passes I'll eat my hat." The day the results came I took a hat in to offer him.
Later when my turn came he said in view of his error over my daughter he would have to award me a pass grade. I was very fortunate that continuous assessment was the vogue for if I am honest I don't think I could pass "CSE" maths let alone "O" level.
The three years went by all too quickly. During my time at college I had learnt to drive, (and passed first time) so that I could dash home whenever possible for Mam's dementia had increased. We had inherited Dad's car along with mother but Wes found it easier to get to work on the bus.
I couldn't get any assistance for mother nor any relief even to take a holiday with my family. I employed a part-time cleaning lady who did what she could for her but I knew she was reaching the stage when she needed full time care.
Two frightening incidents made me take action, the first was when she turned on the gas fire without lighting it, the second when she set the bedroom on fire. To make matters worse she had conceived the notion that I was trying to poison her. I had bought fillet steak for her while I served a cheaper cut for the rest of us. She saw the difference and interpreted it as an attempt at murder. She refused to eat it and Wes was furious.
Even now the social services would give no help except to recommend a privately run home which might be prepared to take her. The doctor fetched a psychologist who said he could get her into Mapperly but she would be fastened in a crib like a lunatic.
The first home took her on trial while we had a much needed holiday but refused to take her permanently mainly because she had a toilet fixation. At home she had constantly gone to the toilet at five minute intervals through the night. Long after she died I fancied I heard the flush working.
I found another home for her and very reluctantly my brother agreed to placing her there. I had to have his approval as he had taken over the administration of her affairs even to the extent of having her pension paid into the account so that towards the end I was feeding and clothing her.
I began teaching at a Secondary Modern School on the Clifton Estate and every day after school I visited Mam. I tried bringing her home for the weekend but when I took her back to the nursing home she recognized her chair and said, "Thank you for bringing me back."
She was now almost blind and very deaf. I can still visualize her sitting with her eyes closed, banging her stick on the floor and shouting fire, fire. By the time death came she did not even recognize the taste of ice-cream.
Although I could not have wished her to live I was overcome by guilt. If I had only known she had such a short time to live perhaps I could have kept her at home. Fear was added to my grief, every episode of forgetfulness filled me with terror lest I should inherit this dreadful illness
The first term of teaching I didn't know what had hit me. My teaching practice had not prepared me for the outright rudeness of these girls. I wondered if my own children witnessed such behaviour at their school but after the first term I established a working relationship with most of them. The main problems were the dichotomy between the college ethos and that of the school. The college and the L.E.A. advisor insisted that all pupils should cook according to the lesson set but the pupils thought they should only cook what "Mam" said, and as they were expected to bring the ingredients they had the upper hand. At college we were told to supply all ingredients and sell them to the pupils or if it was a meal let them eat it and failing all else to send it through to the school kitchen.
Theoretically this should work but departmental allowances were too small to cover the losses, the staff were opposed to the children getting "something for nothing" and the kitchen staff objected to supplying meals not prepared by them, moreover the children would rather follow the time honoured custom of cleaning the ovens if the dish to be prepared was not to their family's taste.
The syllabus insisted on fish cookery but not a single child was prepared to cook a fish dish although on teaching practice I had a class of West Indians who taught me to cook fish I had never heard of.
Promotion came from out of the blue! The teacher at my previous school, who had recommended me to apply for a teaching course, rang to say they were advertising for a teacher in charge of the library. I had seen the advertisement but as it was a scale three post and I was only just out of my probationary year it hadn't occurred to me to apply but on his insistence I did.
And now my direction changed again. There was one other candidate for interview and she confided in me that she was Geography and if they wanted her to teach English she would refuse the post. As she had a degree and I hadn't even an "A" level I felt sure she would be their choice.
However her comments set me thinking. I had been very successful in the subsidiary English course at college (We all took two main courses and three subsidiary as well as the educational subjects) and I had met one teacher during my teaching practice who had an English class in addition to cookery so I had a yen to teach some English. At the interview, which was with the head and the deputy I was asked, if I was offered the post, what I would wish to teach. I took a deep breath and said, "English and Library Studies."
When the school went Comprehensive I was heartily glad I had made the change for I had had a class of boys during my teaching practice and they presented extra problems. They refused to wear aprons, wouldn't cook meals other than toast snacks and parents refused to supply ingredients as they objected to the boys being turned into sissies. The only success I had with them was sausage rolls for which I provided all the ingredients and sold individually. It seems strange how quickly they have adapted. Before I left teaching I saw boys doing exquisite embroidery for wall decorations and even cushions.
Teaching English made me aware of my lack of qualifications in this subject and so I registered for a night school "A" level class but at Easter my appendix flared up. (After a lapse of thirty years since I was put on the waiting a list)
I was taking care of my brother's two children as his wife was ill and my poor husband was left to take care of all five. I failed the exam but the class lecturer visited me at home to persuade me to enter for a retake in October and this time I scraped a pass.
For a while I was happy although a bit miffed when my head of department after reading my lesson forecast, put his class with mine. He had a private business and eventually left to work in it full time.
The new Head of English had been made redundant from a post in Further Education and said he had been promised the headship when the present head retired. However he did not get the post and I think his bitter disappointment led to his heart attack a few months later.
My predecessor in the library had obtained a degree through the Open University and had left some of the material behind. I wondered if I could obtain a degree for the talk was of teaching as an "All Degree Profession". I think I still had in mind staving off dementia. Before I was through the course I became ill with a collapsed disc at the bottom of the spine but in I passed and in 1982 I gained an Honours degree.
Staff relations were strained, the Science department had developed and was running a "Home Science" course which duplicated the work of the "Home Economics" department and the "Art" department wasn't happy about "tie and dye" being undertaken in science.
Things were made worse when a new head introduced a faculty system which gave the metal work teacher a scale four post as head of technology and put him over art, home economics and woodwork. A new Science master was appointed and was made head of science faculty the old staff felt pressured to retire.
The former head of science, a friend from my teen years (We were in the GTC together) had the indignity of the Head Master listening to her lessons from the prep room and then criticizing her in front of the class.
The discipline problems in the school escalated with unemployment. Most children previously could be motivated to make an attempt at CSE project work when they believed it was the passport to a job but when it became an examination subject and employment became unobtainable even for those with "O" level grades they gave up. Yet it wasn't the children who caused my stress but the head who made impossible demands. As well as running the library and a full teaching programme he expected me to administer all the hardware and the lithographic material for the school. Some of the staff wanted reprographic material at a moments notice and out of school hours.
To add to my difficulties I had a bladder and bowel prolapse and needed frequent visits to the toilet so it was the last straw when instead of teaching in the library I was given a hut at the bottom of the yard. The staff toilet was at the top of the main building and impossible to reach inbetween lessons. I consulted a specialist and had a prolapse repair operation.
At this time I was teaching throughout the school and for the first time I had an O leval class. Concerned at leaving them in the middle of their course I returned early and against medical advice only to find the class had been given to some one else and I had to take a the bottom group who had opted out of education years before. Moreover, I was supposed to enter them for the exam.
I developed hypertension and angina and in 1985 applied for early retireme
After taking early retirement I tried private tutoring but I found it too demanding although I got a great deal of pleasure when I tutored a mining surveyor who had failed his third attempt at "O" level English. He presented me with a bouquet when he passed but all I had taught him was exam technique and confidence. There was nothing wrong with his written expression or understanding, which tells a lot about the exam system.
I still worry lest I succumb to senile dementia especially when ten minutes after my husband has brought me a cup of tea in bed I have forgotten I have drunk it, apart from that I think I am more content now than at any time in my life. I write, I dance, I walk. My husband is more loving now than he ever was in our younger days. Since my illness he has done all the housework except the cooking, and my children are all doing well. The two eleven plus failures both hold degrees and my daughter is a primary school teacher. My youngest son is working as an Operating Theatre Assistant at the City Hospital. My four grandchildren are loving and happy but I do worry about their futures in this time of mass unemployment .
Looking back over my life I realize I am a bit of a stinker but feel this Gutter Snipe has not done so bad so far and perhaps, in the words of Thomas Hardy "The best is yet to be."
For a time my optimism seemed justified. We had several holidays abroad.
Weekends were spent at the Lidos with Mary and the grandchildren and we went on holiday to Tunisia with them.
Roy my youngest son had a baby girl but in 1986 my brother Harry died whilst on holiday in Aaron. We took the journey up stopping over night at Washington. The message we received said he had had a heart attack but was recovering. When we arrived the position had changed and he was gravely ill. I still didn't realize death was near and I joked with him before going back to the hotel to eat. The call came soon after we arrived at the hotel- he had gone.
Barbara, his wife turned to me and for the first time since we met we were friends. She discussed whether to have him cremated and I said I thought he wanted to be buried. I thought she would leave him there since he so loved the place but she decided to bring him home.
At the funeral I made a complete fool of myself. I had asked the doctor to give me something to see me through but foolishly I had a drink of sherry before setting out and lost control. Barbara remained calm through out.
Cousin Vin came, as did several of our other cousins who I hadn't seen for years.
Harry and I had drifted apart since Mam died, my fault since I harboured resentment that he hadn't given me more help in caring for her. Now it was too late I bitterly regretted it.
I appear to have stopped writing this biography at this point or else I lost part when my computer failed and now I cannot recall the years between 86 and 97 but in 88 I wrote regularly for the Nottingham Writers competitions and had a number of successes.
In 1993 John had an operation for bowel cancer followed by chemotherapy. He survived and was told the operation was a success. When he recovered he invited us to share a holiday with them in Cyprus. He was marvelous, up early every morning to do several lengths in the swimming pool. I didn't add anything to the holiday. I didn't like the place and he wanted to do all the catering which I wouldn't allow. In fact I was my usual obstreperous objectionable self. I fell down in the grounds when returning home at night and was diagnosed at the hospital with a broken rib. Pat broke a toe in the pool. John had taken out the insurance and lost the cover note.
They didn't ask us again.
Writing took over my life and I neglected every thing. I think I was hopeful of branching out into publication but hadn't sufficient confidence to submit although I did have one or two articles published.
Then in February 1997 Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had always supposed I would be a candidate for cancer not my daughter. She was only forty-seven. I was with her when they told her and I couldn't move. Roy came and she sobbed in his arms while I sat like a stranger looking on just as at my father's funeral when it seemed totally unreal until the coffin was sent to the flames.
For a little while she allowed us to accompany her for her chemotherapy sessions but then Neil took over before she started going alone.
In November ninety-nine Wes was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which had spread, to his bones. He was told he had about two years before the pain would start. Any treatment would be palliative.
We agreed not to tell the kids until after Christmas.
It was two thousand and two before I started writing this journal again.
John my youngest brother began making contact with me when he had begun a family history research. With the help of a former O.U. student I met at a reunion diner I discovered Granddad Allen's grave and we took a short holiday with Mary, Neil and John to visit the grave.
Cousin June Ensor (formerly Sweet) put us in touch with André and she met us off the train. She also took me to the record office in Calais to discover Grandpa Russell's birth record. Later she sent masses of information about Granddad and Grandma including the unbelievable, but proven fact that Grandma had given birth to an illegitimate child who had died shortly after birth.
John and I exchanged information for almost a year and we became closer through this shared interest than we had ever been. However it all came to an end in 2001 when he underwent an operation for gallstones. It should have been a three-day job but following a catalogue of errors - a severed artery and bile duct he was in hospital for a year firstly in Aberdeen then Edinburgh and finally after a short period at home back to Aberdeen to die. His suffering was indescribable. We travelled up to Edinburgh to see him only to find he was back in Aberdeen. We visited him at home where he was bent over the table in agony.
In March he returned home to build up his strength before undergoing further treatment for a small cancer nodule they discovered on the liver. He made it for his ruby wedding anniversary, which he held at Banbury. Mary and Neil took us.
The next time I saw John he was in his coffin. Cliff accompanied us to the funeral, hiring a car to take us to and from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.
Jonathon gave an excellent speech at the funeral giving a resume of John's life - his foibles and the part ice cream played. He had arranged for an ice-cream vendor to present the congregation with a cornet as the left the church.
This has been a traumatic year. I have suffered all the year with shoulder and arm pain and feel totally useless. I couldn't even pick up Cliff's baby.
I visited Rahel in hospital and was surprised to see how light skinned baby Joseeph was. I didn't know often babies are born light skinned and develop their darker skin tone late.
September 11 a plane flew into The World Trade Centre in America causing an appalling loss of life and incidentally Cliff's loss of his livelihood. The event was followed by an outbreak of anthrax that caused a great deal of panic.
Cliff wasn't worried about work, as he wanted to spend time with his baby. He took over completely. He brought baby Joseph round to see us almost everyday. He thinks the baby will remember us. He also has long term plans for sharing his interests but I fear his dream has come true too late.
I find myself constantly psyching myself up for the time when I will be alone which is foolish since I may well die first.