Friday, 29 January 2016

Meeting my Foster Mother after over 40 years

Just before Christmas I found a message waiting for me on Facebook. It was from somebody in St Albans who had read my blog and who thought that her aunt was possibly my foster mother! It seems that at a family event a few years ago they had been sitting at the same table for lunch and somehow the topic of adoption and fostering had come up. Her aunt mentioned that she had done some fostering for a young lad whose father was dead and whose mother was in a mental hospital. My blog reminded her of that conversation so she decided to write to me.

When I replied I thought I should only mention the road in St Albans where I lived when I was in foster care. Almost straight away though she messaged me back with the surname of her aunt and it was my foster mother. That was quite a shock to me I can tell you!

I didn't hear anything for over a week so I started to think that the whole business was over. But then I got a much longer message telling me that my foster mother was still alive and well and still living in St Albans. She was in her 80s but she wanted to meet me.

I live in west Wales so it is a long way to Hertfordshire but now I am semi-retired I have more spare time so after a couple of restless nights I decided I would accept the invitation. My mind felt very jumbled up, rather like it did just after my dear wife Jane passed away. First of all it was going to be a long train trip (I get travel sick on buses) with changes at Birmingham and London Euston plus a trip on the Underground. It was also going to cost a lot of money but as I have some "rainy day" money saved up I thought I could afford it. 

We were due to meet on a Saturday so on Friday I caught a train mid-morning and nearly six hours later I arrived in St Albans. I found the Bed and Breakfast place I had booked quite easily. The next morning I had a walk around the town thinking how much some parts had changed and how some parts were just the same. I also visited the cemetery on Hatfield Road to put some flowers on the two graves where Mum and Dad were buried so long ago.

Then I set off to the meeting place for what turned out to be a long and quite sad and strange conversation. I will write about that next week.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A former foster child asks "Am I doomed to always feeling slightly cheated?"

Am I doomed to always feeling slightly cheated?

My Dad died when I was too young to remember him.
My Mother had mental health issue and so from 14-16 I was in foster care.
My foster parents were never abusive but never showed me a scrap of affection.
My dear wife and I were never able to have children.
She then died while still quite young. She was 54 and died from heart disease.

I posted, for a reason I still don't really understand, this question to a well known website recommended to me by a young friend. I didn't get as many replies as some of the other threads seem to get but those I did get were very helpful.

"I think the circumstances of your parents would be very difficult for anyone to deal with & can see how you would feel cheated. But its not something you can do anything about so maybe try to reconcile it for your own peace of mind."

"You're not doomed to anything ,how you see your life is a choice. Sadness is normal, but feeling cheated...well that's a perspective that causes bitterness, and that only hurts you. I lost my parents young, I've had other troubles. I've never felt cheated. Life is random and fickle and things happen. How you deal with those things is entirely up to you."

"I suppose it depends on whether you wish to actively deal with it through counselling or some sort of therapy. Or if you prefer to try to live with it then regard it as part of life's journey, that good things happen & shit things happen but at the end of it you are still alive & look at what you do have instead of what you don't have? A sort of counting your blessings type thing, although it sounds unbelievably trite!"

I think the third one of these felt best for me. I suppose everybody has good and parts of their lives and I till just have to accept that some of the time I spent living in St Albans will have to be put on the bad part pile. When I was working in schools in St Albans and Wolverhampton I sometime heard such terrible stories about young people who had been abused for years. I never had anything like that happen to me so perhaps I have no reason to feel cheated after all? 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Long-term loneliness and being fostered

When my late wife Jane was still alive we used to get invitations to a wide range of family events. My problem was that I felt that I was only invited because I was Jane's husband and that was the label that almost everybody at these gatherings attached to me. I felt like a shadowy figure always doomed to be sitting in the corner trying to make polite conversation with other people who were in the same position as me while the "proper family" swapped memories and looked at old photographs. I never gave, I hope, Jane any hint that I felt quite left out at these events. She loved them and I would never have wanted to spoilt things for her.

Jane was very keen on family photographs and one of my favourite memories of her final few months was her trying to understand how to enter information into some genealogy software she had got from a family history magazine. Jane was very organised and she always used to write on the back of photos who all the people were and what event was being photographed. Sometimes she would add extra information years later like "Aunty Floss - died 6 months later"  or "Cousin Frank - the first signs of his drink problem?".

When Jane died I returned most the photographs to her family. I thought they would be of more interest to them than they would be to me as a bit of an outsider. I was worried that if I kept them and then suddenly died the old photos might get thrown away without people thinking. I went through a rather black spell after her funeral and I made some decisions that perhaps were not sensible but returning the photos really wasn't one of them.

I had always got on well enough with Jane's family so it was disappointing that I ended up feeling rather lonely and abandoned after the funeral. I suppose they didn't want to intrude but as I didn't have any other family to help with all the jobs that need doing when somebody dies it might have been nice if they could have made more effort to help me.

Without my best friend Mike and his famous check-lists of jobs that needed doing I don't know how I would have managed.