July 11th 2019.
Consider a man who is so busy on this Thursday morning that he misreads my email which mentions accommodating his wishes at the weekend. I have something at my house which he wants.
Consider this man who believes that his needs should be met right now, this Thursday. He’s in the area and appears to have not much to do.
No, I say. It doesn’t suit.
Well if not now, when today? he says. He’ll come and wait round my house.
But I’m over 300 miles away. I’m in Carlisle. looking around the castle, which has withstood the Civil War. Texts ping like enemy fire into my phone. My husband tells me to ignore him, don’t answer. For god’s sake, he says, it’s your birthday. He reminds me, although I don’t need reminding, that this man and his wife can be relied on to never answer me, and have acted to wreck my life.
I would cut off all ties but I am linked to them through my mother. While she lives, this man and his wife are my brother-in-law and sister.
I answer. He can wait all he likes, I tell him, I’m away.
He texts back – when can my son help him? Or, he says, he can wait at my house.
I had said in the email, you see, that my son might help out at the weekend, dropping this bag of his stuff over to my mother’s. My son doesn’t want to help him, not today, or this evening, or in all honesty, not at the weekend, or ever, although he would do it if I asked. Anyway, for now my son is at work.
If not today, says the man, then his needs must be met tomorrow.
No, I say. Not tomorrow. Again, my son will be at work.
Carlisle Castle was taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie against the wishes of its own people. They wanted a quiet life.
Three times this man tells me to get my son to help him get what he wants from my home.
I say no. I say I hadn’t expected him to come for the stuff without my sister and their children, my mother’s grandchildren. Mum longs to see them. Come back another time, I tell him, with his family, to visit my mother at her house. And if they give me some notice, I’ll make sure the stuff is there.
Why am I so weird, he asks, to hide the stuff that he wants at my home, and not leave it at the other house?
He actually believes I am playing a game with him.
The stuff that he wants is a bag of videos that my now dead father took of his family, decades ago. My father religiously copied all videos and gave those copies to the relevant people. It’s extremely unlikely that this man does not have copies of the videos he professes to want. It’s extremely likely he has known that these copies were in my parents’ home for decades.
Because I say, I would have binned these videos at mum’s house, except that bin was full. So I took this bag of videos, neglected for decades by this man and his wife, to bin at my house, when we were clearing Dad’s room. It’s been over four years since he died. Then I saved it, as I thought just possibly, he, his family, my sister might want it, and might come to visit my mother to get it, and that would be a good thing for my mother, to see her grandchildren, whom she adores, but has been kept from for months.
I tell this man it wasn’t a weirdness but a kindness of mine to offer it.
I think now it was a folly.
Consider this man. This man has made no contact with my mother, who is 85, wheelchair bound and frequently very unwell, for over six months. Neither has his wife, my mother’s daughter, or their grown children, to whom Mum sends substantial presents of money. She sends flowers to her daughter. These presents have been unacknowledged. The family have blocked their phone to her, and recently unblocked it, but don’t return her calls or reply to her messages.
Consider this man, who has got my messages and presumably read them before firing off his responses. He goes to the other place, to my mother’s, to ask for his videos. He does not believe I am telling the truth.
This man and his wife have a problem with the truth. For them it appears to be flexible.
Consider this man, then, the same man that loomed over me at my father’s funeral four years before and told me to go away, and not speak to my sister. Consider that this is a man who ruined that funeral for me, the daughter who nursed her father for a year, who took responsibility for both her parents, day and night, while this man and his wife occasionally visited. Not one doctor’s appointment, not one chemotherapy appointment did they attend.
Consider that it was put about that at the time this man told me to go away, I was drunk. A straightforward lie.
Consider this man. In the afternoon, he goes to that other house, to my mother’s house, and removes from her house a kitchen chair; a good farmhouse kitchen chair that my father bought, and also a portrait of my sister that had hung over my mother’s bed for years. Consider that the shock of his visit exacerbates my mother’s ill-health and she is still recovering two weeks later. Consider that when I ring her not knowing he is in her house, she tells me she is with him, and that she is in the Centre, meaning the place where she used to work, and that she has walked there with him. Consider that this man takes these items from my mother’s home on a day that my mother literally does not know where she is. She hasn’t walked anywhere for years. She’s in a wheelchair.
In the afternoon my husband and I see an exhibition at the castle about soldiers who suffered PTSD in the Iraq War. On film big men talk with humour about the privations of living in the broiling heat, about getting on with the local population, about the children who remind them of their own families, about their constant state of danger, about the love they have for their friends, some of whom have been blown up next to them. They talk about committing suicide.
My husband cries and leaves. I cry and stay. We meet in the café later.
We have nothing to say to each other about the soldiers. We discuss this man who, a few weeks after my father died, proposed selling my mothers’ house from under her and installing her in a home.
We discuss this man who lives in a house where when my mother phones, her calls are not answered and that this has been going on for over six months, and that this is not unusual in the pattern of events since my father’s death. Four years of this.
Consider that it’s now nearly three weeks later and there has still been no contact from him, his wife, or their three grown children, and that this surprises us not one bit, despite the fact that my mother’s 86th birthday has been and gone, and that my mother phoned to leave a message to thank my sister for the un-birthday and undaughterly card she sent her, which contained no love, no kisses, nor the word “Mum”. It was the least she could have done. Literally.
In the café we discuss this man, who accused me and my husband of taking tens of thousands of pounds from my father while he was still alive, even though my father was so in control of his own finances that he arranged a meeting with his financial advisor and his two daughters a week before he died, and never mentioned anything about these tens of thousands that I was to be accused by my brother-in-law of taking, years later. And that is simply because I didn’t, and it did not occur to my father that I would be so accused.
So now consider this man. Last summer he initiated an investigation of me by Social Services for financial mismanagement of my mother’s money, because I would not share with him my mother’s banking. My mother said it was not his business. My sister who might have had some right to the information never asked me for it, because she has not communicated with me for three years, and that is because (and I’m guessing here), she cannot bear to know what I think of her, and it must be easier to be paranoid and accusatory about your sister when you won’t communicate with her.
Consider this man, who is such a coward, and his wife my sister another such, that they did not show up in person or by phone at the final meeting which totally exonerated me of their malicious, paranoid accusations.
Consider this man. What do you think of him?