The Bed

Her bed was an object of degradation. It reeked of alcohol and sweat. Too drunk to make it the bathroom, the bed was stained with urine. Sometimes it smelled of sex and the repugnant odor of her boyfriend. He hated my looks of disgust and barbed comments. It was all too easy for him to look past the sad eyes of a 15 year old girl whose life was falling apart. Mental illness and self-medication had turned her home into a hovel. There was no safe haven.

She had transmogrified from a caring, beautiful, working single mother into a burden for the only person she always loved – me. We went from fairy stories about my missing Prince of a father – handsome but troubled – to the drunken ravings of a mad woman. What made it worse is the ravings were true. My father had asked her to abort the unwanted fetus, me, and if she hadn’t had me her life may have been so much better.

My heart broke into crystalline pieces like a shattered fairy castle. The truth was there and I just chose not to see it. Perhaps I never needed to know all the intimate details of how my father betrayed us. One revelation was that an American relative wanted to adopt me but my mother refused to consider such a possibility. I longed for Aunt Jackie to rescue me but by this stage we were no longer in contact.

Sometimes I reacted with kindness to my mother’s sad life but mostly I became remote with sarcastic comments. After a neighbor asked me to take her home, she was drunk and incapable of walking the few hundred yards, I shoved her into the wall of the house in frustration. She just sobbed and asked me to forgive her. I could not.

In anger I looked at the bed and tore the filthy bedding from it. I recoiled when I realized that it was soaked in urine. Lifting up the mattress to see if it was as bad on the other side, I saw that she had torn open the lining of the bottom divan and it was filled with dozens of mostly empty bottles of whisky. My temper flared and I started pouring the remaining whisky down the bathroom sink to the sound of her plaintive sobbing. She knew that I had been checking to see how many bottles she was drinking. At her worst it was a bottle of whisky a day.

Post script – every word of this is true and I wish I could have understood more but I was only 15 years old. My mother remained mentally ill but became sober until she died aged 69. I loved her until the day she died.

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The Teddies

Bye, bye, Teddies


In one of my posts about Hurricane Harvey, I mentioned my dilemma about my mum’s collection of Teddies. As a child, she and her siblings had very few toys. One year, when I was an adult, she shared that she had always wanted a Teddy of her own. Growing up poor, my presents to her were usually practical – clothing or money. I had a complicated relationship with my mum because of her strange mental illness (and mine) but I adored her. The Christmas after she told me about her Teddy longing, I bought her the largest Teddy in the box (which was very expensive) and put it in a huge box with lots of tissue paper. The look of delight on her face when she found the Teddy was priceless.

From then on, Teddy (my husband) and I would buy her Teddies at any opportunity and she loved every one of them. They were perfectly arranged on her immaculate lacy white bed every day. As she was approaching her death, she asked me not to give her Teddies away. My husband and I teased her relentlessly with various nefarious scenarios. Our favorite was that we would put them all in a little boat, set fire to them Viking style and send them off into the North Sea. She would be torn between laughter and tears. Anyway, my mum died suddenly at age 69 in 2002 and those dang Teddies have followed us to Africa and America. Our three Egyptian cats became very allergic to the heavy allergens in Houston (tree pollen, mold and other stuff) so the Teddies had to go into the attic.

After Hurricane Harvey hit us, I realized that this was the time to let the Teddies go. I sprayed them with anti-allergy formula and gently wiped them with anti-bacterial cloths. Then I lined the boxes with tissue paper and took them to the nearest evacuation center a few miles from my home. I knew that charities rarely accept soft toys because they may have bacteria on them but I ‘persuaded’ the volunteer that these were obviously never played with, many still had their tickets on them. For some reason, I felt happier that they were going to the Catholic Church. Surely they would treat them with reverence? To my surprise I was tearful as I left the Teddies – one last link to my mum. I am usually more pragmatic but this has been a very hard two weeks on me mentally.

Volunteering has allowed me to feel less impotent. I held the hand of a colleague who had lost everything and told him I would pray to Saint Jude. Heavens knows that we will need some prayer, magic and good will to get through the next few weeks. Please let our country stop thinking of how much this will cost and just do it. I studied economics at college and realized long ago that we could function perfectly well without money, stocks or shares. The Netherlands had a crazy period when the country was very rich when Tulips became of a form of currency. Yes, really!! If we chose to, we could share our wealth more fairly. Tears welled up when I saw a man on CNN give up the last generator that he was ready to buy to the lady behind him who needed it for her father on oxygen. I hope that the modern miracle of weather forecasting and social media allows for many lives to be saved during Hurricane Irma and then Jose. The 1900 Hurricane that hit Galveston killed more than 8,000 people. Be safe and kind. I light a virtual candle for us all.🕯️


I am plagued with migraines just now so please forgive me for not responding quickly to comments and follows.

RIP, Terry

I know that many of my followers also know Terry at Spearfruit.  I sensed yesterday afternoon that he had passed and looked at his blog.  Jodi had posted that Terry passed peacefully in the RV with Gary by his side on September 1st 2017.  May he rest in peace.  My heart goes out to Gary and all Terry’s family.  We have lost a brave, funny and wonderful friend. This is the link to Jodi’s comment and Jodi’s blog. Just scroll down the comments.

My heart is broken

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Mrs. Stripe playing with mum in the dappled autumn sunlight.

Life has been very challenging recently and I hoped that three bad things were enough but not so. Last week we had to have our beloved Mrs. Stripe put to sleep at the veterinarians. I had mentioned previously in a post Mrs.Stripe and the pharmacy that she had severe muscle deterioration in her hind quarters which along with arthritis was causing her pain. On the last visit we shot her up with everything available and it was lovely to see her vibrant spirit emerge when she was pain free. The medication stopped working despite doubling the dosage and she was struggling to breathe through snuffling from an unrelated allergy problem that we could also not treat. Teddy and I talked about what we best, especially given that she was at least 15 years old and a feral street cat. We both agreed that we couldn’t bear to see her in pain and she finally made the decision for us.

I was sitting on the sofa, the night before we took her to the vet, and for the first time in her life she sat on a human’s knee. I looked at her in astonishment but she just settled down like she had always done it. The heat emanating from my knee must have soothed her poor little joints but I had no doubt that she was saying, “Please make the pain stop”. It was a sad day at the vets and almost all staff was in tears both at our sorrow and losing such a special patient. Even in her last days she played with her knitted catnip Spiderman, mewed plaintively for treats and even seemed to smile. She often made us smile see the post Resolution No 1 – wash more.

The house is in mourning and her daughter, Toffee, who is 13 years old, is wandering around the house crying. Zhenny, our other cat, has retreated into closets; occasionally giving us the odd cuddle but mostly biting us. We have euthanized many older pets but Mrs. Stripe was possibly my favorite. I became very mentally unwell when we moved to Egypt and when I caught glimpses of her in the garden it lighten my burden. She is probably half Egyptian Mau but has a bit of European Ginger which gave her fur the most gorgeous Titian highlights. She was exquisite and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I had no intention of looking after her until she had an injury. See my original post about our first meeting – Mrs. Stripe. Right to the very end of our posting in Cairo I wasn’t sure if she wanted to come with us – she was essentially a wild animal. One day she just made up her mind to stay in the house and we had to rush to get her neutered and vaccinated for the trip to America.

The veterinarian placed her in a beautiful blue shroud and we have buried in her beloved garden. Like most immigrants from third world countries, she loved her adopted new land and the odd new creatures she observed such as skunks and raccoons. She loved us and we will always love her. RIP Mrs. Stripe.

Mrs. Stripe's shroud on her favorite ottoman

Mrs. Stripe’s shroud on her favorite ottoman

My Charismatic Father

My father as a beautiful boy

My father on the right as a beautiful boy

As I have been browsing other bloggers posts, I have noticed some lovely memorials to fathers who have passed on. It struck me that although my Dad died in 1990, I have no similar memories. He disappeared from my life when I was about 2 years old and, to all intents and purposes, abandoned us in Glasgow at my Grandmother’s home. Not only that, he ‘borrowed’ money from my mum’s family, never to be repaid.

My mum was a very complicated person with a mental illness and alcohol problem. When I was younger she invariably tried to boost the image of my Dad – told me how handsome, talented, clever and creative he was. I was aware that the rest of her family did not share that opinion. Then, one wonderful day, a giant package arrived from the States. Usually the parcels at Christmas were from my two single maternal aunts and one relative of my father. This one was from my father and it was full of a strange mixture of toys including a pink Cadillac, a fire engine and a large baby doll. I was so excited to receive something from this elusive father. I wasn’t quite old enough to figure out why my mum was conflicted about the parcel – we never did receive any alimony.

As the years passed, a clearer picture of my father emerged. He was a deeply flawed but utterly charismatic man who may well have had mental health issues – certainly he was an alcoholic. In one awful drunken revelation, my mum wailed at me that my Dad had wanted her to get an illegal abortion in 1959. I can still remember how devastating that was to me – not only was I an unwanted burden to my mother but my father probably only married my mother because of my existence. To make things worse I also knew that my father’s cousin, my aunt Jackie, wanted to adopt me because of the circumstances of my birth. How I longed that she had.

Time moved on, I had inherited not just a damaged psyche but a genetic mental illness. I married very young and when I was around 30 found out that we could not have children. That must have triggered something in my head and I asked my mum if she would be upset if I tried to trace my Dad but she was surprisingly keen. Long story short, I found him and he was happy to have reconnected. In essence, I had never met him and was struck by how sexy and alluring his voice was. It resonated beautifully.

There is no happy ending. Eventually, I couldn’t stand to even speak to him after many drunken calls in the middle of the night. He died in desperately sad circumstances, alone, and I am just sad that I don’t have a wonderful Dad to pay tribute to. The one person, who knew him intimately and did not dislike him, told me that I inherited his charisma. I have been told that I have a sexy and alluring voice, too.

I have written some more about him in my Kindle Book –
Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

PS. After I wrote this I looked at my avatar and my Dad as a child and realized our faces are identical.

Nana went to Heaven

Kerry_Trish_Nana

Nana with Kerry and a new cousin

I adored Nana, my maternal grandmother. After my parent’s marriage dissipated, my mother and I stayed in Nana’s apartment, then house, in Glasgow. In another blog ‘the day I knew I could write’, I mentioned that I had written a disturbing tale of a grandmother dying in a rocking chair when I was about 7 years old. Nana had a stroke then and I was just working through my anxiety about the prospect of her death. She was a strong, stabilizing influence on me when my mother was heading towards a severe mental breakdown when I was around 10 years old. My mother had many rounds of electric shock treatment and emerged a broken dove from psychiatric hospital. From then she went onto disability for the rest of her life.

A few months before my Nana’s death when I was 13 years old and she was 79, she was unwell and lying in bed during the daytime. I went into the garden and picked a small bouquet of red and white flowers and put them in a vase. As I entered her bedroom, she screamed to my mum, Kathleen, to take the flowers away. I didn’t realize that my very superstitious Irish grandmother thought that red and white flowers were a warning of death. To this day, I will not receive or give a red and white bouquet. This superstition is very old and reflects red blood and white bandages just like a Barber’s pole. In the past, Barbers often acted as part-time medics and their red and white pole indicated that you go there for medical help much like the green sign for pharmacies.

I am very intuitive and occasionally psychic. Back then I didn’t realize that I can smell and/or sense cancer. Unknown to me, and probably the rest of the family, Nana was dying of lung cancer. As a mature 13 year old, I started removing myself emotionally from my Nana. I still behaved the same but I was holding back some of my very strong affection and love just to protect myself. My life, as I predicted, was going to fall apart after my Nana’s death and quite spectacularly. I am certain that she sensed my withdrawal but I felt that she also withdrew from me – perhaps because I was unable to hide my pity or the truth in my child’s eyes. Everyone else, my mother and all her siblings seemed in denial about how soon she would die.

Just before she died, she asked for me to sit with her and I think we settled our uneasiness. I could not understand why she was so afraid of death, as a life-long Roman Catholic, and she was frightened of my pragmatic acceptance. Her children were terribly upset, naturally, when her death came. In those days the open coffin was kept in her bedroom so that friends and family could pray over the body. It settled me to see her dead body and kiss her goodbye as it was no longer her. My aunt was upset that the mortician had put too much make-up on her but when you are dead, you’re dead. I cried before she died and never did so again. At the funeral I was the only one who was tearless yet I had the most to lose from her death.

For years and up until this day, I have dreams that she has been alive all this time and I had forgotten about her. I feel great guilt and remorse in the dreams but I think I enjoy seeing her come to life just one more time. For some unknown reason I have always accepted death as part of the great circle of life and am not afraid – sometimes I long for it.