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.

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Homage to Nessie

Nessie child 001

I wanted to say something at Nessie, my mother in law’s funeral. Above is a beautiful sepia picture of her when she was about 4, I think. I had been visiting frequently for the last decade, from Texas to Scotland, watching her illness deteriorate and lurch from one crisis to another. Not only did I love her but I wanted everyone to know our relationship. To some it may have seemed as though we abandoned my husband’s parents to live in the USA. The Minister was concerned that I may not be able to finish my homage and had a printed copy ready to take over. I was nervous but only at the last paragraph did my voice begin to shake with emotion and anxiety. This is it.

Nessie was my mother in law for almost 34 years and I loved her. I first met her when I was 21 and she knew in that second I was going to marry her son Drew. I think she was looking for somebody sensible and assertive… She fully embraced my mum and me into their family and they became good friends going on racy vacations together. Her smile could light up a room and still did in her last days. We bonded over our love for her precious boy, Drew or Andy as I know him. She always told him that he was particularly special because as an adopted child, she and Dad chose him. I tried so hard to be a good daughter in law and always felt I failed a little until Nessie’s battle with Alzheimer’s began. Then the roles started to change I became the loving care giver that I had always wanted to be, albeit through regular long distance visits. Every taxi driver in East Kilbride knows me and as soon as get off the plane, a driver that I don’t recognize will say “how’s your mum?”

She was the backbone in the Duncan family, supporting her husband, son and new daughter. She was unfailingly generous to the myriad family members, especially those with problems. She was non-judgmental and open in her views of the world and people. She could be stubborn and assertive, too. It would have been so boring if she was perfect. Her primary school students adored her as did all her friends. I loved when she dished some gossip about the Rotarian club – she was so naughty at times. Bob was Rotarian President for a session and she made an excellent President’s wife throwing herself into social activities. She loved her mum and dad, her younger brother Andy and his family.

Not everyone knows that she was a gifted artist and had always wanted to go to art school. She used those skills in many ways from teaching to dressmaking and making fantastic Halloween costumes for Drew when he was young. When I was younger she loved to braid my long hair and made me clothes which I didn’t always appreciate. In her last few years I loved her the most – the staff at Abbey Lodge adored her and looked after her so well. Her death has left a huge hole in our hearts. May she rest in peace.

A Pastor who walks in the footsteps of Christ

Bob, Andy Nessie

Teddy with his late mum and dad

I wanted to tell you about my mother in law’s funeral service and give thanks to the wonderful Pastor. In the UK we call them Reverend or Minister but Pastor feels more familiar here in Texas. When my father-in-law died almost four years ago, a new Minister, Reverend Lindsey Sanderson, was just being appointed to their church. Both my mother and father in law were faithful members of their church which was built in a new town, East Kilbride, which was developed in the late 1940s. As a result, a retired Minister who knew my father in law personally performed the service.

Later, I reached out to Lindsey, who is a lovely young woman, when we had a previous crisis with Mum to ask if she could visit and pray with her. We couldn’t get flights immediately and it is a two day journey back to Scotland. At that time Nessie, my mother in law, performed her Lazarus trick and completely recovered from the virus. Lindsey continued to visit regularly and would send emails with current photographs that she had taken. She sang familiar hymns to her and prayed with her. This was an immense comfort to both Teddy and I even though we are not religious. We knew that Nessie was and so it would be a comfort.

On January 2nd we got a call from mum’s care home to say that she was suddenly deteriorating and it seemed like end-stage symptoms. She was very comfortable on end of life medications. Despite all our knowledge and 18 years with Alzheimer’s disease, you are always shocked. It was two hours before we were due to have a little drinks party with friends at our house. We looked at each other and decided not to cancel the party; why not celebrate her very long life? As it is a two day journey to Scotland from Texas so we decided to wait a couple of days to see how things progressed. The staff said she was staying stable and then we got the call in the middle of the night (we are 6 hours behind Scotland) to say she had died peacefully in her sleep on the 4 January 2016. The staff had gone into her room to wake her up and she had passed onto the hereafter.

As soon as we heard that she was failing, I emailed Lindsey to ask if she could visit. She went after Sunday services on the 3rd January and blessed her. When she emailed me in return I knew that this was the end. It’s a small town and Lindsey worked with us and the funeral director to create the perfect service. I was astonished at how appropriate and well thought out the service and hymns were. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to have a relationship with a Minister that truly did minister her flock with love and compassion. Thank you, Reverend Lindsey Sanderson, of The United Reform Church. This is their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/righeadurc

I know, I know – the irony of my previous post Facebook is the work of the devil! Clearly I was wrong and there are angels at work, too. I would also like to thank John Donnelly of Heritage Funeral Services http://www.heritagefuneralservices.co.uk/ (Thank the Good Lord they don’t have a Facebook page…) and all their wonderful staff. We arrived about a week after mum had died and had asked for a closed casket. Then I wanted to see her – I could see that this was unexpected for the staff but they went out of their way to accommodate me. They did whatever they do and she looked like a beautiful ageing fairy. At the last moment Teddy decided to view her too and was glad that we could see that her spirit was gone and all that was left was an exquisite death mask. Just before we left, they asked us if we would like music at the crematorium and Teddy said that she wasn’t really into music. I looked at him in astonishment and said, “She loved the Sound of Music”. As we entered the crematorium ‘Edelweiss’ was playing and as we left, ‘Climb Every Mountain’. During Lindsey’s shorter service there we sang ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ – a perfect hymn.

This is a link to the beautiful service sheet and hymns Click here to see the service Please look at it, especially if you have a relative with Alzheimer’s because you might love the appropriateness of it. May she rest in peace.

Teddy and his mum

Drew and mumframe

This is a fun photograph of my husband and his mother on a glacier in Austria in the late 1960s. Doesn’t she look like the coolest chick with that Caucasian ‘fro? Her hair was naturally curly. She died peacefully in her sleep on Monday 4th January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Nessie spent the last four years of her life in a wonderfully caring home in Scotland and thrived under their care. I still can’t believe that she lived so long – she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at least 15 years before her death at the age of 87.

This week has passed in a blur, writing a business plan for my husband on Monday, then onto all the funeral preparations. The mortuaries are full of bodies at this time in Scotland. Somehow the cold and viruses just takes out the weak. The funeral is planned for Wednesday 13th January when we have a brief break in the weather. It will be near freezing but dry – so important if you are travelling in Scotland (or to Scotland).

Curiously, the funeral will take place on the same day that my mother died 14 years ago. They were good friends in life so perhaps they will be again in death. I asked my husband if I could speak at her church service and he thought that was a good idea as he would be too upset. I first met her when I was 21 years old and she accepted me immediately. It is now over 34 years later, I am still married to her only child and I cared for her relentlessly. She had good instinct.

I will probably not blog again for a couple of weeks but who knows? The journey across the pond is tiring and we have much to do in a short time. We traveled regularly to the UK to see my husband’s parents but now we are unlikely to do so for some years. Our visit will be a gentle goodbye to both a lovely mother and a beautiful country.

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.