by Anton Wills-Eve
<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/dear-mom/”>Dear Mom</a>
As this is my two hundredth blog in the past 20 months I decided to follow the prompt as closely as I could with a true story if possible. And what prompt did I see to my amazement? ‘A letter to my mother’. Awwww, so sweet. What a choice. You bet your sweet bippy it was. I have decided to reproduce some family letters dated mid August 1968, from Singapore and Saigon where I worked as a journalist.
“Dear Mum. I was so sorry to hear that dad had been so ill in Spain and that you had returned early to England without carrying on running your hotel. I know how much he would have been enjoying it, but a heart attack is a heart attack. So I do understand your plea for as much money as I can afford. At least we can save here so I hope it helps.
By the way, how are you. You have been dying on us for ten years and I do hope your empahsyma is under control now. Michele (my sister) and I will do all we can to help keep you going, but it is a shame that I have had to put off Lucy’s trip out here. I hope the delay won’t be for too long. She was so excited, and we were going to get married. I desparately need her, mum, my nerves are shot to pieces and I don’t think I can last much longer without her. But considering how much you and dad spent and sacrificed on Michele and me as we grew up I had to do all I could for you first. But I have asked Lucy to visit you and make sure everything is okay and whether you want anything. Do please tell her.
I have another five days here before returning to Saigon. I have been shot twice, mortared and blown up five times and am frankly at my wits’ end. Also my agoraphobia, you know how awful it was at school, has come back worse than ever and I would have sent you more money but, as during my seven years in Paris, I have to take taxis everywhere. It eats up my salary dreadfully. That’s why I need Lucy so much. She really calms me down and it was only during the months I had in England before coming out here, you know beteen visits to Isreal for the six day war, that I really felt happy and well. Don’t tell her though, I have never upset her with tales of my awful anxiety. That story is for me alone when I feel I can tell her without upsetting her too much. They put me on very strong transqulisers a couple of months ago, but only my prayers really work.
Well I don’t want to get too depressing, so take care and look after dad and Gran as well as yourself.
Lots of love and God Bless.x x x
August 27 1968. (from my sister)
I don’t want to upset you, Ant, as you are back in hell, but it was really terrible. Lucy came down the other day but only John (Michele’s husband) and I were at home when she arrived. I explained mum and dad were back in hospital and she wouldn’t be able to see them. You know her, she was terribly sorry but never dreamed for a minute I was lying. They had gone back to Richmond for the day on purpose to miss her as mum said she was not encouraging anyone to steal her son. Really, those were her words. I often wondered why she had been so lukewarm toward little Luce as we’d known her eleven years, but I saw it now. It was pure selfishness.
When I got home I rang Sandy because a thought struck me. You know how much you two got on like a house on fire. I couldn’t believe she’d turned you down two years ago before you met Lucy again. She hadn’t. After your proposal she was over the moon and told Mum the same afternoon. Even showed her the ring. Mum tore into her and made up stories of your chasing after every girl you saw and that you’d only proposed to her because you thought you’d made her pregnant and couldn’t face her father. Sandy was so shaken she could not even ask you if it was true. Are you getting the picture now? I don’t want to speak ill of Mum as she’s dying anyway, but when I told John of what she’d said about Lucy he lost the plot. He went round to their house and really tore into her. You know how it was only the pleading of you and Luce that made it finally possble for our parents to accept John as a son in law, well he didn’t let her forget it. I’m sorry if you didn’t want this, but I stole the letter you wrote mum and showed it to Lucy. I think she’s saving up to get the next plane to Asia that she can afford. I’m sorry, but it’s all been so terrible. Anyway, let me cheer you up by telling you Surrey won by seven wickets yesterday.
Miche x x
message to willseve,saigon: return singapore at once, family illness: august 30
The only thought in my mind during the brief flight to Singapore was ‘which one’? I was met by the Singapore boss at the airport and was told my father had had another heart attack. For 14 hours I was half asleep half in tears and was met at the airport by Lucy. She didn’t drive when I left England but had a lovely sports car, John had lent it to her. I just clung to her for quarter of an hour in the car park and didn’t know what to say. We said nothing. But I calmed down a lot and knew my Lucy was all I needed. On the drive home from the airport she went via the hospital where I saw John and Michele by Dad’s bed. He looked so ill, but pleased to see me. After an indescribable half hour we carried on driving home.
Mum was a pale colour, having awful trouble breathing. When she saw it was Lucy who had brought me she literally had a siezure and we called an ambulance. It took us to the local cottage hospital and Lucy offered to drive back to the main hospital to get Michele and John.
They fitted mum up in an oxygen tent and a asked if I could hold her hand. They let me. I was numbed as her gasps of breath became worse by the second. It took only ten minutes for her to die and she never spoke or opened her eyes. When the nurses removed the tent I knelt by her bed and prayed for the repose of her soul. It was thus that the other three found me. Thank God Lucy was with me for the funeral as dad’s condition got much worse. The office told me to remain as long as I liked but that same night dad died. If Lucy had not been with me I don’t know what I would have done.
I returned to Singapore on September the fourteenth where everyone was very sympathetic. I still had six months to do in Vietnam and the office would not allow wives and husbands to be together in a war zone. But we had worked out a really good ruse. Our parish priest, he who had just buried my parents, smiled on Lucy and me and married us in the church with Michele and John as witnesses. We were not legally married, but the church thought we were and was happy. So we were. But Lucy had to fly out later than I did. So it was on the fourtheenth of September that a good friend, who held all my mail for me, handed me a letter received some weeks ago. I knew the writing. It was dated September the first,
You’ll be upset to hear that that girl Lucy who was chasing after you disgracefully for the year before you went to Asia was killed in a car crash yesterday. She borrowed John’s sports car and could not control it. I believe it took them an hour to cut her out and she was crying for you as she died while on the way to hospital…..” I vomited as I tore it up. I couldn’t understand it. Which one of us did she hate the most? When I met Lucy in Saigon Airport a week later I never mentioned it to her. I never have.
Wow. You have the material for a book here, Anton. I hope you won’t resent my saying the obvious–that the level of your mother’s selfishness is amazing. I’ve just published a prompt/challenge that I hope you’ll take. I’ve heard so many of the tragic details of your past that I’d love to hear some of the happy ones. To see the details of this challenge, go here: http://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/15/best-preteen-memories/
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You win Judy, I’ll take the challenge although I must say I love your assumption that most of happiness is in childhood. oh, re mum’s selfishness it was a very sad fault in her but I have forgiven her. Just to really cheer you up, I have never written the worst example of it. genuinely unbelievable. But if I write the book you suggested it would have to be in that. The work would not be true enough without it. It’s so tempting. Do you think I should? Cheers. Anton