Tuesday, 28 October 2014

One Year Ago - My Parents Visited Newcastle For the Last Time

A year ago my parents came to visit us for what turned out to be the last time.

We knew my dad was ill of course.  His symptoms had got worse since we had visited Sussex in the Summer.  But he was still driving everywhere and got on with everything we did when my parents were here.  Nobody knew how quickly his health would deteriorate or that barely six months later he would be living in a care home.

But my mother was still full of life and the excitement of finding new things to do, to experience, to photograph.  We had a packed few days and she had so much zest for everything we saw.  Nobody would have guessed then that her cancer would return so aggressively, that just ten months after arriving to visit us, full of life, she would be dead.

I will treasure those days for the rest of my life.  My dad never got to meet Clare when he was healthy - even in the summer his health problems (and I suspect his upbringing too) meant he couldn't fully deal with his son becoming his daughter.

But my mother got to meet Clare when she was healthy.  Last summer when Kit and I were in Sussex for a few weeks I was in the early days still, experimenting and finding my way and lacking in confidence.  Everyone knew I was Clare, but it was very scary for me - as it turned out more scary than it needed to be.  Even so, she could see the changes in me - the new light, the new joy, the release from so much of the past.  And the difference in the less than two months between then and my parents' visit was quite astounding.

So the visit a year ago was the only time my mother got to experience not just her daughter, but her confident daughter.  I treasure those days.  And I know she treasured them too.

My mother wrote a lot about that visit.  I'm not going to say much more - just link to her blog posts.  There are short ones she wrote when here and then posts with lots of photos that she wrote after the visit.  Sometimes it is good to look back.

To be honest I'm putting my mother's posts here for my own benefit so I can find them all easily in one place.  If you want to take a look - and there are great photos of family and the local area - then do.  Regular readers of my mother's blog will know that they did all sorts of things and the blog, before the sad endings, is filled with descriptions of lives well lived.

People who have only met me in the last eighteen months should be warned against scrolling back in the blog.  I know many actively don't want to learn my old name.  And there are some photos that are quite scary.  There are some relatively decent photos of me - but not many.  Yes, I know I'm biased in my opinions of pictures of me!  But I can see the darkness, the sadness in my eyes, behind even the best of the smiles I gave when living as a man.

First the diary posts during the visit:






It's a good thing they didn't take Isaac given how things developed.  And Isaac himself got ill and died during the summer when I was in Sussex.

And then the posts after the visit with lots of photos.  The posts between these ones make for much sadder reading - many of them deal with stress and anxiety about my dad.  Even on days out to places they loved such as Nymans Gardens or the Bluebell Railway there is still the anxiety in evidence.

Newcastle residents may enjoy the pictures in some of these, especially of our walk through Jesmond Dene, Armstrong Park, Heaton Park, and Jesmond Vale and then to the Biscuit Factory.  That was a great day.  To think that a year ago my parents were both up to doing so much.  My dad needed encouragement but he could still do it all.









No photos of the fourth and final day.  On that day we went to Tynemouth Market, satisfying the urge to buy things for my mother's antiques dealing.  And then to North Shields for the market there and for lunch at one of the cheap pizza places on the fish quay - three courses for £3.95.  Many photos taken of the boats and the river with interesting lighting effects thanks to the weather.

Such wonderful days.  There will be more wonderful days.  I feel joy that we had those days together.  And still much sadness because we cannot have more days together.  I'm still grieving for my mother and unfortunately am not able to help my dad at this time in all his problems which have been far worse than anyone could have expected.

But for today.  Looking back to better times.


  1. It is such a sad time when we lose our parents isn't it Clare? I know you would have wished for both your parents to have met Clare but as you say it might have been too much for dad. You can look back with fond memories and remember the good times you shared. Aren't mothers wonderful though? Your mum was obviously happy to get to know her daughter before she departed. Thank you for allowing your readers to read for themselves your mum's blog. I have as yet only read a couple of posts but I will surely read some more a little later.
    Hope things are working out to your liking and that you and your partner are well.
    Shirley Anne x

  2. Thank you.

    I really was fortunate with the way my mother accepted me as Clare. Not just accepted, but embraced and was so glad to see that it meant the end of so much of the mental health issues that have plagued me for most of my life. And clothes shopping with her at car boot sales last summer was great fun! That's the way it should always be. As Shakespeare wrote in a sonnet quoted at a wedding reception at the weekend, "Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds". My mother's love for me did not alter when her son became her daughter. But I know from hearing and seeing the stories of other people's lives that it so often isn't like that. There are too many sad stories.

    I'm sure my dad would have got there too had his health given him the chance. I think he'd have taken a bit longer to truly understand what was going on and to see me as his daughter but he would have managed it. He experienced me as Clare last year but even then didn't quite have the memory to remember me as Clare or the mental health to understand. If he had his health I'm sure he would be happy to see the changes in me and the healing of the last eighteen months.

    Hopefully I can get back down to see him in the not too distant future - but it's not possible at this moment. When I do he may not see me as Clare. He might know who I was, his son. He might not - in which case he may or may not see me as a woman called Clare.

    As things stand, he is the ONLY person I will allow to use my old name. And he is the ONLY person in my life who has an acceptable reason for treating me as a man rather than as a woman.

    My mother's blog was great. So many people enjoyed reading it over the years and sharing her experiences and thoughts. Many people still miss being able to do that - and the title of the final post, posted by my brother, brings me to tears every time I see it. And I can look back at good things that happened in the last eight years. Their visits here, our summers there, and all the different things my parents enjoyed.

    And thanks - my wife and I aren't fully well but we're not seriously ill! Actually in some ways the wedding referred to just now reminded me of our own. The freedom of the service. The jokes in the sermon. The music. The centrality of community. The way people had clubbed together to make the ceremony and the reception what they were. Such an impressive day, it was so "them"!

    My wife has seen so many changes in me and I've put her through a lot over the years with some of my attitudes and the worst of the mental health problems. And then last year she suddenly lost a husband and gained a wife. Again, that Shakespeare, "Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds." So much alteration in me. My wife's love is truly love. I count myself very fortunate. Again, that's the way things should be but so often aren't.

  3. I found your mum's blog by accident a couple of weeks ago. Enjoyed it so much then learnt with sadness all was not well - and then of your awful loss. I followed a link over to you, just to say I wish you well. Your mum was proud of you as I'm sure you were of her. I understand your life has been difficult but I hope you are gradually finding peace and acceptance of yourself.


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