Kew-Gardens-August-1980By Wendy Hughes

Last week I promised to tell you about my mother’s determination to keep us together, despite becoming blind at the age of fifty-three in 1953.  You must remember that this was was a time when disabilities were treated very differently to today – see my article last week.

Mary Scott arrived just after 10am, and introduced herself.  Immediately my mother could sense the agitation and sharpness in the tone of her voice, and was dreading what she was going about to say about her plight.

‘Now before we go any further, ‘Miss Scott said with authority, ‘we have given your case a lot of thought and we’ve reached a decision that is the best for both of you.  We feel that your daughter should stay with her foster family until we can find suitable adoptive parents for her, and there is a place waiting for you at a lovely newly opened Blind Institution in Glamorgan.  You are really lucky as it has all facilities, so you can spend the rest of your life in luxury and not worry about your daughter.’

The only words that registered with my mother were adoptive parents, Blind Institution and lucky.  ‘Lucky she wanted to scream and order the woman out of HER home, but common sense prevailed.  This was the wrong way to go about it. Instead she took a deep breath and asked Miss Scott to watch her for a while, but not say a word until she had finished, then she would make them both a cup of tea and talk about it rationally.

My mother then went through her routine she had practiced since being home.  Walking to the back door, counting her steps in her mind, she turned and returned to her chair and sat for a minute before walking through the lounge and parlour and up the stairs to her bedroom, then turned and came back down the stairs to her chair.  Feeling for the drawer in the table she pulled out the tablecloth and slowly laid the table with cups, saucers and plates from the stone-shelved pantry and placed a homemade fruit cake in the middle of the table.  Miss Scott was astounded at her progress after only two days at home, but more importantly my mother had won her over, and a reprieve.  Miss Scott’s, voice changed completely as she felt only admiration for my mother as she watched her place the kettle on the open range fire and proceed to make a pot of tea.  Over tea and cake she told my mother she was impressed and to call her Mary. ‘I am sorry; said Mary, ’I’ve been too harsh, but I had to be certain your young daughter was safe.  Now I will return to the office and make a recommendation that you and your daughter remain together for a month.  At the end of the month you will receive a visit from the Welsh Board of Health and they will be the ones to decide your future.  If you impress half as much as you have impressed me, then you have nothing to worry about.  Now I am going to arrange for a home help to come in two hours a day to tidy up, do any shopping as well as collect your widow’s pension once a week.  It isn’t much, but only hours I can allow.

Next week I will recall that all important visit from the Welsh Board of Health, one which I can clearly remember to this day.