My nan has always said to me that everyone who knows her past has repeatedly told her to write a book and said to her it would be a best seller! Well I don’t have the patience to write a book, but I do have the ability to write a post. This afternoon I spent some time with my nan delving into her upbringing. I had already heard stories previously but I wanted to learn more about where my family history leads. And I managed to unlock a story that will break many hearts. Here is Barbara’s story and the impact its had on her life so far.
Barbara Mary Cook born 26th July 1931, better known to me as nan. My nan was born into a loving family, living with her mother, father, older brother and soon to be little sister. Her whole world changed with the death of her mother who was only 24 years old at the time, when Barbara was just 2 years old. 6 weeks later, her older brother Cyril tragically died at the age of 5, with some speculation he died of a broken heart after being unable to cope with the loss of their mother. Barbara then spent 6 years living with her father and his new wife. Barbara’s step mother would violently beat her, hitting her round the head with saucepans. She spent those years taking beating after beating from her step mother until sadly her father fell ill. Barbaras father was diagnosed with meningitis. He became so ill that he would end up sadly passing away in hospital at the age of 36, whilst Barbara was just 8 years old. Whilst being taken to hospital, her father tried to fight his way out of the stretcher so he could protect Barbara as he knew what her life would be should she be left with her Step-mother, sadly there was nothing he could do.
The day that Barbara’s father lost his battle with meningitis, she very luckily was taken in by her Aunty and Uncle, of which she had never really knew or met previously. Her step-mother didn’t want her and her other relatives were thankful that she would be out of her abusive world. On arrival at her Aunts house, she was advised to have a bath, which she had never had before. Her Aunty then burnt her clothes and on getting out the tub, Barbara was presented with a load of brand new clothes, again something she had never had as she was used to wear old, ripped, dirty clothes. She knew things would be different now. She was formally adopted by her Aunty and Uncle at the age of 16. She had two brothers who she was very close to. Barbara’s real sister was adopted outside of the family and sadly they lost touch for many years.
Today I asked my nan about her upbringing and what she can remember about how she felt. She expressed that she can remember most of it, and some of the abuse she would never share. She remembers having a very happy life once in the care of her Aunty and Uncle and speaks very highly of them. She remembers the sense of although being lucky and within a happy home, always having the feeling that a piece of her was missing from not having or knowing her real mother. She spoke about how she feels you can never replace your mother but wishes her father would have done more to keep her safe. Nan said that throughout her life she lived with anxiety and stages of depression. She lived with the fear of dying young like most of her family. Im happy to say she stands here today a 88 year old lady with many a story to tell!
So why am I telling you my nan’s story? Well I wanted to gain a better understanding of the way loss of a parent or in this case, both parents at a young age impacts on a persons life. With my nan she said she will always feel the loss of both her parents and her brother at such a young age. That the saddest part for her is not ever knowing her mum, not remembering what she was like, whether she is similar to her or not, and also not knowing the cause of her death. My nan lost contact with her younger sister for many years, but 30 years later they managed to find each other and now are best of friends. From my perspective, my nan is a strong lady, she’s overcome so much and has a massive need to keep her independence, even though she does struggle more now with certain things. She values family a lot and holds her close ones near. I also wanted to share this story because I do think its so important to talk to our family members whilst we can. Learn some family stories, give them an outlet to be able to tell you where they came from. Never take your loved ones for granted. Remember, always be kind. You never know what anyone is going through, or has gone through. Huge thank you to my nan for bravely letting me share her story.