At the bottom on the left is an alphabetical list of the pages in this web site, to help you navigate if you feel so inclined.
A guide to our family photo album covering 1994-2010, showing the principal themes, is here.
A year by year guide to our family time-line from 1994 through 2007 is here.
A photo journal beginning in 2008 is here.
The most recent pages of the album, copies of posts from my WordPress family blog, http://ianstock.wordpress.com/, are linked here:
What upset her the most was that she had been unable to wrap, address and send her cards and packages that year. Christmas was her annual time of contact with her larger world, and had been as long as Ian could remember.
So at her request Marie-Hélène and Ian spent New Year's Eve in Grandma's hospital room with the wrapping paper and cards that they brought from her home helping her wrap and address her Christmas wishes. That was what she wanted to do. She was very grateful for our help.
1996 was a crappy year. Not a lot else to say.
Ian, Nick and Tom visited Grandma for the last time the weekend before she died. We stayed in a hotel near to her home in Marlow so that the boys and their turbulence would not bother her. She no longer had the strength to handle them for long periods.
And so after putting the boys to bed in their hotel room, Ian drove over alone to visit her on the Saturday evening. She had been flat and worn out all weekend, but during this short visit perked up and showed her old energy, buzzing and laughing, interested and interesting. She even called in the Doctor for a short visit to attend to an ache in her arm. Without actually saying it, he conveyed the question, "why am I here?"
For some reason, Ian ended up leaving at the end of the evening, quite late, through the French windows in her living room rather than through the front door. He smiled back at her, and she gave him a sort of grin, looking at him from a distance now that the Doctor had gone, through a tunnel, I thought to myself.
That was my last look at my mum. We went back home on the Sunday, and she died on the Wednesday. She was buried next to her mum and dad in the grounds of The Abbey, Erdington. Her funeral, in the Birmingham that she grew up in, took place on Nick's birthday. Like I said, a crappy year.
Again, we did not send an annual update, but here is an edited letter sent by Ian to a friend in the UK, another Ian, looking back on 1996.
I do hope you find the time during one of your Paris conferences to look us up, or plan another holiday here. You and yours will always be welcome, and there are enough rooms to fit you all in even when we are all here.
Nick asked after you the other day."Do we still see Ian?" he asked, somehow giving me the impression that he was wondering if the divorce had interfered with your and my friendship. He has seen the divorce interfere with so much that it begins to explain everything in his head. I told him that we did still see you, but that it has been a while since our paths have crossed.
"It’s because of money, is it dad?" he continued, once more jumping on a reason for misery that he has learned over the past couple of years. I told him that it was not, but am not sure that he believed me.
With childlike clarity, that little exchange summarized the recent past. Ian, it has been a shitty year. Nick and Tom's mother dragged on the divorce through the hearing which was finally held in October. What wears me down the most is the extent of the bad stuff that trickles down to Nick and Tom. It’s not simply the uncertainty for the past 18 months, since the preliminary judgment gave me custody, although that has inevitable effects on them. . . .
Judgment will be given in the divorce in January, and she has already told the boys that she will appeal. I hope that it will be favorable, if only so that I can have a bargaining chip to persuade her not to appeal. None of us need any more of this. It hangs over you like a storm cloud on a heath, and the storm never seems to break. I still worry about the judgment, of course: there were three woman judges at the hearing, two woman lawyers, one woman party and me!
Finances have also been catastrophic this year. In addition to the alimony and child support that I have been paying, all of the joint debts from prior to the separation continue to fall on me alone, and my practice has been suffering. We were already planning on staying home most of the summer because of financial limitations when my poor old mum finally succumbed to her years of illness and misery and died on July 24th. The death certificate talked of pancreatic cancer, but she had simply had enough of being chronically ill and gave up one day.
And by now, you must have had enough of this miserable letter. So I’ll stop the shit. It is Christmas, after all, and Christmas perks all of us up.
Charlie is the world’s most adorable baby. He actually laughs as much as or more than he cries. He is a very lucky chap. All four kids dote on him; everybody’s brother, he is one of the things that ties this household together. And his mother spends hours and hours with him, to the point where he screams if he is left alone. He sleeps almost religiously through every night, and eats everything put in front of him, although he has a marked preference for what is put in front of us. At mealtimes, after his own bottle or bowl, he tours the table begging from children and parents indiscriminately for anything he can get. It’s all such a pleasant change.
The other high spot in our lives is this house. It’s only a rental, but it has been the other major factor (after Charlie) cementing the household. We moved in in April, and for the first time were all living in our own place, not somewhere from somebody’s past. Each of the kids has his or her own room, and they have an enormous playroom as well. But it’s the grounds (one can’t really say garden when they cover about 45,000 m²) that they appreciate the most. They have built dens and even a prison, and when the weather is good can disappear for most of the day in their own little world. They each get to drive the tractor that the landlady leaves here to encourage maintenance of the grounds, and generally have a quality of life that cannot be equaled in the city.
How is everybody there? Are you still buried in work? How are your sons coping with adolescence? Who was it that said"and then, through no fault of my own, I reached adolescence?" Are you all, like we all, getting older?
Finally, by way of an apology for having subjected you to so much dejection so close to Christmas (not to mention the absence of a card this year), here’s some Christmas spirit!
Do keep in touch, and all the best,
That was how the year looked overall. And losing a mother and a grandmother is a terrible loss.
But when you look between the lines, you find that good times mingled with the bad, just like any other year. Here, for the sake of balance, is one of the good times.
Madeleine Epaillard, a relative on Grand-père's side of the Berhaut family, turned 100 in June 1996, and most of us went to the party that her family threw for her in La Gacilly, near La Grée. In the photo on the right, Marie-Hélène is in front of her father with Charles keeping busy on her lap. Two of Grand-père's three brothers are here too: Oncle Pierre, the oldest, is sitting next to the centennaire, and Oncle Alain stands at the back in a grey jacket and dark tie. Daphné sits cross-legged in front of Oncle Pierre, framed by Alban and Tom.
Listing of Pages in the Site
. . . with Alban