1990 was a difficult year. It was becoming apparent that Bob Gordon was likely to move from Shrewsbury and had in mind consolidating the ministry, perhaps in Norwich where he had established a teaching base. It was very unsettling for Donna and I, and we didn’t want to consider yet another move, especially since we were getting to know other young families in the area.
However, it was the death of my father that was the big blow. For the last twenty years of his life, he had suffered from ill health with his stomach and had a number of operations for ulcers and a hernia. I don’t know when and how he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, but I do remember the conversation on the phone when he casually told me that he was going in for cancer operation. I asked him what sort of cancer it was and he casually replied “oh, a bad one!”. It was always his style to down play things and would never make himself out to be the centre of attention. Prior to that conversation, I had been down to Hove and stayed with my parents before going to join Bob Gordon at Butlins near Chichester, where he was speaking on a residential course as I would have been playing the drums. Dad drove me to Chichester, and that journey was the last time I spoke to him face to face.
The surgeons operated on him, but the surgery was so major that they kept him in an induced coma in intensive care for two weeks, until he stabilised. Shortly after the operation, when Donna and I realised the severity of the situation, we took Luke and Alana down to Hove to live with my mother and help her whilst she visited Dad daily, we all waited to see how events unfolded.
What made matters most unbearable, was that we found out during this time that Donna was pregnant. She had actually had a miscarriage only a couple of weeks before the pregnancy test showed positive, although I understand that it is unusual to get pregnant so quickly after a miscarriage. We told my father that he needed to pull thought because he was going to be a grandfather again, but whether he was able to hear us or not, I am not sure. Apparently in unconsciousness, hearing is the last sense to fail, so in faith I believe that he did register our news.
On the 1st June 1990 Mum, David and I were there holding his hands when he died, which apparently is what he always wanted. Unfortunately Donna was a bit late as she had to get Heather Playfoot to come and babysit from Horsham. Our friend Graham Jeffery the vicar at Poynings church arrived just in time to pray a benediction.
Thereafter I immediately noticed that I had gone up a generation and felt a tremendous responsibility towards my mother. Before that time, if the worst came to the worst, I always knew that I could go back home to my parents (not that I ever would). After that date, if the worst came to the worst, my mother knew that she could always come home to us.
After the funeral we planned for mum to come and visit us, and then come on holiday with us to Wales. This became something of a tradition and she came to Wales several years in a row.
Meanwhile, the two children were growing up before our eyes. It was particularly delightful to see how Alana and Luke’s relationship was growing. Alana was often coughing, as we didn’t realise that this was a symptom of asthma!
The winter of 1990 was particularly cold, and we had quite a bit of snow. This was Alana’s first experience of snow and she didn’t like it one bit! I am not sure if Luke had experienced snow before, but was relishing it!
That Christmas Lawrence and Eileen came to stay, I think my mother must have gone to stay with David and Georgie having spent the summer holidays with us in Wales. Lawrence was as ever, superb with the children. He had a natural empathy towards them and always engaged fully with not only the grandchildren but their friends. I particularly enjoy the way he took every opportunity to teach them… in the mayhem of opening Christmas presents you can hear him saying “Don’t rush, always if you are an engineer you do it so that you can use it again”. Similarly when putting the train set together for Luke he talks about the need to use a compass to make the circle for the track!