John and Norma are early risers so we were all up bright and breezy this morning.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, lingering over coffee and chat.
Alan wanted them both to go and sit in his living room for a blether and by the sound of his laughter, he was definitely enjoying their company.
When it was time for them to go, Norma asked Alan if she could have a kiss and a cuddle. Of course he said yes. He knows how to keep the ladies on side :-))
As ever, we had such a lovely time with them and it's caused me to reflect on Norma and the effect she's had on John and us as a family.
I have never known a man more devoted to a woman than John was to my mum. He really did worship the ground she walked on. Theirs is a complicated story and not really mine to tell, but as in all good love stories, it involves missed chances, mix ups, bad timings, and a woman who had a life to lead before she could think about settling down.
But after many years and much water under lots of bridges, they met up again and had their happy ending, spending twenty-two happy years together before my mum sadly lost her fight with cancer in October 2011.
Despite putting on a very brave face and carrying on as my mum begged him to...up early, helping his elderly neighbours (despite being older than some of them!) smiling through the tears...a light really had gone out in John. He looked after himself but he struggled daily with her loss and how lonely he was without her. I worried about him constantly and we had him come to stay regularly as the only time the light came back on was when he was with Alan.
After three years he plucked up the courage to go on holiday by himself and on that holiday he met Norma. They hit it off and on the way home Norma was sure he would ask for her number but he didn't. He was too shy!
How they came to meet up again and become a couple is another story (it's a great one :-) for another time and that's not my focus in this blip. No what I want to do in this blip is celebrate Norma.
Understandably John was a little nervous about telling me about Norma and was worried I might think he'd forgotten my mum or somehow replaced her...but he knows me well and deep down he believed I would be happy for him. And he was absolutely right. I was over the moon.
To see a sparkle back in his eye, a spring in his step and the long, lonely days ahead of him suddenly take on new purpose was all I wanted for him.
Norma is not my mum and could never replace my mum for me or John, but given we no longer have my mum, I am damned glad we have Norma. She is loving, kind, full of life and full of joy and has such a wicked sense of humour. From the minute we met her, like John, we fell under her spell and in the four years they've been together, we have grown to love her and consider her as part of out family.
I am celebrating Norma because I know of people who are currently struggling with seeing a parent "move on" after the death of their spouse and whilst I am sympathetic, it has shocked me how unwelcoming and downright horrible they are being to their remaining parent, just because after being alone for a long time, he has found someone to share his twilight years with.
They have taken great offence at the fact their dad has dared to replace their mum. They have accused him of betraying their mum's memory, of never having loved her. They have been hostile and rude to a lovely lady and picked fault in everything she says and does purely because she is not their mum and that's not how their mum would have said and done it. My heart breaks for them all. It could all be so different.
Alan was very fortunate to know and love both his grans and his great gran, and he definitely misses them as we all do. Norma has just stepped in and helped ease those losses for all of us. She has given us someone else to cherish and love.
How lucky we are :-))
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