A colleague of mine is a young Croatian girl, living in the UK for many years. Her life is here now. A job, a partner…stuff like that.
Her brother is in Australia. Her sister is somewhere in the UK. And her mother, at 73, is alone back in Croatia.
That mother of theirs is a difficult woman, my colleague tells me. She is diabetic, but says she wants to die and would not take any more pills. Without pills, she gets more difficult. It is a vicious circle. She is pretty mean to every carer they pay to look after her. She is impossible, she says.
And I feel for her. She is worried and sad. So I ask if her siblings help.
I am an only child, you see, and people tend to have strong opinions about that. I have been told that I must have had a deprived childhood. I have been told that I must be disfunctional. That I am terribly selfish because I am an only child. I am spoilt and egoistic. And all of it is my parents’ fault.
But, all the social stereotypes and assumptions aside, I always thought it was the fact that I am an only child that made my immigrating to another country so complicated.
I thought, one of the main reasons I might consider having another baby, is so that my daughter never has the sole responsibility for me (or my husband, whoever carks it first. He is a bit older than me, but English people are arguably healthier than Azeries) when I am old and fragile. I thought, perhaps when you have siblings, some family issues are easier. One of you looks after the mother one week, and then another one takes over. Something like that.
No,-my colleague said- my sister cut all the ties off long time ago. She just asked to let her know when our mother passes away, so she could attend the funeral. My brother is too far, but talks to me on the phone.
I felt pretty sorry for the girl. With two siblings, she is an only child too.
She said her mother was bitter and miserable. Hard to be around. Not wanting to be in a home. Not wanting to have a carer.
But: what came first?
Was the mother always a nasty piece of work, and that is the reason her kids grew up and don’t want anything to do with her?
Or, is it the fact that she spent her whole life looking after three children only to be left to die alone at 73 (with some of her kids not even bothered whether she is still alive) that made her bitter?
I did not ask.
I got home, and my family was waiting for me. Husband, who does not quite understand my issues but tries his best. My only child, who said she missed me “150 times” And my mother, who is still visiting, but has to go back soon. She stayed a little longer this time- again!- because I just really, really wanted her to. Maybe, it is because I have no siblings. Or maybe, it is because we are just very lucky to be this close.