When Stephen last saw the lady standing in front him, she was “Margaret”. Now she’s “Ann”. What he’d like to know most is, can he call her “mum?”.
It’s almost sixty years since Margaret first set eyes on Stephen. He was four years old and living in Downend Children’s Home, having had a difficult start in life with his birth mother.
Margaret began fostering Stephen on a short-term basis, taking him to her home every Sunday for trips out into the countryside and a traditional roast dinner with her family. After moving to a bigger house, the family made the decision to foster Stephen full-time and he moved into Margaret’s home, “becoming one of her three children.”
After four very happy years, Stephen returned to his birth mother and attended a boarding school in North Somerset. In the following years, Stephen would occasionally visit Margaret and her family, until a serious accident affected his memory and he lost contact with them altogether.
And there the story might have ended, had it not been for a member of the Care and Support Team at the St Monica Trust Retirement Village where Stephen lives.
Senior Support Worker, Julia Jones is part of St Monica Trust’s Enriching Lives Service. Where Care and Support traditionally focus on personal care needs, the Enriching Lives Service is about spending one-on-one time with residents and helping them pursue their interests.
For Stephen, this involved walking on the downs or buying model cars and trucks for his ever-growing collection. It was during one of Julia’s twice weekly visits that Stephen showed her a picture of where he used to live with his Foster Mum, Margaret.
Julia takes up the story: “I used to live close to Coalpit Heath and recognised the farmhouse in the picture, so we decided to drive up there and have a look on my next visit. I knew the person who lived next door Stephen’s foster mum and asked her who lived there.”
But the mystery deepened when Julia’s friend told her it was a lady called, Ann. Unperturbed, Julia wrote a letter to “Ann” who wrote back and confirmed that she was in fact Stephen’s Foster Mum, Margaret, who a few years ago had decided to be known by her middle name, Ann.
With Stephen’s foster mum now located and happy to be reunited with him, Julia drove Stephen to Ann’s house a couple of weeks later with a huge bouquet of flowers.
Ann says: “When I opened Julia’s letter I was so pleased. It was just joyful to know Stephen was okay and that we could see him again. We had big hug on doorstep. It was wonderful. I was overjoyed.”
Ann is now in regular contact with Stephen and has visited him at his retirement apartment. Ann said: “I’m so pleased that Stephen’s come to live in such a good place after moving around so much and has somebody to look after him. He’s really landed on his feet. I’m so grateful to Julia for bringing us back together.”
Julia said: “I was really pleased for Stephen. It was obvious that Ann was happy, but he doesn’t always show emotion, so I asked him how he felt when he got back and he said: “Thank you so much. This has really made me happy.”
“For me it was a great privilege to do be able to support Stephen to reconnect with Ann. The best thing about my role is that most residents don’t see me as doing a job, they see me as a friend and that is what I really love.”
But the question of what Stephen should call her remained: Ann? Margaret? Or Mum? The answer came at the end of a postcard sent to Stephen from Cornwall. It read:
“Hello Stephen, we are having a few days on holiday. It is windy, but good for walking.”
It was signed “Love, Ann” with “mum” written in brackets alongside it.