A home from home

In 1986, when I was 42, I moved across Surrey from Bradmore Way in
Coulsdon where I lived with my parents to Northampton Road in
Addiscombe. I moved into a group home run by Mencap. It was a new
home. We all moved in there in March and April of that year.
Initially there were eight of us – four men and four women. Now
there are seven of us – one person moved out, one died and a new
woman moved in. I’ve been living there for 16 years.

I moved there because my parents were elderly and my mum had heart
trouble. They wanted to know that if they died they could go to
heaven happy knowing I was being looked after by staff.

I was born with a mental handicap on 18 February, 1944. I have a
brother who is older than I am. But I don’t have any sisters.

When I was a child I lived with my family. I have had some health
problems: when I was two I had to have brain surgery for my
epilepsy and when I was three I had my tonsils and adenoids out. I
also had a time when I was paralysed down my left side and I was
deaf – and I had to re-learn how to listen and how to speak. My mum
was very patient with me. She also taught me how to knit and sew.

When I was in my 20s my brother got married and moved out. I
continued to live with my parents. As my parents got older they
started to worry about what would happen to me. I remember hearing
my mother tell a visitor that, if anything happened to her, she
would rather I died as she didn’t think I would be able to cope. I
don’t know how they found Northampton Road but when they did they
talked to me about moving there. They told me I could come home
most weekends and for Christmas and other holidays. And so, on 24
March 1986, I moved in.

The best things about being in a group home are that I am looked
after nicely. We go on holidays and outings, we have parties and I
can come and go as I please, as long as I tell the staff where I am
going and what time I will be back. When I first moved in I went
home every other weekend and also for a week in September. I went
out for day trips with my parents until my dad sold his car and he
was not able to walk far. My mum died five years ago, aged 91. I
lost my dad this year when he was 97.

The worst things about moving was that I missed my parents.
Although I had phone calls and visits it was not the same. I missed
them. I still do.

I get on quite well with the people I live with. I go out with one
of my housemates most weekends for a drink or shopping or going to
the Saturday Mencap Club.

I don’t think I could have coped with married life and I don’t
think I could have lived on my own because of my epilepsy. So
Northampton Road is a good home for me. I would have liked to live
in the countryside, especially if there were some pylons and
gas-holders nearby to look at as these things interest me.

Mary Coventry is a service user with a learning

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