Although my strange experiences became evident to me mainly in the twenty-first century I can identify at least one incident in the previous century when my suspicions were definitely aroused.
There was a time when my parents were living alone on an estate in Dorset over a hundred miles from any relative. My father had alienated us all and none but myself ever visited and then only very occasionally, often less than once a year. They had no telephone in the house and letters were rarely written and mobile phones were not in general use yet. Therefore my visits to them occurred entirely without any prior warning. Apart from that the only regular minimal contacts were greetings cards sent between my mother and myself. This was a consistent situation that went on for many years. One day I decided to visit them but also I felt the need to convince them to have a telephone installed as they were becoming elderly. I had no particular reason to broach the subject with them just then, but nevertheless prepared to maximise my chance of convincing them to act decisively and promptly rather than simply planning to raise the subject in casual conversation. To this end before setting off I collected brochures on the telephones available and found out the location of the nearest telephone company office to them. My mother was hard of hearing but didn’t use a hearing aid, so would need a suitably adapted phone and the brochures indicated that these were available.
When I visited surprisingly my father agreed with me and I drove them to Bournemouth to make arrangements for the installation immediately. At the time my father was evidently unwell and even possibly in some pain but dealing with his affliction in his usual stoic fashion. Soon after my visit he phoned me to confirm that the device was installed and give me their telephone number.
Not long after this one of my elder sisters phoned me to tell me that father had gone into hospital diagnosed as having terminal cancer. Apparently mother had telephoned her to tell her the news after years of being out of contact and my sister was surprised at mother having and using a telephone at all apart from the news about father. She asked me whether I had known about father’s illness and arranged installation of the telephone because of it without telling her anything about it, but I had to explain that my actions had simply been a fortuitous coincidence, which seemed hardly believable even to me. Father died in hospital only days later but my two elder sisters and their husbands had been able to visit mother to support her through that period promptly. It could be suggested that father chose to go into hospital then specifically because the phone had been installed, but his death occurred too soon after for that to be the whole story and my own visit and unprompted thorough preparation beforehand could not be explained by any action on his part.
I realised that had the telephone not been available mother would have suffered far more anguish during that period and the thought of that appalled me. I wondered whether my own emotions regarding that had themselves retro-actively influenced me in some strange way to take the pre-emptive action that I did, but at that time I did not have the knowledge of the phenomenon that I do now, so I had to set the mystery aside as having been just one of those isolated incidents that we cannot explain. Now I can put it into its proper context and feel that I can accept entirely how it came about.
I should end by mentioning that father’s funeral resulted in the family all being together for the first time in many many decades and after that mother kept in regular contact with all of us and was visited by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, who showed her much affection for the rest of her life, which eventually ended very peacefully in her nineties in a nursing home.
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