Christine and Ron Carter were the first residents of Wadswick Green, moving in at the end of May, and were immediately impressed by the support on offer. ‘We were offered help with the unpacking but we’d downsized so successfully there was hardly anything to unpack,’ says Christine, 70. ‘They made us feel very welcome with flowers and champagne.
‘Although there were only two of us here, there were still two carers on duty 24 hours a day. They took us in a minibus to register with the GP and escorted Ron to his hospital appointment.’
They had both been widowed when they married in 1991. ‘He’d started going to my church and apparently looked across the pews to me and thought: “That lady’s single and she’s for you” although how he knew I was single I don’t know. A mutual acquaintance said he’d fallen madly in love with me. I thought the age gap was too wide as he’s 15 years older but he pursued me. I think the local florist must have been upset when we married a couple of years on.
‘It was his kind, compassionate nature which won me over. And he doesn’t seem to see any faults in me though I have plenty.’
Christine had been widowed at only 39, when her first husband, financial controller Hugh, died of a heart attack aged 40. ‘We’d just been to a company do where he’d won an award so luckily my mother was staying over to babysit our boys, Michael and Stephen, then aged 14 and 12. Hugh had been fit and sporty but his job was highly pressurised. As he was getting off to sleep he began writhing around. The GP and our vicar – who I worked for part time – came straight round. Michael, who was his father’s shadow, woke up and said: “Please don’t let my Daddy die.”
‘It was hard helping my sons through it but we had the support of the church community. I trained as a bereavement counsellor and so out of tragedy came something healing and positive.’
Christine wasn’t interested in a new relationship at that point. ‘I felt I had to give the boys all my attention for five years. They’re now wonderful friends but they had become very competitive and sometimes I thought they would fight to the death. I’d come home and look to see if all the windows were still intact.’
Ron also has two sons, Nicholas and Michael, along with five grandchildren, from his first marriage. ‘His wife had been ill for ten years before dying of cancer so it was awful for Ron when, just after my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at the same hospital as Ron’s first wife. He hid his anxiety from me and if I was feeling down, he’d say: “Dry your tears. We’re going out for lunch.”
Ron, now 85, retired from the Home Office 20 years ago, and since then they have split their time between voluntary work for their church and travel. ‘Ron’s ideal was that we should go somewhere every six weeks, whether for a weekend or longer. We love France and Italy and also the luxury and gentle way of life of European river cruises.’
Their move to Wadswick Green means they will be nearer Christine’s son Michael. ‘Ron has had heart problems in recent years. It made us realise that if one of us was immobile we could become isolated but here there is a community with facilities on tap.
‘I used to love gardening but never sat in my garden as I was too busy working in it. Now if I want to get dirt under my fingernails I can go to my son’s. The team here have booked a theatre trip for us, they’re talking of watercolour lessons which I used to do, so there’s always something going on. It’s turning out to be great fun.’
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