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Morris

Age at interview: 35
Brief Outline: Morris’s father was diagnosed with MS in 1976, the same year that Morris was born. Morris is his main carer and during recent years his relationship with his dad has ‘improved dramatically’ and they are now very close.
Background: Morris, age 35, works as a business developer. He is black British, engaged, with two children.

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Morris’s father was diagnosed with MS in 1976; the same year that Morris was born. While growing up Morris remembers how his dad was often very grumpy and they didn’t spend much time together as his dad worked evenings; this led to a distant relationship between them. When Morris was a teenager he first started to notice his dad’s condition deteriorating. Around this time his mum and dad separated, his older brothers and sisters moved away and he started carrying out more caring responsibilities for his dad. For the last twelve years Morris has carried out all the physical and hygiene responsibilities, with help from his younger brother, and their mum has continued to clean and cook for his dad since their separation. 

During the last twelve years Morris describes how his relationship with his dad has ‘improved dramatically’ and they are now very close. He explains how caring for his dad has provided them with time to talk and get to know one another better. Morris describes how his dad’s personality has changed as he is easier to get on with and is not grumpy anymore. His dad used to be very social, but now he rarely wants to leave the house. Occasionally they organise family meals out which entails a lot of effort in finding a suitable venue, persuading his dad to come and physically lifting him; however Morris feels it is worth it to see his dad enjoying himself. 

Caring for his dad has had a massive impact on Morris’s life. He is very busy; along with caring for his father, he has a partner (who is pregnant), two children and works fulltime. He is constantly on call for his dad and often has to leave work or social events early to sort out problems. As his dad’s condition worsened his living accommodation was no longer suitable for him. Around this time the pub where Morris worked happened to come up for sale and he envisaged how it could make a suitable living space for his dad. Morris bought the pub and converted it into a tailored accommodation for his dad with five flats to be rented. His dad now lives in this accommodation which is tailored to his needs and prepared for his future. Morris and his family moved into the house next door so it is easier for him to care for his dad without having to travel too far. 

Morris describes how it is upsetting to see his father’s health decline. He worries about the future as he is aware of the inevitability that his dad’s condition is going to get worse. He believes you have to do your best for your family and remains strong in front of his dad. Morris looks for the positive in difficult circumstances describes how he is incredibly grateful that, during this time, their relationship has grown to become very close.
 

Morris learned more about his dad’s life through caring for him and their relationship has, ‘improved dramatically.’

Morris learned more about his dad’s life through caring for him and their relationship has, ‘improved dramatically.’

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Could you talk a bit more about how your relationship with your dad improved?

Yes... well like I said we didn’t, we didn’t used to see speak to my dad at all because, you know, when we were younger and we used to see him and has he got I, when I got older he stopped working as much because he was getting poorlier we started, you know, we didn’t speak because he was grumpy yes he was grumpy and you couldn’t really speak to him but then when we were kind of like, I don’t know, his health deteriorated and the hygiene fell on me to like start being with him for stuff it’s a kind of, it was a bit weird, it’s a weird process actually because when I started bathing him my son was a baby so I was bathing my son and I was bathing my dad. which was very weird and it’s a kind of, I shouldn’t really be doing this really you know I’m bathing my son and then I’m bathing my dad, it’s, tell you it’s weird. 

And we got talking because you can’t just spend forty five minutes with somebody, an hour, in the bathroom and not say a word. So we ended up talking and yes we ended up talking about how he became to become in the UK, what he did for a living. Because I [laughter] I hadn’t a clue you know, he was an engineer when he first came here and you know how much wages he used to get and so we end up talking and the more I bathed him the more we talked the more we talked the more we learned about each other. I mean some of the stuff he didn’t know about me my friends because he was housebound more or less so, you know, he didn’t get to go out or hear word on the street because nobody used to come and speak to him, his friends never used to come and see him so he didn’t know what I was doing. Usually you pass people say ‘Oh I saw your son doing’ or, there was none of that kind of interaction. 

So, yes we learned a lot about each other and now out of probably all of his kids, if he had to say, you know, parents don’t say oh so and so is my favourite but he had to say who he was closest to now if he didn’t say me I’d be upset [laughter] you know, yes I’d be shocked if he didn’t say me because it’s a bit sad really but I actually calculated over 12 months how much times I’ve bathed him or, you know, and it’s quite I mean yes it’s quite a lot of times. 

But yes I spent lots of hours extra with my dad . What I’m trying to say is I’ve spent a lot of hours with my dad that I wouldn’t probably have spent with him they always say behind every negative is a positive. And I’ve seen people triumph have tragic, tragedy so it’s that that I’m focused on and I do get emotional when I leave his house or still now, yes I put him to bed and still leave with that, so. He might be in the bath and we’re having a laugh and a joke and stuff in the bathroom but as soon as I leave his house I start, emotion kicks in and that down feeling but I mean I wake up in the morning and I’m back to normal, yes, fully functioning. So, you know, if we speak yes I couldn’t speak to him about it all that. So it’s improved, my relationship has improved dramatically from not talking to being able to tell him absolutely everything.
 

Morris bought the pub he used to run at auction and converted it into flats. His dad lives in one of the flats, next door to Morris’s house.

Morris bought the pub he used to run at auction and converted it into flats. His dad lives in one of the flats, next door to Morris’s house.

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I mean, we’ve tried our utmost best to make his life more comfortable. He used to live in a council downstairs flat and he asked them to move him because of his wheelchair, it’s just not viable for him to live in that kind of accommodation. because obviously he got weaker and he couldn’t walk on his sticks, he was having to wheel his chair to the bathroom, the corridor was too small so he asked and asked and they didn’t want to move him and so we ended up buying a derelict pub and convert the, the downstairs of it to match his needs, with wet rooms to make it easier

Does he effectively live on his own?

Yes.

With one of your brothers in a separate dwelling upstairs?

So how, my dad he lives on his own so he’s got his whole house but it’s connected to three more properties which are apartments, two bedroom, there’s two, two bedroom apartments and a one bedroom apartment attached to my dad’s two bedroom apartment. And my house is a four bedroom house next door so I live next door to my dad in effect. Converted the cottage which used to be attached to the pub into a four bedroom house, so it’s quite, quite a nice complex you call it, quite a nice set up and it’s easier because before I used to have to walk or drive in winter if you imagine going to work, come home you have your tea and you’re sat down with your family, you put your kids to bed and you’re now with your partner watching well maybe Eastenders or a film and then it’s right we’re going to bed and it’s like yes you’re going to have to go to bed by yourself because I need to get my clothes on or my coat on and go and put my dad to bed, I might be another 20/30 minutes. 

And you know by the time you get back your partners sleeping and it’s a bit, you know, I don’t know what the words are to explain or describe it because sometimes it’s nice to actually go upstairs and have a chat before you go to sleep or, you know, so it does yes. now it’s just next door so even though it’s still, I wouldn’t say inconvenient or anything but it’s, it can be annoying sometimes but it’s easier because I can go round in my pyjamas, you know, so it’s easier, it’s become easier for me personally as in that kind of sense to be able to just go next door to put him to bed. Whereas my younger brother or my sister to put him to bed he has to do what I had to do, he has to get in his car and come so he does, he does feel that a lot to cope with kind of.

That housing complex sounds like an enterprising venture, can you talk a bit about how you made all that happen?

Yes I can due to good fortune and a bit of good luck I’ve basically worked since I was 17/18 I’ve had a bit of luck of being on a few game shows where I’ve won some substantial amounts of money and then I ended up being a landlord of a pub which was across the road from my dad’s council flat and I ended up working there for 18 months and business wasn’t the best and if you imagine, you know, working all day in a pub and then having to put your dad to bed and stuff like that, it’s quite tough but business wasn’t the best and then the smoking ban came in and people were drinking more at home. 

But what I wanted, my vision was to try and provide a place for all the community to come and socialise, you know, and I’d experience of pubs in the past my dad used to work in a pub and yes so I ended up running this pub and then as business declined I had this vision of this could actually be a decent, decent space, you know, and at the time I didn’t have the vision of how a flat for a disabled person would look like but I had the vision of this being a decent accommodation. 

So the pub closed down and they put it for sale and I ended up going to London to an auction, I’d never been to an auction before and I went to London and stayed a night in a hotel. I went to this auction in the morning and they had all this paperwork, all these boxes with papers in and I knew I had to look for a lot number and I think the number that they had, the lot number for the pub was 128 and I remember being there and watching a few auctions before mine and how people were bidding for properties. 

And I can remember two bedroom flats in London and they were going for like £200,000, I was thinking oh [laughter] let’s get back home! But what was funny was that I don’t think people in London was interested in properties in Yorkshire and most of the stuff that I’d seen prior was in London and down south. Anyway the pub came up to start bidding my brother, I had my brother on the phone because I, you know Google auctions and stuff and you have a look and you try and research what do you do, and these two people were bidding for the pub and it started off at £130,000 odd and bidding and bidding and then going once, going twice and he says ‘Start bidding, start bidding’ and I’m like ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yes start bidding’ and so I start bidding for this property anyway we got it for quite a reasonable figure. 
 

Morris still does most of the caring for his dad, even though most of his brothers and sisters have returned to live in the same town.

Morris still does most of the caring for his dad, even though most of his brothers and sisters have returned to live in the same town.

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That role you’ve got as the main man, is that fixed now or is there anyway, do you talk to your brothers about what they do and whether you can do something, share it out differently?

Well it’s... I’m not saying they’re not capable I’m always a firm believer that if you’re going to do something you just do it, you know, you’ve been, it’s been spoken about before can you do anything else, can you do any more to help I mean I mentioned about obviously people grow to have their own families but they’re now, the only person who lives out of [home town] is my oldest one of my brothers he lives in [town] but all the rest live in [home town] so my, my sister and my other two brothers, my younger brother live in [home town] so they could be a lot more support. 

I do make excuses for my eldest brother because he nearly lost his own life through a tragic event where some masked men went into his house and stabbed him so he’s not so cracking himself. and he’s quite lucky to be alive so he’s not, he walks with a stick himself, so he’s, you know, eliminated from, but my sister she could help a bit more and my brother that I mentioned that lives above my dad, I mean he does get him his tea every now and again but. 

Another situation it’s quite funny actually because when I had kids there were no support, I still had to sort my dad out but when my younger brother, he had kids and it was like ‘Oh he’s got kids,’ and I don’t understand [laughter] how when I had kids nobody listened to me, ‘Look he’s got kids you need to help him,’ you know or and then when my younger brother had kids it were like ‘Well, he can’t do it now because he’s got twins and,’ it just didn’t [laughter] I think I got the back end, bad end of an argument yes. 

So, it’s been talked about people to do a bit more and pitch in but yes it’s, if you’re going to do something just do it, that’s what I’ve always been like I just do what I’m doing and I don’t say well ‘Why aren’t you doing what I’m,’ and then I don’t even bother, I just, just do it, if they want to do it then they know they can.
 

Morris ‘could have moved and made something better of myself,’ but the need to care for his father has kept him in his home town.

Morris ‘could have moved and made something better of myself,’ but the need to care for his father has kept him in his home town.

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For me personally it’s had a big effect on my life because I’ve had several opportunities to go to London and be involved in media and TV you know, I’ve had opportunities to go on reality TV shows to spend weeks on an island and stuff and I’ve had to turn them down just for the simple fact that I need to be here. I could have moved and made something better of myself because this areas, it’s quite a rundown area where I live it’s very deprived and there’s not much opportunity there for oneself if you wanted to do something or become something. And I always feel it’s best if you want to do something or you’re passionate about something, is to chase it, follow your dreams and go and get it, even if you have to go with what you’ve got, you know, and it’s not much. 

I mean my dad came to England I think it was the early sixties and he had two pair of pants, a coat and £2, £2 English pounds when he came on the boat, it took him 21 days and, you know, and he came here to look for work for a better quality of life and years on that’s something that I would have done. I’m not saying that [place name] has a, a death rate or a life expectancy like Jamaica, I’m not saying it’s like that but if you want to become something better, opportunities in other places and unfortunate for me I’ve had to turn down every single one that could have bettered myself just to stay and care for my dad. 

And, you know, it’s at times I’ll be at an event and I have to leave because he’s struggling to get on the toilet and to get off the toilet, you know, he might have had an accident in a way he hasn’t made it to toilet in time so I’m having to leave meetings and stuff and it’s not good for me, not good for work but it’s things that I have to do. I’m surprised I haven’t been fired to be quite fair because sometimes I was supposed to be somewhere and I can’t make it because my personally, my main priority is my dad at the moment and regardless of what it is I will drop anything to go and sort him out. 
 

Morris is from a big family. As his older brothers and sisters left home ‘it was left to me to deal with my dad.’ The relationship was strained during his teenage years but has become closer.

Morris is from a big family. As his older brothers and sisters left home ‘it was left to me to deal with my dad.’ The relationship was strained during his teenage years but has become closer.

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And, as I was saying, that my relationship with my dad hasn’t always been the best, very distant. He was out most of the time. Even after his diagnosis he used to still work in a pub and we used to go to school he used to be in bed, we used to come home from school he’d be at work, he’d come home from work, we’d be in bed. And that was a vicious circle and we used to just get to see him maybe on a Saturday or a Sunday. So, I didn’t have the best relationship. 

But then the doctors, he, he could see his health deteriorate over the years and became more prevalent when I was in my teens and I started to notice the decline. The relationship got worse between me and my dad because he was grumpy so to speak, moods, you know, and he just, he seemed to be annoyed all the time. So when we want to ask him questions you wouldn’t really get an answer you would get sort of ooohhhh.

So the relationship between me and my dad got worse. And the thing for me is that I was born into a house with four children. I had one sister and three brothers so we had kind of a big family back then but as time goes on family members move on and they become married or have their own family and they separate and go off and do their own things. So, as a teenager dealing with my dad bearing in mind that my elder brothers kind of like one of my brothers ended up meeting somebody, having a kid, my sister went away got married and she had two kids, my other two brothers moved down south so basically it was left with me to kind of like deal with my dad. Then I had a younger brother who between me and him I kind of like became his dad, yes, because there’s a seven year gap so you can imagine me looking after him as a young un. 
 

Morris thinks his dad doesn’t like people to see him in his wheelchair, but when they do go out with the family his dad has a good time.

Morris thinks his dad doesn’t like people to see him in his wheelchair, but when they do go out with the family his dad has a good time.

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You were talking about when your dad could go to the pub, does he; does he have any kind of social life at all now?

No he doesn’t have any social life, we try and force him so we’ll say to him would you like to go out because we have means of transport we can take him to the races, he can go any, anywhere he wants to go, we can take him but he’s a forceful, you have to force him to take part you know and I mean literally force him you have to say ‘Come on you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to go.’ Yeah I don’t think he likes to see, I don’t think he wants people to see him in a wheelchair, I think, and when he was fit and well up and running he had lots of friends and associates and colleagues and now not many, I want to say they know where he lives but they don’t go and see him, you know. Whether they’re ill or they’re busy I’d say out of all the people he used to know maybe 4% have been to see him in the last 12 years; yes not many have been to see how he’s doing. You know you’ll see them on the street and they’ll say ‘Oh how’s your dad?’ and say ‘Oh say I said hello,’ but yes they don’t, don’t go and see him. Whereas when he used to be up and running he used to speak and be in pubs for hours on end speaking to people, and his friends but yes they don’t go and see him.

Can you remember a time any, for the last few years when you have managed to take him out?

Yes.

Talk about one example of what happened, how you made it happen, what happened when you were out, how your dad liked it.

When we go out we usually go out for, we usually go out for family meals, certainly my dad’s birthday, my mum’s birthday like Fathers Day or Mothers Day, we always try and go out. so it’s kind of like he knows it’s coming and you have to still force him to go like, ‘I’m not going nowhere, no,’ so you have to force him to go but the, in general it’s good, it’s nice to see him out. we always have to go to places with disabled facilities and there’s quite a few of us usually there can be 14 of us yes so we have to go in three cars and it’s that putting the wheelchair down, getting him into the car, you know, is a difficult process sometimes you know, depending on him, you know you have to lift his legs into the car and you have to go round and back to straighten him up and then you have to put the seatbelt on. 

And then we get there and it’s the same sort of process getting him out, have to get him into the wheelchair and struggle to get him out the car. but once we’re round the table it’s different you can see he’s trying to be, you can see he’s having a good time on his face, very happy, even making jokes it’s the if he has to use the toilet when he’s out that can be a process as well depending on, we have to go and, it’s a bit like scouting football teams, we have to go and have a look at what’s available and how do you get from the table to the toilet, you know, it’s a lot of preparation to plan to go out and specific where we go but yes once we’re there it’s really good. 
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