March 1961

In November 1960, Carol left New York and returned to Ottawa to spend the winter with the Costains. I suspect she had left St Vincent for almost a year because there were health concerns, and she consulted doctors in both Ottawa and New York, being diagnosed at some point with pernicious anaemia which may have responded only temporarily to treatment. This means, of course that there are no letters between Cyn and Carol, but in the collection there are 2 letters to Carol about her husband in Newcastle.

As has been covered earlier in this Project, Cyn’s mother, Carol Ewing, had left her husband, Dr. J.M.G.(Gordon) Ewing, at the end of 1947 and joined Cynthia in Cambridge. In 1948, they had met Cec who was working on his Ph.D. at Cambridge, and Cyn and Cec married in the summer of 1949, and left England at the beginning of 1950, while Carol went home to St.Vincent. Because Carol and Cyn were living together in Cambridge, there are no letters covering that period, but sometime during those 2 years, Gordon Ewing was institutionalized, diagnosed with hardening of the arteries of the brain, and remained there until his death in 1964. There were letters exchanged between Carol, Cyn, and lawyers and doctors; Cyn sent her father gifts and magazine subscriptions, with notes and photos occasionally, which he acknowledged; and from these letters, it is clear that Carol was kept informed of her husband’s condition by friends in Newcastle. The letters give us a window into elder care in the 60s with a difficult patient- and the little anyone at a distance could do. The Carnegies are quite formal in writing to Carol, so not close friends, but they are kind. The letter seems to have arrived in Ottawa after Carol had gone home to St. Vincent in March 1961 and been sent on by Cyn.

1, Victoria Square,
Jesmond,
Newcastle-on-Tyne.

  1. 2. 61.

My dear Mrs. Ewing,
Our sincere apologies for the long delay in acknowledging your gift box to your husband and for the very nice box of notelets for myself. It was kind of you to do this and I have found them very useful – thank you.
I went with Alec to see the doctor, he gave us quite a nice welcome, but very unfortunately he refused to accept the very nice parcel of good things you and Cynthia had so kindly sent. We are using them ourselves as you suggested, thank you very much.
Now about the doctor. We were told he is most difficult and sleeps ever such a lot. Some days he won’t use his dentures or have his hair cut. He insists on seeing the C. priest every other day and has ceased to read or write. They think he will just sleep away. So you see Mrs. Ewing we are not hiding anything from you. He insists on wearing a felt hat all day.
We had a very happy Christmas and new year, but since, we have been rather tired and have been resting a lot. I will be 71 this year and Alec 72.
We are so glad you are having such a happy time with Cynthia, her husband and children. Wish we had known earlier about your going to Long Island because my sister Margaret & her husband are there.
Alec is going to see the doctor on Friday after which he will write you.
Our love, many thanks and all good wishes.
Yours very sincerely
Alec & Mary.

1 Victoria Sq.
Newcastle upon Tyne
England

13 Mch 1961

Dear Mrs. Ewing,
Once again I spent half an hour with Dr. Ewing today, and in spite of the fact that the Male Nurse said he would not talk to me, as soon as I entered the Ward, he got up and came to meet me, and we had half an hour of talk on both sides. He said he could not talk very well now, so I told him that if he would only wear his dentures he could talk quite well, you see Mrs. Ewing he will not wear his dentures; – he said he could not be bothered, just in the same way, he, some days refuses to shave. He will also now only wear Hospital woollen sports shirts – he says it is too warm to put on a collar and tie. I am afraid he is often very awkward and stubborn with the staff. He did today however have on one of his own suits. In spite of all this however he does look well, and says he does feel well. With me today he was quite chirpy, and took a keen interest in all the people I spoke about, you see it is only the past you can discuss with him, as he does not read the papers nor will he watch the Television. They have just got a lovely new 21” set in the Day Room, but he will not look at it, and grumbles because it is on all day & evening. The Nurse told me he just sits, and whether he thinks whilst he is sitting one cannot tell. Certainly his memory of the past is still good, and he keeps referring to people, I must confess I had forgotten.
By the way he is still wearing the booties we got for him a year past Xmas, so he must like having & wearing them.
I hope you are well, and derived much benefit from your holiday.
Give Cynthia our good wishes and for you our kindest thoughts.
Yours Aye,
Alec Carnegie.

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