your stories

Daisy Stewart’s story

When Daisy Stewart took Liz in after our mother died, she was only 30-years-old and had two boys, ages 4 and 2.  This is her story:

“Montgomery and I had just bought a house around the corner from the Welches in Bedford in 1981 and someone told Ann that I rode horses. She was only 4 years younger than my mom, so I was touched when she invited me to go trail riding with her one day.  I told her I couldn’t because Jonah was only 8 months old at the time.  She said, ‘that’s fine, Lizzie will babysit.’

I was 25 and had never left Jonah with anyone but my mother before, so it was hard to hand him over to Liz, who was then 13.  When I came back from our ride, she was feeding him French Bread pizza!  I was horrified!  He had only ever eaten organic food that I had prepared myself.”“That Christmas, Ann invited Montgomery and me to a Christmas party at their house and I remember thinking, ‘this is what to be when I grow up!’   The Welches really seemed like the perfect family–Ann was so sweet, loving and beautiful.  And Bob was this warm, happy guy—totally charming and approachable.  The grown-ups gathered around the piano to sing Christmas carols as all these cute kids ran around having fun. It was picture perfect.  That was only time I ever met Bob–he died
the following spring.

The following year, Liz started babysitting for us.  I was 27 when I had Addison, and I remember we dropped Jonah off at Diana’s 5th birthday party at the gray house on the way to the hospital to give
birth to Addison.  Liz never talked much about what was happening at home, but everyone in Bedford seemed to know about the Welches.  When Ann got sick, we all thought she was going to get better. But then when they family moved into the new house, Ann got really sick. Around that same time, I had heard that Liz could not play volleyball her junior year because she had to come home afterschool to take care of Diana.  I thought that was terrible—and so I just started showing up at the Welches house and picking up Diana to take her back home with me, to give Liz a break.    And then I fell totally in love with Diana.  She was adorable—really spunky and funny.  I would go places with my kids and Diana and people would think Diana was mine, because I had red hair too.

Ann managed to get everyone into the house, though it was never finished.  There was no landscaping whatsoever—dirt instead of a lawn. I knew this landscaper and asked him if I could get people to donate money for plantings, would he install them for free.  He agreed, and we even got the local paper to run a story about it.  I started calling around and so many people chipped in—people that had worked for your dad, people who had heard of your mom.  I remember calling one person, a big name at the Bedford Golf and Tennis Club thinking she’d make a large donation. Instead, she said, ‘I’m so sick of the Welches and their problems!’  I was so appalled!  I hung up trembling. I still managed to raise $1500, which bought a lot of plants and sod–it was instant landscaping in one afternoon.

While I was busy helping around the house, I never once had a conversation with Ann about her kids.  Honestly, I assumed someone else was figuring things out. I was just a neighbor who wanted to help
out.  The summer before Ann died, Aunty Eve was often at the house, but she did not drive and so I would stop by to see if they needed groceries, etc.  I was not involved with Ann—I don’t even remember going back to her room where she spent most of her time. I found her illness terrifying, truthfully, so I stayed away.  I did not know how far along her cancer was.  Nancy Chamberlain was much more involved with Ann than I was.

I kept waiting for someone to show up and take all four kids in, and watched as Ann grew weaker and more ill.   When it was clear that no one was going to step up, I offered to take either Liz or Diana. I
grew up in a house where that kind of thing would happen—people would show up needing a place to stay and my mother was always so open. To me it seemed kind of normal.  Still, I was only 30 at the time.  Jonah was 4 and Addison was 2.  I assumed that Diana was going to live with us, so when Liz told me that Diana was moving in with the Chamberlains, I was stunned.    I did not understand why, and did not ask.  The Welches had enough to worry about.

I never once spoke with Ann about Liz moving in with me.  And we never discussed her dying, either.   There was an ethereal part of Ann—she never seemed to deal with reality. As a mother, I can understand.  I really do think it was just too painful.  It meant leaving her children behind, which was more than she could bear.  If she admitted it, she was giving up.    Ann’s lawyer called me one day in late November to come to the house and sign the guardianship papers.  That was awful.  Ann was so ill, she could barely hold the pen.

About a week before Ann died, I remember taking Liz to the funeral home to pick out Ann’s coffin.  I had never done anything like that. It was totally surreal. And then the funeral director took us into a
room filled with all these coffins and I was totally freaked out.  Liz was only 16 and yet she was holding it together.  I was trying to follow her lead.  I remember she pointed to a coffin and said, ‘that’s the one we had for Dad.’

I also remember that phone call, when Nancy screamed at Liz.  I was in London with Montgomery and called home to check in on everyone.  We had a nanny living with us then, and Christopher answered the phone. I told him to get Liz, and when she picked up, she burst into tears. Nancy was a good friend of mine in those days, so I was stunned when Liz told me what happened.  After we hung up, Montgomery called Nancy and went off on her.  He was furious, and frankly that was the end of
our relationship with the Chamberlains.

When Liz told me she was going to Paris, I was concerned. But in my heart of hearts I knew she would make good decisions. I had made some alternative choices in my life and came from a family that supported that.  I did not have this notion that there is only one path that people can take. I figured she would be fine.  But I also felt helpless.

So much has happened since those days, and as hard as they were, I can say this:  you don’t get to pick your family.  You are born into it, and then you give birth and the cycle continues.  I got to pick the
Welches.

Amanda is my hero, somehow morphing from an angry, rebellious teenager into an amazing woman who, with no preparation did an incredible job of bringing up Diana and being the glue keeping everyone together.  Danny brings joy wherever he goes-making us all laugh so much it hurts.
Diana makes me realize that nothing is impossible, and she is as spunky and funny as she ever was.  And Liz…. I would take a bullet for her, then and now.

I wish I could have taken all four of them in, and reading their book makes me wish that all the more. I can say this, however:  Having the Welches in my life is the best thing that has happened to me.”

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