I apologise to those readers outside the UK for continuing to comment on one of the story lines in The Archers…an ‘everyday story of countryfolk’ that has been running for so long on Radio 4 that I can remember my mum chasing me out of the kitchen over fifty years ago because she wanted to listen to it in peace.
The back story is that after Tom and Helen’s elder brother John died in a tractor accident about twelve years ago, his girl-friend Sharon discovered she was pregnant with his child. The boy, known as Rich but really also named John, has been brought up by his mother, and her current partner, without knowing anything about his father or his family. He has simply been told that his father died before he was born. When Tom and Helen’s parents discovered the existence of Rich last year they were desperate to see him and hopefully have a relationship with him. However, Sharon, who always felt slighted by John’s family, has only allowed the parents to see and meet him briefly but not to let him know who they are. Tantilising and painful. Tom and Helen were against their parents having anything to do with Rich as this contact stirred very painful memories for all family members and despite Helen having had a child by an identifiable sperm donor, failed to see that it might be important for Rich to know his father’s family.
Now Tony, Helen and Tom’s father, has had a heart attack which is being attributed in part to the stress of keeping his distress about not being able to see Rich from his wife Pat. In last week’s episodes (every night except Saturday at 7pm) Tom and Helen conspired as to how they could get Sharon to change her mind, but when Helen finally met with her, Sharon was having none of it. The reason they gave for wanting Rich to know his grandparents was…wouldn’t it be awful if Tony died without knowing his grandson. No thought about the importance for Rich of knowing his dad’s family. But Sharon is no better really. All she can see is that she is now in a position of power over a family that thought she was not good enough for their son. She is also understandably protective of her family life where her partner is a good dad to Rich. She has fears, very similar to many donor conception families, that a connection to biological relatives will cause devastation and disruption rather than adding to the richness of Rich’s life. So far no-one is seeing the situation from Rich’s perspective. Let’s hope the scriptwriters have it in their long-term plan to link the right that Henry, Helen’s baby son, will have to know the identity of Helen’s donor in the future, with Rich’s right to know about his biological heritage and indeed the strong emotions that are linked with the death of his father in a tragic accident and the important place that he held in that family. These are the relationships and feelings that are not present in anonymous donor conception and make this fictional situation different to that of many donor conception families. But what is the same and what needs to change is that so far no-one is seeing the situation from the child’s point of view.
See posts on 13th and 19th December 2011 for earlier comments on this story.
7.30pm Sunday 25th March – To my amazement and perhaps embarrassment, in tonight’s episode Rich is brought by his step-dad to meet his grandparents. I missed Friday night’s developments and the events that brought this meeting about…but it seems that it was to do with Tony’s heart attack and not a realisation that Rich had a right to know his genetic relatives. Well, all’s well that ends well…we hope!