We’re leaving Florida at the end of January to spend a couple of months back home in Europe. Our first stop will be the Isle of Wight – home to my entire family, including my 86-year-old mother. I haven’t seen her for some months – not that she’d be aware of that, but I’m acutely aware of the passage of time and the things I’ve never said to her.
Mothers traditionally hold families together, often at the expense of their own aspirations. Everyone’s mum is special, and mine’s no exception. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t active. She always had a duster in her hand, a pot simmering on the stove, a shopping list on the go – not to mention a demanding part time job looking after old people. My mum was the epitome of multi-tasking before it became fashionable.
She often came home from helping her old folks, saying how distressing it was to see them losing their marbles. Well, those weren’t her exact words, but you know what I mean. She SO didn’t want that to happen to her but none of us ever thought it would. She did everything right. Never touched alcohol, (not sure where I get it from – it certainly wasn’t through parental example!), never smoked, ate healthily and walked absolutely everywhere. Not a lot of choice about that since for most of my childhood we didn’t own a car.
She spent years nursing my father through a long illness and when he died eight years ago we thought that, at last, that Mum would get to lead her own life. But the opposite happened and her mind started to go. It seemed like she’d lost her purpose and had given up.
She’s in residential care now. We had to sell her house to pay for it, (don’t get me started on that one!). She still doesn’t like to sit about but the staff understand that and are so patient with her. They let her help clear up the tea things, (which probably means the job takes twice as long!). She found a carpet sweeper and insisted it was her job to keep the carpets clean so the staff went to the trouble of giving her her own special sweeper with the brushes removed. It brings a tear to my eye whenever I think about that. At what point do our parents become our children?
Anyway, I shall see my gentle Mum in a couple of weeks. They’ll tell her I’m coming, that way she’ll remember who I am. Several times, when I’ve arrived unexpectedly, she’s looked up at me with vacant eyes, smiled and asked me who I am.
It’s heart-breaking and she so doesn’t deserve this.
See you soon, Mum.