Missing the One Who Loved Me, Always
Like many, my relationship with my mother was, at times, difficult. I was a horribly moody pre-teen and my early teens were, at best, angsty, at worst, angry. I left home before turning 16, sure that I could handle anything the world threw at me. Although she vehemently disagreed with my decision, she was there. And she loved me.
Without going into detail, the next 3 years showed me that I could not handle it, at all. Those years, and what they entailed, broke me. Totally. Although she couldn’t comprehend what I was feeling, she was there. And she loved me.
The next 13 years encompassed my first marriage. It should have ended sooner, but a surprise pregnancy and subsequent baby lured me into the trap of staying; “better for my son to be in a family” (not that he was, sadly). She listened and tried to support my back and forth on whether to stay or go. When I finally left, she was there. And she loved me.
As a single parent of a boy child who was “more” (intelligent, defiant, bouncy, curious, difficult, reckless, and a plethora of other adjectives), the journey to finding what he needed to succeed (diagnosis, therapy, meds, school support, social supports) was an uphill battle. Add owning/running a business, dealing with my own issues, battling depression and anxiety, I was weary, worn down and losing my mind. Again, she was there, to listen, to comfort. And she loved me.
When I was 35, we first talked about her retirement, that was looming in the next 6 months. I had a house that had space for her, providing her with her own large room (lots of windows/natural light for her plants)and a private 3 pc. bathroom, both contained on a separate level. I had the only grandchild (at the time) and he loved his granny and she doted on him. We talked, we planned, we shared. She didn’t understand my life, my goals or the lack of people that mattered to me, but she loved me.
Fast forward 3 months — the boy child has been brought into the plan of having granny come and live with us (a delicate process, as change was a huge trigger for him). He was excited. The lower level was emptied, updated and painted, ready for granny. She was packing up her apartment. We were marking dates on the calendar and counting down the days/weeks to her arrival.
And then I got a phone call, from my younger sister. I dropped child off to his father’s house, picked up my sister, and drove 2 hours east to my mum’s apartment. Along the way, my sister told me that something wasn’t right, she had talked to mum earlier and that she wasn’t making sense within the conversation. We arrived at our destination, and mum wasn’t home. Turns out she was playing what would be her last squash game, and riding her bicycle home for the last time.
After her initial surprise at seeing 2 of her girls unexpectedly, she offered to make us coffee ( a very “mum” tradition), and we watched as she poured the full pot of hot coffee into the dish drainer, and then came and sat down, and told us how nice it was to see us, and chattered on about nonsense and nothing.
We took her to the emergency room. 5 hours and multiple tests later, they confirmed that they had found a brain tumour. They admitted her, just after she hugged the doctor that shared the news, admiring him for being so strong when have to share such terrible news with people. She was also quite relieved that she wasn’t just losing her marbles. We found out later that some of the symptoms had been creeping up on her and she thought she had dementia.
During two days of hospitalization, it was determined that she had roughly 3 months left to live, as the tumour itself was inoperable. She opted to not undergo chemo or radiation. At best, it would extend her life six months, and for mum, quality of life was everything.
At this point, my other 2 siblings were in the mix as well. We were all taking turns staying with her, usually 2 at a time(none of us lived less than 2 hours away), so she could be at home, with her plants and her cats. She went to the dentist to get her final cavity filled (damned if she was going to die with a cavity after spending all that time and money getting her teeth fixed!) and brought the dental office to tears when she dropped off homemade pies for everyone. We made, and delivered, a lot of pies in the next 6 weeks; it was her way of thanking the people that were good to her, and saying good-bye to the friends and colleagues she had made over the years.
It was difficult for her to focus, and she could no longer enjoy Downton Abbey or Coronation Street on television. She couldn’t read for any length of time (and my love of reading and writing is totally from her). She cried. She raged. But on the very worst days, where her frustration had her yelling at me and trying to hit me, she loved me.
Our final conversations were full of her trying to comfort me, support me and show me that she loved me. She told me how special I was to her, her “left hand girl”, and that although I was so unlike her, I was truly unique, and strong, and she was so proud of me. She told me that she loved me, everyday, all the time, no matter what.
When she died, quietly, at home as she had wished, with her kids, her cats and her plants, a huge wound opened up in my soul. The one person who really loved me, regardless of my flaws and issues, whether she agreed with me or not, was gone.
I miss her…and her unconditional love.