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Mother’s Day- Debt, Gratitude And Regret.

Mother’s Day- Debt, Gratitude And Regret.

Yesterday, having seen a number of entries in Facebook where people were celebrating the joy of their mothers and the happiness of the day I put an entry of my own lamenting the passing of mine and exhorting folk to treasure what they had. On following reflection I decided to remove it labeling such a point as ill timed and, perhaps, slightly self indulgent. Nonetheless, after a dream I had in which I was getting ready to tell a congregation about my own mother’s influence during her life on this planet I decided to do just that. Being the self-effacing person she was I know she wouldn’t approve. This isn’t the first time in my life that I’m going to be disobedient to her instruction.

Ten years ago Mum passed away- and it wasn’t peacefully. Neither was it a happy release- although I convince myself she is in a better place now.

In 1973, after a long fostering period having been given up after birth, Mum and Dad chose to make me their second adoption. This against a warning from an unnamed source that such adoptions always spelt trouble. What was noticeable during my childhood was how she always stood my corner despite my continuous behavioural issues. Although very passive in nature, I was very hard work with a penchant for deceptive and cunning behaviour. I was a “little rogue with a heart of gold”. Her, perhaps rather subjective, words. Although I fear any exaggerated trace of that precious metal has somewhat eroded in the years since- even if the rogue has since disappeared.

It was the affectionate bond that sealed our relationship. Mum had always stood up for the underdog (although having had the good fortune that befell me in such an adoption my then vulnerable nature still doesn’t seem worthy of that phrase). When I arrived in Brighton I was described as ‘backward’ something that she wasn’t having. I was taught at school and taught at home. The label didn’t last long. Even when one family member, unwittingly within earshot, suggested I was the source of all trauma and discord within the family and that they should “never have had him” she wouldn’t listen. The headmistress in my infant school rarely called Mum to inform her of my regular visits to her office. She knew she couldn’t win.

This was Mum. A selfless individual who knew nothing but kindness and altruism. She, as a childminder, was familiar with youngsters. She did this to ensure that the extra cash that came into the house meant Christmas and holidays. It is a deep source of regret that I didn’t recognise this earlier. But then I guess most of us don’t.

Mum’s attention over time turned to the plight of the elderly. She had been a dedicated church goer all her life, one of the proper faith in action Christian types, and she frequently organised outings and also ran a club for older folk on Fridays at the Holland Road Baptist Church. All this was conducted against a back drop of frequent illness (as Dad’s diaries allude to), agoraphobia (she couldn’t go out on her own) and diabetes. Just for good measure I’ll throw in five miss-carriages over a ten year period and you can see that this selfless image I am creating holds a true likeness. In short she was a credit to this planet and was served a great injustice as reward.

In 2004 Mum showed the first sign of Alzheimers. Dad having kept this from me until it became apparent on the Christmas Day when I turned up and felt a clear indication that something wasn’t right. When Mum sat at the table she looked at me and said “Where’s Mum ?” I looked at Dad and he explained “She says that sometimes”.

What ensued over the next four years was an affliction that causes me to question the purpose of life itself. Mum’s condition deteriorated to the point that she almost became a shell that spoke repetitive and unintelligible words and clearly lived in constant distress. My father, unlike myself, was a constant beacon of shared suffering. One day I asked him how he coped effectively alone in a shared environment with the woman he had loved for over 40 years. “When I took the vows I said till death to us part” he responded. If you’ve got this far just read that again. Can you feel the frisson and the emotions that arise ? Dad and I hadn’t always seen eye to eye. From that moment on we did.

There was talk in the final days of putting Mum into a nursing home for a little while to give Dad some respite. Something that was dismissed out of hand. Dad was going to see this through to the fast end that was approaching.

In early July 2008 Mum caught a chest infection and the option was given to treat or not. “What happens if we don’t treat her ?” I remember asking the doctor late that evening. “She’ll probably slip away quietly during the night” he responded. He had already mentioned that there wasn’t long left and I looked at Dad thinking that it was his decision to make without influence. After all, I had felt cowardice at not being able to handle Mum’s plight and being the anchor I should have been. It wasn’t for me to make the ultimate decision. Dad chose to issue treatment. A recovery occurred but only temporarily.

On the 22nd July I received a call at 7.30 in the morning. I had already had a premonition of the days events that proved correct. Mum had spent her final moments in Dad’s arms and left this rotten existence. She was 73.

Mum’s desire to make a difference, to care, and to place others before her, had always trumped any such personal affliction. This is rare testimony. One that is difficult to live up to and a source of crushing sadness to me in many a small hour. If I had recognised then what I recognise now I feel that such pain wouldn’t haunt me.

But this is the point, isn’t it? And the advent of Mother’s Day only goes to amplify it to the point that it needs recognition at a deeper level.

There is a harsh lesson that I have learnt and I would wish to spare others. This is the knowledge that mother’s will always do the best job they know how, make honest mistakes, love you despite, and leave you feeling proud. But sometimes the clatter of cultural madness we find ourselves in gives rise to an unintended ignorance. And for some the realisation comes too late. Like it did for me.

Whatever you take from this just remember Dad’s words and think about take note of my regret. I just wanted to say something even if it doesn’t make sense. I miss my Mum like all hell- just like all those opportunities to give more back than I did.


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