I knew the second that I heard his voice, that what I was about to hear wasn’t going to be good news. In fact, the last time I heard from him was back in April 2014, but you can’t mistake my little brother, he’s the only one of us with an Aberdonian accent. We’re not exactly a close family and the contact between us has been sporadic over the past 30 odd years. That didn’t stop it hurting when I heard the words I knew were coming. “Mums dead”.
It doesn’t matter how much bad feeling, pain or even time has passed since you last saw them, the death of a parent hurts. It was just the same when my brother phoned me in 2012 to convey a similar message about my Father and our relationship, had been a thousand times worse, than the one I had with my Mother. For both of them, the tears flowed from the second the words were spoken and the feeling of loss of something I had never really felt I had had, was momentarily overwhelming. Those ties, no matter how badly damaged, are always there, and it appears they will always have a power over us, that we thought no longer existed until they are severed in that most final of ways. Everything else in the world is exactly the same as it was 10 minutes before, all that has changed was the speaking to two little words, “Mums dead”.
He called me just after lunchtime on Sunday to let me know, as he knew he was the only one of my three siblings who would even think to bother. She died in the early hours, just after he had left her to go home to get a few hours sleep. The staff of the home said they were sure she would still be there for a while longer, but she did what she has always done, broke someones heart and left them feeling guilty, at least it’s the last time she can possibly do that one. I did what I could to try and reassure him that that wasn’t his fault and she hadn’t been alone as my sister had been sat with her at the end, but his guilt was so clear in his voice, and I felt useless.
From what he told me, it had been a long time coming. I already knew that she hadn’t recovered from the accident she had three years ago when she broke her hip. She had never walked again and had to be placed in a home. That was why I spoke to him in 2014, to try and find out where she was, but that call led to my writing a final letter to her. My mother was the most judgemental person I have ever known. She didn’t even come to our wedding because of the one small fact that Adam is 17 years younger than me, and believe me, that is one of the smaller things she has done to me throughout my life. In my letter, I laid out how she had treated me over the years and this game of not telling me what had happened to her, or where she even was, in the previous six months, had been for me the final straw. For the sake of my own health, I was severing all ties. So I had heard nothing. I didn’t know that last year she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and by the time she died, she didn’t know who anyone was, or why they were there, so I’m sure she never once missed the fact that I wasn’t there either.
Clearly, there is no way that I can attend the funeral. Not just because I’m housebound, but we live a couple of hundred miles apart, a distance that has served several purposes over the years. Self-preservation isn’t a recent phenomenon, it’s a card I have been playing ever since I was 13. It doesn’t matter how far I ran, somehow, she always pulled me back and made me fell like the villain of the piece. That umbilical cord of life holds so much sway over us, somehow, we can’t wriggle free of it, no matter how old we are, they are always our mothers.
I knew after how I felt when my father died, that I would also feel something when she left, I just didn’t expect to feel so much. I’m not wailing all the time, don’t get me wrong, I’m not deep in grief, but that loss is there, held inside me, calmly changing the history of our lives. Death does that, it changes things, things that were written in stone, suddenly appear to be written in nothing more solid than soap.
What I didn’t expect, was for all of this to have taken a strange effect on my health. I don’t know why, but every time I stand to move to my chair, I seem to be more unsteady than usual. I don’t feel quite here, more tired than usual and somewhat sedate if that makes sense. Probably best just to say that I don’t feel totally myself, not really ill, just not quite right, but I will be.
As I said, I don’t know when the funeral will be or what all the details are, other than she will be buried with her parents, somewhere I know she would want to be. Even though I won’t be there, somehow it doesn’t feel complete until that final step is taken, so I hope it is soon.
Between now and then, I have this weekend to look forward to. My daughter is coming to Glasgow to spend a few days with us. It has been planned for a while and somehow seems to have a different importance to it now. Teressa barely remembers her, just the usual memories of early childhood, as she hasn’t seen her since I left her Dad, some 30 years ago now. I somehow have this need to have her close to me, even more than I did before, maybe, it’s something to do with that thread that runs through us when we become mothers.
Please read my post from 2 years ago today – 24/02/2015 – Rambling inside