Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Mum

It would have been my Mum's 59th birthday today.

In the event she was cut down at 40, following a horrific 4 year battle with cancer. What started out as breast cancer, resulting in a double mastectomy, finally morphed in to liver cancer.

Along the way she lost her dignity and bizarrely what hastened her death was a broken shoulder. A side effect of the cancer was brittle bone disease and when lifting herself from a commode she clean broke her shoulder. At that point her body simply said, 'enough's enough' and shortly after Chritmas 1987, she died.

I was 14 at the time and following 4 years of illness I moved on relatively quickly, I was devastated obviously, but I had a lot of support from my extended family, I was playing a lot of rugby and I threw myself in to sport, scouts and study.

My Dad moved on as well. Having been at the sharp end of the disease for so long, he'd undergone a lot of counselling before my mother's death and by the time she died he was ready to get on with things. He married my step mother, a year and a half later.

My step mother is the most wonderful woman. She was 30 when she married my Dad. I was 15. My brother was 11. It's not something that many women would take on, but she played it amazingly. She was a stand-in mother for my brother, but she acted more like a carer to me, a guardian, a guide, a rock. She always stayed in the background, she pushed me in the right direction, but imperceptibly. She also played the good guy to my Dad's bad guy, she pointed out what a hard time he gave me simply because I was older. She couldn't have possibly handled the family better, mainly because she never set out to replace my mum, but simply be what we needed her to be, when we needed her to be it.

My brother seemingly moved on as well, but we always worried about him and with good reason. He had little memory of mum before she was ill. When he met, his now wife, 8 years ago, things started to unravel. I had a call from my sister-in-law one night in early 2000 saying my brother was in floods of tears and she didn't know what to do. He'd had a bad journey home from work, something you wouldn't really see as a trigger point, but he got to thinking and by the time he got home he was all over the place. In retrospect I capitulated, I didn't really know how to approach things. It was 13 years after the event and I just felt there may be a whole can of worms there for the opening.

Finally, shortly before the wedding I confronted it, he was finding his speech impossible to construct, he didn't want to leave my mother out of it, but equally didn't know what would happen when he delivered the lines. We talked it through and at the bottom of it all was the fact that he'd never really talked it through. My father and I, had moved on so quickly. It wasn't that the subject was banned or taboo, it was just that things were happy and they really were very happy. He recognised that and indeed was happy in most ways himself, but I think as a young lad he didn't want to go spoiling that happiness.

What compounded things was that he had become so close to my step-mother that he felt guilt on several fronts. Was he being disrespectful to my mother by taking on another one? Was he being disrespectful to my step mother by mentioning my mother? Would he upset me or my Dad by going on about it? Things we talked through, cried through and eventually hit an even keel. And so the grieving was complete.

Until Eben was born.

The other day someone, completely unwittingly suggested that I ask my mum what my brother and I were like as kids to throw light on the difficuty we're having with my 2 now. Unfortunately I can't. I would love to.

I find myself thinking about her now, more than I've ever done. About a year ago I broke down, completely out of the blue. The trigger was jealousy. Jealousy of who? Rather shamedly it was jealousy of Eben, who was 18 months old. I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of injustice. He had a mother and I didn't. Grief is a funny thing. It reduces you to the basis of your being, it can bring out your darkest thoughts and then trolling along behind, come your happiest memories.

The funny thing is, when she died I wasn't getting on with her at all, I had an enormous argument with her 10 days before she went and in retrospect she was so unbelievably frail, I can't believe I did it. But then I was 14 and disgusting and on top of that we were fundamentally different characters. For years I couldn't dredge up a good memory, only the arguments. She loved me of course, I could tell from the photos, but we didn't get on.

My dad said that if she'd lived we would have carried on at loggerheads until my mid to late twenties and then we would have got on like a house on fire. Oddly, it was around that time that all the good memories came back. Probably a coincidence, but nonetheless one I pin significance to. But, with the memories came more pain and a greater sense of loss. The older I get the more I remember the key dates. My brother and I went to the cemetary on the anniversary of her death 2 years ago; for the first time since her death. This year May 10th has loomed larger than ever. I'm hoping this isn't going to get any harder, after all she's been dead for more of my life than she was alive

So here I am. Happy Birthday Mum, I miss you loads. You really should be here, your Grandsons are wonderful and I'd love you to have met them.


Gavin Corder said...

I'm so sorry Six, obviously I didn't know your Mum wasn't around, you do know what I meant, don't you?

I nearly lost my mum in 1986. I was in my mid-twenties at the time but the prospect of losing her made me feel like a small child. Happily she came through. But I will never forget that terrible, terrible feeling.

Six Years Late said...

Oh God no Gavin, you said it completely unwittingly. No reason for you to know. It did make me think though.

Gavin Corder said...

Thinking's good, I think?

Span Ows said...

Why should you be sorry Gavin? You didn't know.

Today is my mum's birthday too, she is 69.

I lost my dad in 1987 very suddenly and unexpectedly.

Six, have you chatted to your dad - you say you both moved on quickly but if you talk a bit it may give you a lead to talk it over with your brother as well. I also don't think you should linger, with the shadow of guilt, which is the impression your comments give (can't beleive I did that etc...), on the way you felt at the time either, you were a teenager with your mind in turmoil (probably) and despite all you certainly weren't saying it thinking she'd be dead soon. The current turmoil with the children etc is probably stirring this up and so a chat with 'the old man' may help in both respects. It certainly shouldn't get harder unless you make it so and your dad was probably right about the way you would have got on with her and you should feel content with that as there is nothing abnormal about it.

Anonymous said...

You git ! You just made me cry. In a good way though.

Lost my mum 10 years ago this year in a similar manner to you (although I was nearly your age now when it happened). She was ill for around a year with cancer that started in her womb and spread through her like the insiduous bastard it is.
She fought it bravely - actually not bravely she was very insistent that being ill required no courage It was not crying all the time because you were going to miss your children that needed fortitude. In the end she died very suddenly in my dad's arms during a routine check at hospital. She just sort of gave up fighting.

Oddly enough when my oldest brother got married this year he didn;t mention her in his speech, nor did my next oldest who was best man. I asked them why they hadn;t and they said it was because they didn't want to start crying and couldn't find the words. Besides they knew that I was bound to propose a toast to her (which I had). Strangely we'd never talked about it until that day; perhaps even more strangely I'd assumed that they had done their grieving because they had been in floods of tears at the funeral but I had not (she'd made me promise not to cry before she died) - but I seem to have come to terms with it better over the years.

Still miss her all the time though and catch myself wanting to phone her.

Anyway - the lesson of this is never leave things unsaid or unexamined with the people you love because one day it will inevitably be too late and you won;t get the chance again.

Lucy said...

Well I cried too but wasn't going to admit to it, so thank you David for making it possible.
Six, speaking as a mother I am sure she understood why and held no grudge for your outburst.

I know you made mention of your grammar yesterday, well not only do I have no idea where your grammar is weak I also think you have an incredible gift of writing.

My mother took 3 months to die from a stroke, April through to June. It was when my 2 were about a year older than yours, life truly was as bad as it gets and I think I am still angry about it.
Thank you for sharing, Six.

Six Years Late said...

Hi Span, I haven't really spoken to my Dad about it since my brother's wedding. To tell you the truth Nic's very good at these things. I may have a word with him though as it has hit me a bit like a train today. My brother's in a much better place now since his wedding as well

Don't worry, I reconciled the guilt feelings over that argument some time ago. I know it was just my age and a pesonality clash at the root of things.

Undoubtedly Louis's arrival has stirred things up as it's so close this year and I don't beleive things will get worse, I'm probably just feeling a bit hyper-emotional.

Six Years Late said...

i know what you mean about giving p. my mother made it through christmas against all the odds she should have gone well before, but I think she just wanted to have one last family meal before she gave up the ghost.

The one thing it have ensured is that I talk through everything with my Dad although he has the most useless long-term memory so can't remember stuff at all, whch always make both him and me laugh. Thankfully I have a fantastic relationship with him, we're extraordinarily similar types of people which sometimes doesn't work but when you're as apologetic as the two of us it's magic.

Six Years Late said...


My feelings are definitely angry ones. My grandmother suffered terribly sorrowful grief. Se lived on for another 11 years after my mother but never fully recovered. I think a mother's loss is fundamentally different to a child's.

By the way, it took me a little bit of time to write this post and it got checked 10 times more than I would normally. Kind of felt it deserved that. My grammar really is appalling. It's more a case of it not being a natural and innate inclination to punctuate properly, rather than me not knowing what to do.

Six Years Late said...

I ought to say this has been a very therapautic post. I'm glad I wrote it. It's extremely navel gazing, so thank you very much for commenting, this was very much more for me, than for anyone else.

Span Ows said...

No worries Six, we meant what we said on the 'Reality Check' post as well...and it seems to have helped you! :-)

Gavin Corder said...

Ditto that Six. Hope the catharsis helped. Nothing wrong with a good clear out now and then. Nothing wrong with a good cry for that matter David and Lucy.

And indeed there's nothing wrong with a night off. If you lived down my way I'd send Number One Son or the Evil Daughter (she may be Evil but she's top notch in child entertainment) to babysit and take you and Nic for a glass of wine.

Oh well. Hope it's helped to know that you've got a lot of friends out here in the ether!

Span Ows said...

In relation to your post this evening Six (R5LUKMB)'re a big idiot! A VERY big idiot...

...mind you at 1-0 down that was an arresting offence let alone a penalty...and it wasn't given!!!WTF!!!

P.S.If you log on at 9:00am sharp and complain about the post you may just have a chance! ;-)

Kayfer Kettle said...

Bless you Six - this must have taken some writing.

There are many things in life that a person can do, live through or see, that they simply get on and live with for years upon years.

Then over time, these things, and the fundamental affect that they have, the kind that get lost under the layers of getting on with everyday life, with growing up, start to surface.

I have come to believe that it is inevitable, that you cannot delay recognising what might have been or what might not for that matter, forever.

For me, the things of this nature that have happened in my own life, have been a source of despair sometimes, but after so long of living with the almost unbearble feelings associated, I am coming to live with the fundamental affect that they've had on my life.

This is a really great post Six, and one day I might tell you why I'm very grateful you wrote it.

K x

Lucy said...

A good cry can be good Gavin. It was my best Meg Ryan impression thus far.
[of Annie not Sally!]

Span Ows said...

You're right there Lucy - I cry all the time; never about death though.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

I read this post later and all the comments that have followed and I echo all that has been said.

This is proof if any were needed that for all the bad news we see/hear or read and though we share our thoughts on those messageboards about the trivial and also what is happening in the World who we really are.

All the above could not have been written so thoughtfully and eliquently if not true.

As for grammer its good not to get tied up on rules...what's being said and expressed is what matters, since writing on the web and installing a spell checker even after proof reading I'm amazed how many errors get through that I do not see and I find myself wondering if its always been that way or am I slightly dislexic but again none of this matters.

All of the people I consider to be friends in my life are on the net, family wise in recent years practically all my relatives have moved away or have passed away.

And though fortunate to have my Mum still around I know that one day its either going to be something I have to face unless as nearly happened 9 years ago through unexpected illness it could be me. I can not express how I felt being allowed out of Hospital and finding nmyself just being able to stand at the back door and look at the Garden or feed the birds or even walking through the town centre to get some shopping. Just the simple every day things.

And as was said earlier probably because it is not meant to be the loss of a child to its Mother perhaps is even harder to come to terms with.

Thank you for expressing some very personal thoughts I certainly could not have expressed things any better myself.

Les Paul Junior said...

Hi Six,

I can't really add anything to what all the others have already said but, to a small extent, I know how you feel. My dad died when my wife was expecting our first child and I really regret the fact my kids and their grandad never got to know each other.

I also regret the fact that he never lived to see Thatcher booted out or his beloved Blackburn Rovers winning the Premiership. All these regrets and not a thing can be done about them.

flyingfinn said...

I heard someone say, that the sense of loss never really goes away. We only find better ways of dealing with that loss over time.

The people we love, who leave us in this life, they're not really gone as long as we don't forget them. They live in our memories. As long as you don't forget, Six, your mother will always be with you.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Another trueism Flyingfinn,
If you do not speak of or sometimes to those we have lost, its as if they were never here or existed.

I still find myself saying if a film, tv or a piece of music comes on Dad liked that or something new makes me think how he would've enjoyed something and missed out.

I know that he would've embraced the internet for one thing and computers were just starting to be important, he only saw the old Commodore 64...remember that? ;-)

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I know this sounds corny Six but in a way, this post that you have made about your Mom, is a letter to her, letting her know that you do miss her and is another part of your own, long grieving process, something I believe is never actually over throughout any life time.

Yes, recent events have meant that your emotions are in turmoil to say the least, which is why you turned to her.

Actually I'm in pieces writing this because my mother is so terribly unwell and I suspect will not be with me for too much longer. I cannot bear the thought of being unable to hug her and smell her lovely smell. I must push such thoughts away for now and concentrate on the present instead.

She knows how I feel about her though. When my son was born, she came to stay with me for a week and then I went to stay with her and Dad for a week. The experience made me realise just how hard life had been for her when me and my siblings had been small, and how much she had loved us and done her best for us. So when I returned home I sat down and wrote her a letter telling her how I felt, what I thought and how much I loved her. I thanked her for everything.

I don't think I could have told her all that face to face but I couldn't go on and not tell her. I know that she carries that letter with her everywhere.

Sorry, I'm not really adding to this am I? Six, I sincerely hope that things calm down for you soon. Try not to put pressure on yourself. I'm sure that you are a wonderful husband and father because otherwise you wouldn't go through so much angst.

Curmy said...

Six, that was a beautiful message you wrote. I know it's hard for you when the children are tiny, but you will come through it, give your partner lots of support. Your Mother would have been proud of you both to have the courage to have another child.
Your message seems to have made lots of people talk about their families. I'm sorry Mags that your Mother is so ill,I wish I could give you a hug.
It sounds a bit trite, but at least people can give each other some support here and talk about their worries.

Six Years Late said...

Thank you all for taking the time to write so much. It's very heartening to realise that I can post stuff that comes from the heart and people aren't afraid of it and in fact embrace it. You've all helped me feel a little bit better.

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