"The end of another decade" she sighed last night
I looked at my mother. She was going to be 70 today and she seemed sad.
"Well mam" I tried to cheer her up. "Its not like your going to notice any real difference now is it. I mean your not jumping from sixty to seventy overnight. Its only another day"
She nodded but I knew she wasnt convinced and it started me thinking.
Over the years I never really knew my mother. When I was a child she was there for me cooking, cleaning, helping with homework. She taught me to read even though because of her poor eye sight she never read herself. I would spell the words and she would say them. I would read my stories to her, stories I had written and books I found interesting. She would listen while she did the ironing and sometimes she would tell me stories about her childhood which was tragic yet fascinating at the same time. When I grew older we grew apart, life and circumstance drove and pulled us apart, other stories, and although we never stopped being friends we were not close like I would have wanted.
I was the eldest in the family and the first to leave home. I moved into an appartment with my partner when I was seventeen and was pregnant at eighteen. I gave my parents their first grandchild and they loved him to distraction. He seemed to fill a space in their lives and they lavished attention on him. My mam had run into some trouble before he was born. A couple of years earlier she had her first taste of alcohol and she found she liked it a little bit too much. This was a bad time for the whole family as my dad didnt drink very much at all and could not understand my mothers need to do so. We also had money worries and buying alcohol on a regular basis gave rise to major rows and arguments. I did not live in the house any longer but I knew of the friction from my brother and sisters. Anyway when my son was born it seemed to give my mum something else to focus on and for a while things were good.
My dad was getting older and began having health worries. While I was pregnant he suddenly got paralysis in his face and this started a downward slide. I got pregnant again fairly quickly and evrybody was delighted at the prospect of another baby. When I was five months pregnant my dad was diagnosed as having terminal lung cancer. We were devasdated. My mum gathered all the strength she owned and some she didnt even know she had and kept us all strong. My dad went to pieces and for the first time in our lives she took control. He became very ill very quickly. My second son was born in August. My dad died in November.
Time as it does moved on. My other sisters began having children and my mum doted on each and every one of them. I dont think any of us ever see the ones we love change and grow older. Seeing somebody on a regular basis has a funny way of hiding the years until suddenly there is no getting away from the fact that time has taken a huge leap forward and there are lines there that were not there before and weakened bones and more frequent illness. My mum was growing older as we all were. One sure thing about time is that it passes. Her bones became weak and she had some pretty major falls over the last couple of years. The worst was last year when she broke some bones in her back, her ribs, shoulder, arm, wrist and for a while we thought we were going to loose her.
It was at that time i realised. I didnt really know this woman I called my mother and time was racing past and if i didnt do something about the situation it would be too late and I never would. We were at the hospital visiting one day when the social worker came to see her.
"You cant live on your own any longer" she said quietly "You can no longer manage to use stairs"
I looked at my mam. Her eyes were filled with tears and she was doing her best not to cry
"What can I do " she asked quietly
"Well, we can look into a home maybe" the social worker said "some kind of residential care"
The tears fell.
She was crying like a child, scared lonely helpless and my heart was breaking. I knew i had not spent a full day with her in too many years to remember and I didnt know if I could change my whole way of life but I had to try
"Come live with me mam"
The words were out before I had a chance to change my mind
She looked at me
"I couldnt" she sighed "You have your life. I could not impose on you or in it"
"You wouldnt be" I assured her. "We will give it a go and see if we can get along. I wont get into your way and ill respect your space and you do the same and we will be fine"
I had my fingers crossed as I spoke. I had to tell my daughter what was going to happen and I didnt know how she would feel about it. She and my mum had their problems, another story, but it was done now. The offer was made and there was no going back. My mum went into rehab for three months and this gave everybody time to adjust to the changes that were going to be made in our lives. When the day finally came and my mum came home, it felt right and it continues to feel right. We have grown really close and my daughter has a chance to get to know her grandmother and she is loving it.
She got up and picked up her cigarettes and lighter
"Night love" she said to me as she headed into her room
"Night mam" I smiled then I got up and gave her a hug "Love ya" I told her and I meant it
"I'll bring ya in a cuppa in a few"
She asks so little and for however long she is with me I will make sure she is happy. Her life has not been an easy one but she is ok now. Sometimes I cant help asking how in the circle of life the parents become the children and the children become the parents. They start out by taking care of us and finish with us taking care of them.
We travel the complete circle.