Sunday, 18 March 2012

I miss my Mum

Mothers Day feels odd if you have no mother, and are not a mother yourself. You feel left out. A woman who isn't playing any natural role, whether as birthgiver or daughter.

As you know, my mother died three years ago. Throughout my previous life, I'd marked 'her special day' with hearty greetings, flowers and a card - often a card that I'd painstakingly made myself. And until he died in 1995, my younger brother W--- did the same. And his wife G--- (later ex-wife, and long since remarried, but herself a mother) also made a really big thing of it, and still would if Mum were here now.

Mum appreciated all this attention very much. I think she liked Mothers Day more than her own birthday, on which, incidentally, she received exactly the same fuss. Perhaps it was because Mothers Day honoured her vital creative role, and was obliquely a celebration of Mum and Dad's marriage and their lifelong devotion to each other.

She'd had difficult pregnancies and did not cope well during the post-natal recovery periods, especially the first (when carrying me). She was bereft of her own mother who had died some years before, and had confusing clinical advice. It was not a happy time. Her second pregnancy (my brother W---) went a bit better, but she still didn't find it an entirely pleasant experience. All this was however forgotten as W--- and I grew up. We were cherished. We were trophies. We were two lovely chidren she was genuinely proud of.

I believe that Mum loved her two children very much, and she certainly took great care of us, defending our interests and shielding us from harm. I also believe that she loved Dad even more. I was easy with that; it seemed quite right; but I always felt Mum lived for Dad first, and her children second. That's not a criticism. Somehow, though, it left me feeling slightly detached and separate, not at the very heart of our little family.

Mum and I never developed an intimacy, and I never confided in her - or if I ever did, I soon learned to be very careful what I told her. Although basically a friendly and convivial person, she was nevertheless forthright, principled, held black-and-white opinions, and was very determined - positively formidable - if she felt she was in the right. In many ways she was a strong role model; but also someone to hide things from, because she would always want to comment. She could be uncomfortably uncompromising in what she might say.

I grew wary of generating these comments. This made me adept at concealment. Again, not a criticism, and to be fair there were obviously things about me that would make secrecy and self-preservation essential features of my life. But we were not of the same mind, and we lacked closeness. I often thought that was a pity. It made occasions like Mother's Day slightly hollow, slightly ritualistic. The impulse to rush to her, and hug her, and kiss her, and tell her my latest news, was not there. That was sad. And I came to feel it was all my fault - that I didn't love my mother enough, that I was emotionally cold.

What do I feel now, on each Mothers Day? Not pain. To tell the truth, I still can't 'see' my mother as she was for most of her life. The way she looked on her deathbed still dominates my mental image of her, and it has got in the way. Not only that, the estrangement of early transition was a barrier between us. I saw her daily at the hospice, then at the nursing home, but we couldn't connect. My 'becoming a woman' must have appalled her and confused her. She denied it all completely, thrust it all from herself. After all, if it were really true, then we had wasted a lifetime on a doomed and ultimately abortive mother-son relationship. An even more dreadful idea. I was glad the morphine numbed her thinking, so that she couldn't speculate on what it was about, and who should be blamed. I was never able to discuss my feelings with her in those last days.She didn't want to know. And, so soon, her mind had no room for any of it anyway.

So Mothers Day is for me a reminder of lifelong concealment, and emotional distance at death. But I was still fond of Mum. For many years, when I lived at home in Southampton, I'd take her out in my car for a sunny walk in the New Forest, just her and me and the fresh air; and soft pine needles to tread on. It was nice. It was the closest we could get. This afternoon I will walk in the Forest again, as my way of remembering her in happier days. I hope it's sunny. I don't know whether I'll cry.

I miss my Mum.


  1. I didn't know it was Mother's day today. I lost track of it years ago.

    Now that the children have grown up I don't get the hand made presents and cards and poems that they used to make for the French Fête des Mères.

    Enjoy your walk.

  2. Nice thoughts Lucy. Despite our differences with our parents we always try to connect with them and remember the positive things we shared. There will be some who despise their parents or one of them but fail to see that only for their parents they wouldn't themselves be here. We have a lot to thank our parents for, especially our mothers who bore us into the world. Sadly, as you know, my mother died almost fifteen years ago and my father thirteen years and I remember them both with fond memories. I was able to connect with them both and even right up to their departure was able to enjoy a real close relationship with them both. I wasn't present when they died but had been with them merely days before. Although in my moms case she was under a high dosage of morphine and I saw the pain she was in I tend not to remember her in that condition. I remember more the times when they were both in good health and we were together. Yes, I do miss them both.

    Shirley Anne xxx


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