Thirteen years ago today my mum died. It all feels like a lifetime ago, and actually I can't really remember what life looked and felt like with her in it. I wish I had been given the chance to get to know her, to appreciate her and, of course, I would do anything to thank her for all the things I can now see she did for me and my sister, and all the little ways in which she showed us that she loved us.
I suppose that, depending on what age you are when you lose a parent, you lose a different relationship. If you lose a mother at a young age, you miss the nurturing and love that only a mum can provide when you are little. If you lose her in the teenage years you miss the guidance, stability and advice that can only come from someone who loves you in such a distinct way. In your twenties you miss the friend that a parent can become once you start to appreciate them as real human beings. Later than that and I suppose you miss having that uniquely close person in your life to support you once your own family / career and future starts to grow and develop. I was only 21 when my mum passed away and I hadn't yet grown to see her for who she really was. Now, as the years tick by and I embark on mothering myself, the scales are falling from my eyes. I often thought of mum as rather tiresome and set in her ways, and by contrast I was far too fun and young and free to relate to her. Perhaps she was set in her ways, but she was also wonderful. She was a single mother, with two children and a house to run, as well as a job to manage. Like parents all over the world she just got on with it, but boy she must have been exhausted at times. I wish I had shown her more support.
Most of my memories are distant and faded but when I think hard they all start to come back to me. I remember her perfume on the dressing table, and the day she accidentally dyed her hair orange. I remember how I could manipulate her into buying me the clothes I wanted by taking her shopping and trying them on with her there (she always ended up buying them for me), I remember the cups of tea curled up on the sofa, I remember that she used to put butter on her madeira cake. I remember how much we would laugh and laugh at the tiniest of silly things. I remember her standing at the end of our road in the dark, wearing her dressing gown and slippers waiting to walk me home off the last train on a Saturday night (I thought this was terribly dull, but now I know she couldn't sleep until I was safe in my bed). I remember the Christmas that she decided we should drink bucks fizz for breakfast, and it all went wrong, she felt 'odd' after two glasses and my sister and I had to cook Christmas lunch for her. I remember the rows and the shouting which, in a house full of women, could easily reach fever pitch. I remember how judgmental and disapproving she could be. I remember how annoying she was, how cross I made her, how real we all were with each other, how honest and loving our lives were when she was here. I remember how sick she was at the end and how frightened I felt. I remember how much she tried to protect us even when she was frightened herself.
She was not a fancy lady, she was gentle and old-fashioned, and she was all about the simple things. But she was an anchor to her daughters, a dear friend to many and she created a home for us that was place to feel accepted and safe no matter what. I wish she had met her grandson, and seen how beautiful he is and was here to make me one of her lovely cups of tea and to give me a few pointers on this strange old business called parenting. She was a good mother, and I miss her.
''I cannot forget my mother. She was my bridge. When I needed to get across, she steadied herself long enough for me to run across safely.'' Renita Weems