Eight weeks ago my mother died.
She’d had a good innings as they say, even though her last fifteen years were spent in a care home, she’d managed to survive two strokes (no doubt brought on by chain smoking) and by the time she died she wasn’t in good health - we were all actually surprised she’d lasted as long as she had. I wish I could say that I’m heartbroken because I’ve lost my best friend but she wasn’t that. She wasn’t a doting grandmother, she had no interest in anyone or anything, so conversation on the rare occasions I visited her was kept very superficial. That’s not to say she didn’t love me, she did, and I loved her - but she was never the mother she could have been, partly because she had schizophrenia, and partly because she married a man who didn’t love her. This combination was to tear the family apart.
As young children, my sister, brother and I didn’t know she was mentally ill, it was only later when we got to our teens that her behaviour became a problem. She would literally sit all day in the same chair just chain smoking, often leaving my dad and dragging us kids round to my grandmother’s house to stay for a while until he said the right things to make her go back to him. She was always going to go back, she couldn’t live without him. Things got pretty bad though when my grandparents moved away from Manchester and went to live in Bath; mum didn’t have her safety net anymore so it was only a matter of time before she decided to move all of us down to Bath, leaving dad for good this time. Both my sister and I were in our early teens and didn’t want to go but had no choice in the matter. We started a new life, which included a new school and making new friends and after a few months we were loving it.
That’s when mum decided we were moving back to Manchester to go back to dad.
This was really bad news for us kids, dad took no interest in any of us and totally begrudged any money he had to spend on us but once again we had no choice in the matter. After a week or so it was like we’d never been away; mum sat in her chair all day chain smoking and dad just totally ignoring us, while both my sister and I wished we were still in Bath. After about a year dad decided he was leaving to go and be with his girlfriend and mum was talking about how she could now get on with her life, didn’t need him and make a fresh start. This was music to our ears as mum was a stunningly beautiful woman who was clever, witty, and still young enough to start again.
It didn’t last long.
She was struggling with her mental health and one day she told us we were going to London to stay in a battered women’s refuge, leaving the very next day. I couldn’t do it. My sister didn’t want to go either but felt an obligation to go so she could look after our younger brother but I think we all thought that this wasn’t going to happen. How wrong we were. I came home from work to find that they had indeed all gone to London and left me behind and that was it, the family was split and eventually mum took my brother and sister back to Bath.
Over the years I’ve shed many tears; my mother was never a part of her grandchildren’s life and never wanted to be. I was a single parent with two children for many years but couldn’t rely on her for anything; she never came to visit, no phone calls, nothing. I’ve learned to live without a mum, so although she died a few weeks ago, it hardly impacts my life but it’s a weird feeling. I’m upset because I know I’ll never see her again but it makes no difference at all to my life. I like to think she’ll come to me in my dreams but then again if she couldn’t do it when she was alive, I doubt she’ll make it.