Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mother mine

My mother is with us for a few days because my father was called away to Ireland. My mother said: "I can manage." Words which put the fear of God into me. She cannot manage. I said: "Of course you can." Then, we went to pick her up. She is sleeping in our bedroom; we are in the study. Last night, she got lost in our bedroom. I am not sure how long it took her to find the bed again. She said: "It's very dark in there." She is blind. I am sure it was.

I love my mother. I love her as my mother. I love her as my new child. When she visits, she still wants to do things for me. Folding clothes, washing up. Sometimes, I wash clothes so she has some to fold. Do not tell her that. Yesterday, I went to sit with her on the sofa. She said: "I wish I could do more to help. You need help." I said: "Mum. I have help. You do not need to do anything for me. You have done enough." She said: "I want to do more." Her face crumpled, pinked up and her traitorous eyes wept out their salty frustrations. I do not expect my mother to help me anymore. It is my mother who expects to help me. It is my mother who feels let down when she has to sit down.

My mother is not perfect you understand. I was once getting a manicure. The glossy girl doing the manicure was horrified. She said: "Didn't your mother teach you to do your nails? Didn't she teach you to look after your cuticles?" I smiled in apology and then shrugged. The girl in her smart white tunic with her own pretty, buffed up hands, was very young; too young for the unvarnished truth. My mother was too busy telling me to read books, to teach me to look after my nails. To this day, I blame her for my shoddy cuticles.

It takes some time to realise when you are a child, that your parent has become your responsibility. When we are out, I do not know whether to run after the four-year-old in case he flings himself into the road or stay with my hesitating mother for fear she trips and falls. I hover, equally useless, between the two of them.

Today, I took the baby and the four-year-old to a little play park in sight of a castle. My mother sat on a bench and the children sat on the swings. When we finished, we walked past the cricket green and stood by the road. I am pushing an over sized buggy; the baby has refused to get into it and is clamped to my hip with my left arm wrapped around her. The baby's refusal to cooperate leaves me with one free hand. I realise that I cannot cross the road with my four-year-old, a buggy, a baby, my mother and her white stick. I think about getting the four-year-old into the buggy but I could not then manoeuvre it down the pavement and up the other side. I think about getting my mother into the buggy but she would never get out of it again. I think about climbing into the buggy with the baby, dangling a leg either side, getting the four-year-old and my mother to hold on and straddle-walking it across the road. I decide that would kill us all. I abandon the buggy. I think: "I will cross the road with everybody and come back for the buggy." I start doing a complicated minuet. I hoik up the sliding baby, arrange my blind mother on my free arm and instruct the four-year-old to take granny's hand. Suddenly, a stranger waiting for a bus says: "Let me help." And I do. I let her help.

28 comments:

Kaycie said...

Aren't kind strangers a wonderful blessing!

catspaw said...

Shortly after I had retired from the military and grown a beard, I attended my neice's wedding. As I entered the house and approached my mother to give her a hug, she rose, extended her hand and introduced herself as the grandmother of the bride. By this time, I had my arms around her, which made her somewhat uncomfortable. I looked down, smiled and introduced myself as her son, to her considerable embarrassment.

Just a small indication of what we all have to look forward to with our parents; and our children, with us...

(daujamt--sounds like some sort of German fruit spread...)

mutleythedog said...

Mothers are both an affliction and a blessing -like kind strangers Ms W! Did you get the parcel I sent??

@themill said...

C'est la vie.

Drunk Mummy said...

I used to push a double buggy, with a buggy-board on the back, and three children aboard. When I managed to build up a bit of speed, we all looked like something out of Ben Hur.

Livvy U. said...

Yes, yes, I'm laughing and groaning in recognition... The other day I walked toddler, empty buggy and a mother about to keel over from chemotherapy side effects up Highgate Hill, possibly the steepest hill in London. We got to Cafe Nero in the end. I had an extremely strong coffee.
Thank you for this, so funny, so well-written.

mutterings and meanderings said...

My mum's response to my vow not to have children is: "Who will look after you when you're old?"

Norman said...

My four children are up and long gone getting on with running their own families, the youngest one is 35. But when we visit them wherever they are, my wife goes into "mother mode" with a vengeance. She is helping but at the same time they, our kids can manage anyway. A mother is not just for childhood, its for life.
Apropos the buggy problem: when my kids were little we has a Silver Cross baby carraige. It had wheels as big as bicycle wheels and it could go anywhere except in a car boot or on a bus. Pity they don't make them any more. Gawd knows how much they'd cost nowadays if they did!

Mr Zip said...

In case Norman finds he can no longer live without a Silver Cross with big wheels (tho not as big as I remember them), he'll find them here http://tinyurl.com/yntngg

And a snip at £995.

Steve Schewe said...

Caring for your parents gets more interesting when they're still feisty. My mother is 75 and has just taken over running the family farm following the passing of my dad. There's no question about who's in charge. A number of people in town have gotten the what-for from her for "trying to take advantage of a woman". But she's mystified by bookkeeping and computers. It's a complicated dance.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Wifey, looking at your advertising list, it really is remarkable how many of the same people we know ...

It's a very small world.

City Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
City Girl said...

About five years ago my father went into hospital with a prostate problem. It was the first time i saw him in a different light. My father had always been strong and never got ill so when this happened it was a real shock. My father was not the strong man he always was, the man who would take my sisters and i swimming and carry us on his shoulders but was a tiny man, aged and lying curled up in a hospital bed, looking so small. For the first time in my life i felt that i needed to look after my father because he was ill and my mother because she needed support. I cant explain how odd this felt.

Kind strangers come along when you least expect it. Im so glad there are people like that out there.

dulwichmum said...

You know many of us are in this difficult position. Our mothers encouraged us to study, to go out and forge ourselves a career, and so we had our children in our thirties - and find that we are looking after our babies, our aged parents and even a full-time job too. Can we have it all? I really don't know anymore. Sometimes I think I left everything much too late - there are just too many plates to spin at once.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the greatest thing about North East England is its people - they are some of ther kindest, most genuine in the country. Together with the amazing coast, countryside, arts, culture that this area of the UK offers, the people have to be one of the biggest draws for anyone considering moving up here. Long may it stay that way!

debio said...

It hit me that my mother was aging when she called to say she had 'had a fall'.

When did this change from 'I fell over'?

Does the distancing of the incident suggested by this phraseology indicate an apology for getting old?

The main problem with my mother is her refusal to recognise that she needs looking after, so we have to do it by stealth. Exhausting.

rilly super said...

dulwichmum, you are so right dear. Sometimes I try and spin so many plates it just becomes impossible and my whole life is like the end of the evening in a greek restaurant, sigh

mind the gap said...

My mother went through a stage, when I had long left home and had my own house, of asking me to bring back my washing for her. She works full time and has my grandma to look after but will always want tolook after me even when I'm perfectly capapble of doing it myself! Needless to say, I love coming home to stay because I feel thoroughly looked after.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. there was a kids' puzzle I recall, about getting 3 geese and a fox over to the other side of a river in a very small coracle..

Look it up, it may be helpful..

Anonymous said...

My mother never taught me to look after my cuticles either, so busy was she encouraging me to read, teaching me to cook, instilling me with her feminine and feminist values. The answer of course is not to waste any more time going for manicures, and spend the time reading (with your kids or alone) instead. Incidentally, I am eternally grateful to my mother for that; yours sounds as perfect as mine is.

Anonymous said...

put the baby in the buggy, let her scream until you get across the street, then take her out again.

(for future reference in case the kindness of strangers is not available).

Daniel said...

I haven't checked in on your blog in quite a while. The last time I saw it, I liked it; now, it is still just as good, mabye a little better, even. My Mom, too, is getting old. I don't mind so much, except that she is dragging me along with her.

The Secretary said...

The kindest you receive from a stranger is one you will always remember.

When my youngest son was a baby he was very ill (although we didin't know it). He was on permanent anti-biotics and this caused thrush in his nappy which took all the skin off his little bottom. The creams the doctors perscribed mad him howl in pain.

One day we were at the Natural History Museum in London and I went to change his nappy. He was in so much pain I sat on the floor in baby changing room and wept. Another lady came in with her baby and she sat on the fllor next to me and held me in her arms until I had pulled myself together. She then gave a tube of the most fabulous cream that, as soon as I put it on his bottom, soothed it and he stopped crying immediately.

I never got the chance to thank that lady, but I have never, ever forgotten her.

aims said...

Dear WITN:
Cherish your mother (and your father) while you can.

My mother - definately the matriach of the family, survived the death of my father and continued on with the family business she had started and helmed for 40 years. Then one day she felt a little weak - and it was a long slow slide from there.

I moved in with her and gave her the 24 hour care she required. She would awake every 40 minutes - and I put a baby monitor in my room so I could hear her when she woke. This went on for a year and a half. Fortunately for me - my husband was understanding and welcomed me when I came home for a night once a month.

It was hard - being the caregiver to the woman who had been my caregiver - and through these tears I'm telling you - do all you can for her - you're going to miss her more after she is gone than you'll ever expect.

I'd give anything everyday to have my mom back again.....I hope she knows that.

Cathy said...

They don't call us the 'sandwich generation' for nothing.

My children are older but still need a lot of care, my parents are 200 miles away and hanging on in there but my m-i-l, also a long way away and a carer herself, has Alzheimers...

It's a constant worry.

Ian said...

I think I drove past you today when I went to the butchers in that very village. If I had known it was you I would have waved and said "Hi it's me" then you would have had some loony in a car to worry about along with everything else.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

My mum died when I was 14. I wish I had to worry about helping her across a road...and my cuticles are a mess, I only have myself to blame.

granny p said...

Wonderful writing - discovered via the group. The tragedy isn't that we die - it's that we get old. I think I'm beginning to know it. (Oh and wrestling with the buggy rings bells too.)

I'll be back.