Peace with my Mum
Imagine two special mums turbocharging you for life.
My first mother I never met.
My real mum with the mercurial job of caring for me for over sixty years, passed away peacefully on Thursday, 26 May 2016, after 11 days palliative care at Lovell House in Alma Road, Caulfield in Victoria, a very special high care nursing home owned by the Anglican Church.
Lovell could well be short for LOVE ALL – for that is what those beautiful nurses do no matter how antagonistic the “guests” become, as agitation is a common symptom in nursing homes these days. I know I would be for sure.
My mother’s name was (I wrote is first) Irene June Little, born on 16 May 1926. They say you never really accept your mum has gone. I kinda feel she is very much with me? now, and who knows, maybe we will find scientific evidence to substantiate what I very strongly feel.
So how is your maths?
That makes my mum’s lifespan 90 extraordinary years, taking in the Great Depression, of course the Second World War, then TV, then Man walking on the moon, and then well – the bulk of us know the rest of the main stories.
Luckily we got to celebrate the big milestone two days before her true birthday, with a small family gathering at mum’s nursing home with my 95 year old dad Ian, my sister Ruth, and my youngest son Andrew (27). Eldest son Christopher (29), lives and works in Copenhagen.
Christopher just flew in last night in time for the funeral today. Sadly he lost a 24 year old cousin to suicide only a few months back so sadly this trip will rekindle that horror movie of life, played out in gripping tragedy for family after family these days. They haven’t invented the drug for the suicide disease – I guess you know what I’d really like to say but today is Mum’s day and I will hold my disruptive tongue for other mental health conditions.
We have a funny family just like yours, and for reasons which I am too choked up to find answers this week, I was not asked by the family to speak about my mother at the funeral service today.
Close friends know that “making THE speech” has been my family duty at all milestone family events in the past, so this will be the first time in family history that I was denied the privilege. Fear of how I speak from the heart can be validly confronting to those who would like to be politically correct, whether family, friends or foe, and I guess particularly so on such an occasion of tribute to my mum.
Maybe I was meant by my mum to instead go public about how I feel about her, perhaps on social media, a medium which my mum never got to experience. Mum never shirked emotions with me and we often would have competitions in “door slamming” and “decibel voice training” when I was young – usually kissing and making up pretty quickly – mind you the kissing stopped for a while going through that teenager phase, such a long distant memory now. Don’t think I got too many elsewhere for that matter – a bit of a late bloomer, and incredibly shy, a trait I obviously overcame as my confidence in myself grew.
And of course, being such a special caring and empathetic mum, she was highly supportive of my attempts not long after my first divorce at 35 years of age to find out about my first mother too. My mum was always ready to talk to me about my adoption, which effectively happened on day 5 of my life back on 2 September, 1955. That makes me a “TV baby I reckon” with Australian TV starting up back then on 19 September, 1956, just after I turned one.
Hopefully one day I might be on TV again – perhaps Millionaire Hot Seat and win some money to get back on my feet again – my son Christopher won $20,000 two years ago. I am sure my mum would have been beaming when I went on that school kid quiz show called “It’s Academic” with Danny Webb the host – my two fellow school mates and I back then were in Year 7. Strangely one became a Queens Counsel, and the other is now a Victorian Supreme Court Judge.
Not easy talking about your mum but sadly on the 90th birthday ACTUAL DAY, 15 May 2016, Mum’s doctor decided it was time to start on that dreaded phase – palliative care where all medicines are eliminated, food restricted, and you can guess the rest.
Mum suffered that well known end of life disease called dementia, potentially the biggest killer of them all.
All of our family have had very special experiences trying to cope with this slow meltdown over six or seven years of mum’s capacity to arrange her thoughts, recall events, or even do the simple things we take for granted like reading or eating. Curiously Mum’s childhood passion for numbers, and work experience in banking (her father was a bank manager), allowed her to still do my tests of additions of simple integers deep into the closing phase of her debilitating and sad ending in many ways.
Our minds are curious things, and mine is right up there as all my close friends and family would well know, and mum and I would often exchange ideas about how our thoughts worked, or didn’t work, or occasionally overwork, in my case. I think I did understand a lot about her failing of the mind.
Lucky for us with Mum, she always seemed to recognise us, and her close friends – I was always preparing myself for that recognition to fade away, but we were all spared that horror movie.
Visiting mum was difficult in the 11 days of palliative care, as I trundled in each afternoon, wondering if today was the day. What a fighter, she wanted to hang on – she must have had her thoughts which we can only ever surmise.
With mum being largely motionless and unable to say words after about seven days in palliative care, I just became resigned to the thought that was the end of my physical connection with Mum.
But then on Day 8 when she had been moved to lay on her side, rather than face up – she moved her hand and placed it on my cheek, and held it there for what seemed at least ten minutes.
Not only could I strongly feel her touch, but she was able to make a facial expression, and actually smile at me, gazing deep through my eyes as if to EYEPRINT me for life, maybe thinking:
“Graeme you are truly chosen.
Follow your passion.
You are called to stand up
and always respect your mums”
The life of an adopted son is one of being chosen.
I sense that feeling of being chosen keeps repeating in my various life passions.
How lucky I am. In this day and age, that right to be chosen has disappeared in most western countries, as “unwanted” children are aborted legally – sadly one in four pregnancies in Australia. I certainly understand a mother’s right to freedom with her body, but I kind of feel for the foetus that never got to have a mum like I did, and an extraordinary life I have lived, with a future shaping up to be possibly my most fulfilling.
Freedom of Choice is such an exceptionally complex issue. Easy to say. Another time and place.
So I prepare to head to my mum’s funeral.
Today is that one day of the year – the day you dread. The day you have to bury your mother, and prepare for the afterlife of possibilities and speculations, which has intrigued mankind since the garden of Eden.
Whilst I no longer bat openly for any religion, I do sense an extraordinary spiritual presence at special times, and often unexpectedly.
I sense we are all connected.
I know my connection with my mum will never die.
To my brave mum – my pink ballerina we made together at the end will be near me, not that I will need any reminders.