Twenty years ago today, Mum died. It was not unexpected. Indeed it was welcome, an end to suffering. There comes a time in the cancer journey where one has to let go.
Sydney turned on a blinder of a day. Not. A river ran past our flat.
Centrepoint Tower occasionally loomed through the rain.
I rather regret that I never got to really know my Mum. Even though I was 24, I was still the baby. (I still am.) I was not strong, I had to be coddled, I had to be sheltered from life's harsh lessons.
Well Mum dying sure made me grow up in a hurry. I remember when I realised it was inevitable, that only a miracle could prevent it. I raged, I cried in desperation and loss and grief well before she was dead, I was despondent, and finally I came to accept. There is only so much pain and disability you can deal with, and seeing this strong, brave woman barely able to do life's necessities let alone enjoy life was enough for me.
It left me with noone to kick my butt when it needed to be kicked, noone to fix things, noone to hide behind or run to when things got tough. No shopping expeditions with someone else (though I have inherited the happy knack of finding bargains 8-).
I learned to be strong. And I've been learning how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. (Man, I LOVE strawberry lemonade! So I need life to give me strawberries too ;-)
It has been odd, not having a mother for guidance, pants-kicking and general life experience. I never allowed anyone else to assume the role, not my father, not my sisters, noone, though my mum-in-law is great.
(She would be proud of that baby on her lap - he swam at the Commonwealth Games and is gunning for the Olympics. Her daughter's son!)
I did a PhD for Mum. She wanted me to go as far with my education as I could. She never got the chance, though she was a clever clogs herself (Father was too). I was the brightest in the family, though I have not used my intellect as well as I could - I never really knew what it was to work hard until I got to my PhD. Before then, I worked a bit here and there, and my results show that I cruised too much.
I often wonder who my Mum was. I got little hints here and there. Christopher Reeve as Superman was a bit of a favourite. Graeme Kennedy (Oz tv show host) was a firm favourite, along with Bing Crosby. I remember Mum being horribly upset when Bing died. She liked tv shows like Mission Impossible, Star Trek, anything SF (wonder where I got the dork genes from?), Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police (Oz cop shows), Columbo and other murder mysteries, later on Blakes 7, Murder She Wrote and Burke's Backyard (Oz gardening show). Old movies, movies from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, especially musicals with a good singalong track, were preferred over "modern rubbish." Many a Saturday night was spent watching Bill Collins present some classic movie.
She was thrifty, being a child of the Depression and WWII, orderly, organised and crafty. Mum was always making stuff. (Wonder where I got that too?) She always hoped for getting some sort of break, winning the lottery, not having to struggle to make ends meet. But we never lacked for birthday and Christmas presents. She had the sort of pride people develop from a lifetime of managing to hold things together on a shoestring. She was not a nurse but she had to nurse both me and her husband - we were both sickly types.
But this still does not tell me who she was. I guess I'll never know. I don't even have many pictures of her - she hated having her photo taken. I've shared a few through this post but they are pretty much all I have and are mostly from group shots.
I have learned some lessons from her experience though. Always always always get regular medical check ups. If you have a run in with a disease, any disease not just cancer, get it checked regularly. No matter how invasive the test, no matter how much it injures your pride, no matter how darned terrified you are of dying like your mum and your aunt did, GO AND GET IT DONE. If you don't get it done and it is something bad, you almost certainly will die. If mum had had regular colonoscopies, she probably would've outlived my father if they hadn't annoyed each other to death. She would've been 81 this year. But she didn't do the tests and it was too late when the second go-round of cancer was found.
I know she would've been horrified with me developing cancer. Her baby! I would've been plied with nourishing soups all the way through. I would've had even more hats to wear. There would have been many gingerfluff sponges to eat (I wish I had inherited the ability to make sponges but mine turn out like the seaside variety only less salty). I would've been driven to all my medical appointments (note that I did get taken by my MiL to the early, critical ones and I always had friends to take me to chemo - much appreciated :-).
I have a lot to thank her for. So this one is for you, Mum!