Sunday, May 11, 2014

For Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day today. At least in Australia and the USA it's Mother's Day. Not sure about anywhere else in the world. 

Truth to tell, it would be pretty hard to miss the fact. The great commercial machine revved up and got going. The Sentimental Fairy came and threw magic dust in our eyes so that we could only see mothers through a golden light and only speak of them with honey in our mouths. 

It's all good...Mothers deserve all the slippers and scented candles we can shower upon them. It's a job I was never up for. Too hard. Far too hard.
Sure...there is joy. At the same time, and with the best Mothers, there can be a complex tangle of conflicting emotions. Sometimes difficult to sustain. Often hard to do without.

My own Mum passed away almost 6 years ago. She'd been ill for a few months and I left for Australia knowing that it would likely be the last time I saw her.
Six months later I was on a plane flying back to Scotland, hoping that I would have a chance to see her again before she passed. It was one of those journeys that always seems very grown up and somehow romantic when you see it in the movies but is the worst kind of awfulness in real life. I touched down in Glasgow at 12.30pm. I immediately phoned my sister from the plane to hear that Mum had slipped away at about 8 o'clock that morning. The whole world blew apart for me. I was on a plane, in the middle of a few hundred people who were busily retrieving their carry on luggage and duty free. And I had just heard that my Mother had died. It seemed the loneliest moment of my life. I was 48 years old and my first conscious thought was, 'Who's going to look after me now?'.

After the funeral I came back to Australia. No-one here knew my Mum. No-one else was missing her here. No-one else was sad. I wasn't aware of being any more tearful than usual. Apart from a few days, I didn't even really feel that sad and goes on...

There have been a few things that have happened when I swear I have heard her voice. One day, after boiling eggs to make egg sandwiches and trying hard to boil and peel the eggs without getting that horrible black ring around the yolk (one of Mum's pet hates) I sliced open the first egg, delighted to find that I'd managed, not only to avoid the black ring but to keep the yolk just sllghtly on the creamy side and I heard her voice in my right ear saying 'Perfect'.

And then there was the weirdly inexplicable text on our wedding day...

Lots of people really liked our Mum. They talked about how kind and generous she was. Lots of people had loads of really good memories of her. Whenever I think about her, or her outstanding feature, I think about her hands. She never really liked them. She said they were too thick, too broad, too coarse. There was nothing elegant or refined about them.

In a way she was right. Her fingers were short and the veins on the backs of her hands stood out. Her palms were lined. She said that her hands were gnarled. They were not pale, white hands. Years of scalding hot water - 'How do you expect to get anything clean? That water's freezing...we'll all get polio!!' - had given her red, asbestos hands. 

Mum's hands were strong, working hands...washing...wringing out cloths and
Her hands didn't do anything fancy. She didn't sew or knit...nothing fiddly or fancy...unless you count changing babies' nappies on your lap with one hand holding their wriggling legs out of the way and the other expertly wiping, folding, pinning or taping...without dropping a single one.
Good, honest, straightforward, hardworking.

All the ways her hands were described spoke of work. Our Grannie Ritchie used to talk about her Number 9 shovels when she was giving us a clip. She definitely subscribed to the adage that if you spared the rod you spoiled the child and she was always proud of the fact that there were 5 children in her family and she could have taken us anywhere! Mostly, her hands did acts of kindness as she looked after my Dad and the 5 of us.

As time went by her hands became a bit arthritic ...the joints knobbly and painful...she said that she had an old woman's hands and yet, I'm here writing this and she never really got to be an old woman.

I came to love her hands. I quite envied them. No-one would look at my hands and say that I've worked hard. 

You can see her in our hands...I've got the arthritic lumps and bumps...Elaine has the shape of Mum's hands and some of the characteristics. My niece Niamh has also inherited them and perhaps in time she'll wish that she had Irene's long, tapering, slim, white hands or Lorraine's smooth skin and shapely fingers.

Hands - they are like a visual aid of what's in your heart. 

Our Mum thought that you shouldn't have to tell people that you love them you should just show them. I don't agree with her...she wouldn't be surprised to know that...I believe that people need to hear that they are loved...and that it needs to be said to them often otherwise it can be just too difficult to believe.

But I've come to believe this...if your hands are a visual aid of what is in your heart then I have been well loved.

It's Mother's Day today. I wish she was here.

"Thanks for everything that you have done for me, and all that you are still doing."