I have spent a lot of time with my 95 year old mother of late and know the value that she brings to my life. I also know how tough Mother’s Day can be for those who are missing their mothers; those who are missing their children; those with mothers who are unwell and those who simply find their mothers quite hard work. Consequently, I understand if you need to log out now.
If you stay with me, I am prepared to share my mother with you . You can also rest assured that I will not be presenting myself on any pedestal of motherhood. If my children are reading this they will have already ticked the box, ‘mothers who are quite hard work’ on the drop down list above, and will have changed the adjective so that I now fit neatly under the category of, ‘mothers who are flipping hard work’.
On a recent visit to mum I find her uncharacteristically low and she says that she feels more disquieted about ‘our young people’s future,’ than she did after the Second World War. This was not a cheery way to begin my afternoon with her, but after unpicking her opening gambit she agrees that she is watching a lot more news now than she would have listened to in the 1940’s, and that – with subtitles to accompany the graphic images on her Dolby surround plasma TV – she can not plead ignorance about what is going on in the world. ‘We just have to do better than this for our young people; I am still reeling from Brexit’.
I counter-argue that there is always hope in a younger generation and that my grandmother would have been worrying for her children’s generation back in the 1940’s when mum herself would have been energetically optimistic. She agrees that this was the case and promises to work on her attitude for she wants to be viewed as an ‘ignitor not a fire extinguisher’ (reasons for this become apparent as the conversation progresses). ‘I will model myself on the Queen, she never complains. She is my barometer of hope in these dark times, and although she is looking too frail for my liking, I do have big plans for her Platinum Anniversary – namely a huge street party and an anticipated invitation to be the nonagenarian with responsibility for lighting the town beacon. I have been shamelessly dropping hints to our local councillor and have been practising striking matches – I think my carer thinks I am a closet pyromaniac’.
Mum appears heartened and diverts herself by telling me about her new exercise routine. She tells me that she has done less sitting on the sofa since reading in ‘The Telegraph’ that people who potter around tend to live longer. ‘My pilates class is all very well dear, but now I have given myself licence to bimble all over the place and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Previously I viewed my forgetfulness as a liability, but now it just gives me an opportunity to amble from room to room – perhaps stopping off to chip away at that flipping jigsaw puzzle – until eventually I remember what I set out to do. My step count has rocketed, my blood pressure is down and I can still exercise with my slippers on.’
Mum’s social life continues apace and I am lucky these days if she can find the time to send one of her daily text updates – messages spelt out in shouty LOCKED CAPS, unhindered by the restrictions of punctuation. I go two days without hearing from her, so message to find out about her recent Ladies’ Luncheon. ‘IT WENT VERY WELL DEAR THE TOPIC WAS GLOVE MAKING AND IN TALKING TO MY CARER ABOUT IT AFTERWARDS SHE THOUGHT I SAID THAT THE PRESENTATION WAS ON LOVE MAKING AND I CONTINUED ON WITHOUT REALISING SHE HAD MISHEARD AND SAID THAT THIS WAS VERY COMMON IN OUR COMMUNITY BECAUSE THE LOCALS HAD SO LITTLE TO DO. HOW WE LAUGHED.’
I have spoken previously about my mother’s energetic attack on life. In my own middling years I can now make sense of some of the ‘eccentricities’ I witnessed as a teenager. I can now understand mum’s midlife urge to buy some bright red platform shoes to counteract her belief that she was shrinking in height and becoming grey and invisible. I now have more sympathy for her deep – sometimes tuneless – singing voice, for I find these days that my voice seems to have broken and that there can be no pretence that I will ever hit a high note; I mime instead of singing in church and confine myself to belting out bangers only when alone in the car.
I used to think that my mother was obsessed about her hair and eyelashes becoming thinner but now I know this concern only too well. To help with this follicle challenge, Mum has bequeathed me a single black hair that grows from my chin in exactly the same position as the one that she still sports – the one which I insisted on plucking out when I was a teenager. (I hope Favourite Daughter has her tweezers ready for when I can no longer notice the mission creep of my lone whisker).
I try to be a good daughter, but confess that I have had to ‘go in’ a day early for Mother’s Day this year – I have been with mum today because I cannot be with her tomorrow. I have a half marathon tomorrow – a half marathon which has been languishing around since 2020 thanks to Covid; an event which is unlikely to be impressed with a little amble, bimble or potter, or a sick note from a mother who is flipping hard work and believes I should be spending actual Mother’s Day with her.
In fact, mum is on great form today and has stopped sulking about the news of my no show tomorrow – she is now on a mission to maximise our time together. I whine that I am trying to ‘keep off my feet’ in preparation for tomorrow’s race but she is having none of it. She is waiting by the front door and has phoned ahead to her favourite coffee shop to ensure that we will be greeted on our arrival by two giant eclairs. ‘I knew you would want to carb load, dear, it is the least I can do to support you’.
The sun is shining and mum insists on walking without her stick – ‘it is so ageing and we are bound to bump into someone I know; I will just hang onto your arm and style it out’. She feels she in need of a new summer wardrobe, despite confessing that she has, ‘given up spending and chocolate for Lent’.
I return mum home, hours later, to do some pottering. We have enjoyed coffee, lunch and afternoon tea for, ‘you can never have too many carbs dear’. She waves regally at her neighbour and leaves me to carry in her shopping hoard – a pair of light summer jeans (who knew), a huge jar of turmeric – ‘I don’t know what it does, but I am sure I will be better off for taking it’ – and some hair thickening moose (2 for 1 at Boots – I lucked out just by being mum’s significant other in the shop). I decide I am too faint hearted to quiz mum about how the chocolate eclair and the shopping spree will tally with the church. I gave up confrontation for Lent.
I am exhausted, and try to ignore the lack of tapering before my race tomorrow. I leave mum with another coffee, her feet up and the happy prospect of some floral gifting at her Mother’s Day church service – ‘at least someone‘s child will bring me flowers’.
I head for the door and she calls after me, ‘ If you insist on using me as your blog muse again, do make sure that you call me ‘mother’ not ‘mum’ and do not on any account use a photo of me with that eclair. If you can describe me as ‘youthful’ it might help my chances with an invitation to light the Queen’s beacon. Thanks for popping down. We must do it again soon. Oh, and don’t do anything stupid tomorrow, you are too old for all this running about’.
Hard work my mother. Relentless. Love her.