As some of you may know, I spent some time in Yorkshire, my home county, after the Christmas period. This year, rather than frantically try and see everybody and end up seeing lots of people for 5 minutes each, I made a conscious decision to spend time with family and only saw a couple of my closest, special friends who are more like family to me anyway. The result was that I had a really relaxed Christmas and New Year and came back to Birmingham feeling refreshed and content.
The natural side effect of Christmas and New Year for me is that it makes me think about those who are not here anymore. This Christmas meant that I had not seen my mum for 22 years. Even writing that makes me take a deep breath and look away. The sadness and empty feeling has never gone away since she died. I don’t mean that to be morbid. For me, it just means that, as time passes, I manage to cope with those feelings of sadness better and function as a relatively ‘normal’ human being whatever that means. In my case it means I don’t have a breakdown every day and I can remember good things about her. From the time that she howled because I had a loose teeth and she asked me if it was called ‘Fred’ because it was hanging by a thread to the time that she hugged me so tight after being poorly to the letter that she wrote given to me after she died which talked about my illness as a baby and that she hoped I would grow up to be someone who wasn’t judgmental and took everyone at face value regardless of disability, gender or religion.
This year was particularly hard as it was the first Christmas without my nan. My nan ties in closely with my mum as, despite the fact my nan was my dad’s mum, she absolutely adored my mum and frequently took her away on holidays. She was the only one I felt who I could talk to me about my mum and it really made me evaluate who I choose to talk about my mum and why. Note I said “I felt” as I don’t think she is the only one I could talk to but it’s how I felt.
My dad is amazing. He raised me from the age of 9 and I think he did a pretty good job. His role meant that my ideals about gender roles were completely smashed at an early age. Yes, I do believe everyone needs a male and female role model but the important thing is about the quality of that role model rather than having to be a mum and dad. I don’t believe everyone needs a biological mum and dad. In my case obviously I would have given anything to have my mum still in my life but my dad did a great job bringing in my aunties. My favourite moment is when I had my ‘monthlies’ for the first time at the age of 13. He literally looked at me, the panic etched in his face and said ‘have you got what you need’?. My gran had prepared me beforehand so I nodded and he ran down the stairs. Okay, maybe that situation would have been different had it been my mum but it worked for me! He also had a great time explaining when he met my stepmum for the first time and I asked whether she was his girlfriend. He went bright red and said she was a girl and a friend so must be a girlfriend!. Having said all this I rarely speak to my dad about my mum. I speak to my stepmum about my mum more than my dad. I don’t know why this is.
My gran, my mum’s mum, was another who I felt I couldn’t speak to my mum about. She was a lovely lady who passed away in January 2013 but I always felt she was unable to move on with her life after my mum died and felt any time I was talking to her it would provoke memories about my mum that would be quite painful for her. Perhaps that was simply my perception because at my wedding my nan mentioned she looked upset so went to see my gran who said ‘it is just like her mum’s wedding’. That made me feel sad but also proud that I look so like my mum and almost like she will live on.
My brother. Well that’s a whole other blog post! We were incredibly close after my mum died as he was extremely protective but sadly, particularly in recent years, my brother and my dad’s relationship has deteriorated. It is something that upsets me frequently and I would love to think 2015 would be the year that they come back together. After my mum died, my brother ‘acted up’ but probably didn’t receive the support he potentially could have done. Nobody’s fault as there is no textbook for dealing with grief but support was not widely available for young people or not known about. All this meant my brother is now seeking that support 22 years later and it has caused some issues throughout his life. He has diagnosed depression but is now off medication and doing well. He rarely talks about my mum to me and I am always cautious about talking to him about her which is bizarre because she was our mum. I constantly remind myself that everyone deals with grief in different ways but I feel like, similar to my gran, my brother has not ‘moved on’ and chooses to live with sad memories rather than remembering our mum in a happy way. Who am I to criticise though?
I visit my mum’s grave whenever I visit Yorkshire. The last visit was interesting as it was in the snow and the dark in a graveyard with no lights. I spent ten minutes using the torch from my iphone trying to find the gravestone and couldn’t find it at which point I rang my auntie (mum’s sister) asking her what wreath was on the gravestone and suggesting someone had stolen my mum’s gravestone. Two minutes later I found it and rang her back shouting ‘I’ve found her’. I apologise to anyone walking through Crofton graveyard but it also made me laugh as I could distinctly hear my mum saying ‘ what are you doing?!?..
I think about my mum, my nan and gran frequently. I feel them some days more than others. It scares me when I think I have forgotten things about them but generally the next day I see something that brings a memory back and makes me smile. I think I’m at the point where I accept the sadness. It is happening no matter what. My brother frustrates me as I feel like he thinks I have forgotten my mum sometimes. I haven’t. She is always there. The reality is my life may have been different had she still be alive. I’m not saying worse or better but may be different. Maybe I would have still moved away and met my husband. Maybe I would have stayed at home and married someone else. Who knows? I don’t want to live with a bunch of ‘what if’s’. It’s harder some days than others. It’s made me realise that I need to talk more about my mum if I want to. She was an amazing lady and she deserves to be celebrated. I only hope I will have her patience when I have my own children. I do have support from all my family and I think it’s just my perceptions that make me feel like I can’t at the moment.