Thursday, 3 October 2013

Saying goodbye

I had travelled across a deep, blue sea to say goodbye to my mother. Imperious, haughty, beautiful, difficult, generous, kind, bitter, loving, irascible, loyal, are all words I would use to describe my mother. But she is still my mother.

Our first encounter after the many, many years I stayed away was one of profound sadness. I burst into tears but she did not. We had difficulty embracing but she wanted to even though she was attached to tubes, her frail body all but invisible under the sheets . I struggled to hide my shock at what she had become. She recognised me immediately and within five minutes we were arguing. Just like old times. I flounced out of the room vowing never to return. I was wrong, of course. How could I not try to make amends, to build bridges, to forgive and to learn how to forget?

I returned the next day and we both relaxed enough to smile, to talk, to figure out how we got to this miserable state. I cried and cried and cried at how I wished for the past to change. I longed for a magic wand to regain all the time we had lost bickering, trapped in a hateful silence, in a state of apathy so toxic that it would scythe though the air between us over and over again, slicing through the silvery thread that binds a mother and her child.

The sight of a once beautiful woman ravaged by old age and sickness was enough to make me want to never, ever, get old and so diminished that I would be at the mercy of others. The sages say that a peaceful death comes to those who have lived a good life. Do we choose the end which awaits us?

My mother was once the belle of the ball in an era where a date consisted of going to the cinema and sharing a bunch of grapes (!). The world has changed. We have changed.

Our parents bring us into this world and then they leave us. We are left to go on. My mother is taking her place in the morning mists that move across the hills and as they rise, will become the clouds.

Despite my fragmented relationship with my mother, I owe a lot to her. My love of cooking, my wanting to do things well or not at all, my vanity. My mother wasn't perfect and neither am I.

"I love you, Susie. And thank you."  I'm sorry I never got to tell you that.

My mother, Susie

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