My mum died 8 years ago today and I felt that she deserved a post devoted to her.
When I was young I never felt that my mum had much time for me. I felt invisible and insignificant for a lot of my youth because I was number nine out of thirteen. My brothers and sisters were more vocal than me because I was the quiet reader. When I was a teenager I divided my time between being a recluse and hiding in my room with a good book and being obnoxious, giving my mum dirty looks and letting her know that she was not important to me.
When I got pregnant with my first baby all of that changed.
This strange woman who I had nothing in common with turned out to be a great support to me and I would even have called her my friend. When I went back to high school at the age of 23 she helped look after my second daughter whilst I took my eldest to school with me. When I got into university she walked my daughters to school and picked them up. As a single parent I depended on the help from my mum and dad to be able to get to university. Every christmas we would spend at my mums so they could get a better sense of family and so my mum could see the joy on their wee faces when they opened their presents.
I could never have left my kids with anyone better. I knew she loved them almost as much as I did.
When my mum got ill I took it hard and for a couple of months, it was physically painful to go and visit her and see her having to cope with so much hurt. Once I got over my fear however I spent many a day visiting her, talking to her, making her laugh and just being in her company. My sister did all the hard graft and because I was heavily pregnant I could only give her moral support. I would make her laugh, urge her to dye her hair purple ( a homage to Jenny Joseph’s poem Warning), we would discuss movies, life and just enjoy being in each others company.
I remember watching Road to Perdition with her a week before she died and having a huge discussion about the perfect ending in the movie. Watching her sit on her chair borrowed from the hospice with a quilt up to her neck and her right hand poking out of the side with a fag between her fingers was hilarious. Even up to the end she was strong and dignified and a true gentlewoman.
The Peggy died 16 days before the birth of my fourth baby (my third daughter) and I never felt so alone in my life without her sage advice and the sandwiches she used to bring into the hospital every time I had a baby. I loved my baby girl with all my heart but the event lost a little of its sparkle when I couldn’t share it with mam. She absolutely loved brown eyes and my baby girl had the most beautiful brown eyes.
My mum and me had a turbulent start to our relationship as I reached adulthood but in the years between having kids and her death we managed to put all of those stresses behind us. We never spoke about the past but we just came to an understanding and a mutual respect for each other. It was only as a mother myself that I could empathise with her situation. How do you split your time between 13 kids and give them all the personal attention they need? How can you give some time to one without hurting someone else?
My mum went to university later in life, she carved out an education when everyone had her pegged as just a mother and nothing else. My mum managed to feed 13 kids for years with very little. My mum loved me unconditionally but I just didn’t notice until it was too late.
What I have learned from my mum’s life and death is:
Being a mother is only one facet of who I am.
Loving my kids and spending time with them is vital to keep me happy.
I should tell my kids that I love them when possible. I should back this up with hugs when they are within reaching distance.
I need to work hard to succeed in life.
I am the offspring of a beautiful, strong and intelligent woman and am myself a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman.
Life is too short to spend it doing things that are harmful to my health or working myself to the bone without any me time.
I miss the Peggy and the pain is as strong as the day she died. When I think about her now I feel heartbroken all over again. All it takes is a song or the look on my daughters face to bring a tear to my eye. I still manage to keep on studying, working and looking after my kids because my mum showed me how to cope. I will spend the day thinking about mum, listening to songs that made her smile and looking over her old letters. I want to spend the day reminding my kids how special she was and show the two who never met her photos of the vibrant woman she was.
And then tomorrow I will start life in the way I mean to go on; carrying some of my mum’s spirit with me.
Miss you Peggy. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx