Because there she is

Snuggling in bed last week, my little girl and I were having a little chat while we waited for the house to heat up. It was far too cold for us. We’d sent all the boys down to turn the heating on and light the fire. We’d giggled as they pulled on hoodies and bedsocks while we lounged under the duvet.

Even the small man was banished. No boys. Just girls.

She was playing with the Tiffany’s starfish necklace that I wear all the time. A gift from my husband, brought on our honeymoon in Hong Kong. That is going to be mine one day isn’t it Mummy, she stated absent-mindedly before turning the subject back to the countdown to her looming birthday.

Suddenly I got the oddest pang of sadness. I felt wrong-footed.

You see my mum used to wear a gold band of hearts around her neck. A gift from my dad. As a little girl I loved the romanticism of this necklace. A visible display of their unity – a shield against the childish anxiety that surrounds adult bickering and snipes.

In that moment I missed her. Missed her as if she was not there anymore, which was just crazy as she is right here. One hundred miles down the road, but right here all the same. The end of a phone line no less.

In many ways though she is not here anymore. Not in the same way.

The feisty lady who wanted to march into my first workplace because I bruised my whole leg on a badly placed pile of boxes. The one who juggled a swollen household with ease. Didn’t bat an eyelid when we all demanded different dinners and brought home all manner of stray friends with a moment’s notice. That remarkable woman who stopped five children going completely off the rails when our dad died. Her quiet dignity and fearlessness in a dark horrible storm guided us all to a safer calmer place, a lot less scathed than we should have been.

She’s there still but her presence is not the beacon it once was. Mostly because we are now busy being shining guides ourselves – marching on ahead into the dark not noticing that light diminishing to the side of us.

She doesn’t wear that necklace anymore. In fact, I haven’t seen it for a while and it bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Because I was once that little girl asking if one day it could be mine.*

That ‘one day’ doesn’t feel like a distant concept anymore. It feels like ‘one day‘ might come and punch me in the face at any given moment. And when that time comes memories and that gold necklace will be all I’ll have to hold.

My mum and I have always been close, maybe because I’ve lived away since I was 18 and in a genius move I am always the ‘beloved returner’. I am gone again with my brood before either of us annoys each other too much.

Yet I’ve still noticed a slight shift in our relationship in the past few years. I’ve found myself getting impatient if she can’t find the right word to finish her story; being exasperated if a walk to the shop takes twice as long; needlessly irritated if she falls asleep in the middle of an evening film or takes a mid day nap.

Each time this happens it is like a grain of distance comes between us. If I am not careful those small grains could become a gulf.

It was only while I was thinking about that lost necklace that I realised what I have been subconsciously doing. Preparing. Self protecting. Pulling, emotionally and physically, slowly away.

Why? Because this person who I adore – one of the sweetest, funniest and kindest people I know – is going to hurt me. A lot. Maybe not for a while yet. But at some point. I’ve felt that pain before and I’m not ready to feel it again. Not ever again. I’ll never be ready for that. My brain was going into some misguided defence mode.

Every bothersome action is a reminder that she is getting older. I am not cross with her – never ever really her. I am vexed that she fell asleep because it means her body is slowing down and needing to rest more. I am exasperated when she gets befuddled with tasks because it means her synapses are not so sharp.

With a chronic disease that robs her of lung function every winter – I know she emerges into the summer sun each time that bit frailer – a fraction more vulnerable. Until one summer she’ll not emerge at all.

So what am I doing? Who am I fooling?

The hole she’ll leave behind won’t be any less deeper just because I don’t call her as much. It won’t be less painful just because I spend less time listening to the minutia of her day.  I can’t protect myself from this. There is no place to hide. My brain might be saying run, but my heart is saying hold tight and don’t let go until you have to.

This is a time to gorge not abstain.

Because there she is. She’s there. Right there.

my mum*Soz sisters. You snooze you lose.



12 Comments on Because there she is

  1. Ali
    November 25, 2015 at 11:05 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank you for this. Wonderfully truthfully written. I feel this too. Some days. Going to call my mum in the morning.

    • Alison
      November 26, 2015 at 11:40 am (7 years ago)

      Thank you. Easy to get bogged down with other stuff isn’t it. I am not great at calling Mum – always think I’ll do it later. Hope you have a lovely natter x

  2. Sarah MumofThree World
    November 26, 2015 at 9:00 am (7 years ago)

    This is so beautifully written and something I think everyone in their 30s, 40s and 50s who is still lucky enough to have their parents can relate to. My mum is declining a bit too and it makes me sad and sometimes a bit cross because it shouldn’t be happening.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…The panto rehearsals (a daughter’s view)My Profile

    • Alison
      November 26, 2015 at 11:38 am (7 years ago)

      Thanks Sarah. I get cross and wonder what I am getting cross about. I am so going to stop. Thanks again for lovely comment x

  3. Yvette @ Big Trouble in Little Nappies
    November 26, 2015 at 10:45 am (7 years ago)

    Oh bloody hell Alison, way to make a girl cry! This is just beautiful and every. single. word resonates with me so completely. I have also lost my dad, and can feel a gap that never used to be there between my mum and me. I think in part though I should appreciate her even more now that I’m a parent, I let a busy life and mum concerns make me impatient with her (which I immediately hate myself for). She is an amazing woman who does so, so much but is also slowing down – she has a lung disease too actually – COPD, and it scares me to think about her becoming ill/ill and of course one day not being here. I know I will regret any time I missed to enjoy her company and listen to her random tales about people I don’t know! Infact, she is coming to stay this weekend and we are having a bit of a girly evening. It’s my dad’s anniversary, and I suddenly realised it has been so long since we’ve done something just us. This has come at the perfect time, and I think every single adult with a mum should read it. Thank you.
    Yvette @ Big Trouble in Little Nappies recently posted…My Love You Are Loved: A PoemMy Profile

    • Alison
      November 26, 2015 at 11:37 am (7 years ago)

      Thanks Yvette – my mum has COPD too and although stable, it is there. Hope you have the best weekend together. Loving all your posts at the minute xx fist bump to bump too xx

  4. Kyles @ Pickles and Pords
    November 26, 2015 at 12:03 pm (7 years ago)

    This post is exactly why I love reading other blogs. It is just so beautifully written, honest, and has made me reflect on my own life and relationship with my own parents. Wonderful. #coolmumclub
    Kyles @ Pickles and Pords recently posted…The Firsts You MissMy Profile

  5. Not A Frumpy Mum
    November 26, 2015 at 12:32 pm (7 years ago)

    Alison, this is beautiful. I haven’t ever lost a parent and even the thought of that day getting closer terrifies me.
    Congrats on the Mumsnet win, and love the new look blog. xxx
    Not A Frumpy Mum recently posted…Is This The End?My Profile

  6. Talya
    November 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm (7 years ago)

    Oh my goodness I have the hugest lump in my throat and tears in my eyes reading this. I feel just the same about my mum the other day who does so well living with all her complications but I had a massive slap in the face when I realised her actual age is a bit older than I already thought – reminding me of what I already know…time is running out. Such a beautiful post darling and thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub x

  7. Kim (sisterkin)
    November 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm (7 years ago)

    Isn’t funny and sad how parenthood can remind us of the fragility of life? A very moving and touching post that I know I will still be thinking about long after I clicked ‘comment’. #collmumclub
    Kim (sisterkin) recently posted…Corners of our home – PlayroomMy Profile

  8. Suzanne W
    November 30, 2015 at 10:28 am (7 years ago)

    Oh Alison I found this quite challenging to read because I do this to my mum too. I had never really thought about it being about self-preservation but now you mention it, I think it is. Such a beautiful post. So brave and honest. X


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