In order for the following post to make any sense I have to first speak about something I am normally silent about; my father.
I felt I had a charmed childhood with loving and understanding parents. Virtually all my childhood memories of both my parents are happy ones. I loved both my parents equally, but if anything I was probably “Daddy’s girl.” Of course as I got older I began to realise, as we all do, that my parents were only human and they both had their faults and imperfections, as I do, as we all do… During my late teens I became aware that my father was having an affair. I did not hate or judge him for that, and to be honest I suspect that at some time my Mum may have had an affair herself. But I did begin to realise that my parent’s relationship was not as ideal as I had always assumed.
My mother’s health began to deteriorate. At first there were a lot of non specific, undiagnosed things. Then she had a minor stroke. Then another one. Then her memory started to go.
In the midst of all this, my father left us for another woman. I do not judge him for that in itself. I am now in my mid thirties. I have had affairs myself. I have made plenty of my own mistakes and done many things I am not so proud of. I understood that my parents marriage was over and accepted that, even though the timing was awful. However what I can’t understand or forgive is the total lack of support my father gave to my mother and to me during her illness. He has seldom spoken to either of us since that time. He left me to be my mother’s nurse and helper. He has not done a single thing to help me, let alone my mum. I was left with the total responsibility for her care and dealing with all her financial affairs. I had to grow up fast.
My mum has now lost her mind completely. I last heard from my father seven years ago. That is the last I will speak of him in this blog.
Just over a week ago Sophie met my mum for the first time. Since then she has come visiting with me several times. Of course my mum doesn’t really know who I am any more so on the surface she would be incapable of recognising exactly what Sophie means to me. But I am sure she does.
Mum took me to school and helped me with my homework. She bathed my wounds when I fell down and stayed with me when I was sick. She never failed to make birthdays and Christmases special and magical for me. She was often my friend and my playmate, but she was always my guide and my mentor. She often wiped away my tears and made me laugh.
My mum was always strict but fair with me and because I generally behaved quite well she trusted me with a lot of independence as I got older. Actually I have come to see that trust as a form of love in itself.
When I was 15 I had my first serious boyfriend; the one whom I had decided would take my virginity. I had always been able to talk to my parents openly about sex and they trusted me. Even so, when it gets real it is always nerve racking and you are not sure how parents will react. But I told my mum that as soon as I was sixteen I intended to do the deed. A couple of days after my sixteenth birthday my mum went with me to the doctors. She sat beside me in the waiting room and when I came out she took me to the chemist to get my first prescription for the pill.
Since then she has seen all my boyfriends and girlfriends come and go. Some she liked a lot; others she probably didn’t. In my teens and twenties our relationship changed. She was still my mum, but she was also an adult friend; somebody I could talk to more openly than anyone else. And those were testing times because while I had been a very well behaved child; as a teenager and adult I was sometimes less well behaved. I made mistakes; sometimes bad ones, and I got hurt. Mum was always there to help me pick myself up and she always accepted me for who I was. When I became a witch (which meant a radical departure from our nominal Catholic faith) her brow may have furrowed a little bit, but she accepted it. Later she asked me how to make some herbal cures and even how to do a few simple spells. When I had my first serious girlfriend her brow probably furrowed a little bit more, but she accepted that too and was there to console me when I got dumped. More importantly, she didn’t dismiss it as an experiment gone wrong.
“Between you and me Cassie,” She said one evening when we were drinking together in the garden and both a bit tipsy, “I think I’m bisexual too. Of course I never explored that side of things… I don’t think I ever will… But I admire you for having the courage to be yourself and make your own way… If you do end up with another woman though it would be nice if you adopted some children..”
Well the next big relationship I had was much more conventional with a guy called Andy. He was nice and is still a friend. I guess both my mum and I both had high hopes that he would really be the one and would help me provide my mum with some grandchildren. It didn’t work out that way though.
By the time Andy and I split up, Mum’s memory had deteriorated badly and the first signs of early onset dementia were already quite profound. During the next couple of years I had a few adventures with men (I’ve never been much good at being a nun!) but none of them developed into serious relationships.
And then I met Sophie.
And now Mum can barely speak, and when she does nothing that comes out of her mouth makes any sense. But we sit there, me holding her hand and Sophie holding mine. And we listen to the strange things she says and try to react appropriately if she asks something. I try to gauge how Sophie feels in this surreal situation and suddenly she says to me, “I think we should bring Tina (Sophie’s daughter) next time if you don’t think it will confuse your mum too much. I’d just like Tina to know her.”
I look at my Mum and have a little cry. I think she would be proud and happy with the way her family has grown.