Letter 16: To My Mother

16 February 2012

Dear Mum

Unexpected presents are fabulous aren’t they?  And I got one from you on Valentine’s Day.  A bunch of peach coloured roses and carnations … peach from a Peachey to a Peachey … Thank you so so much!  For this I cried, with happiness, with surprise and appreciation, because this was such an act of generosity to me and not the easiest thing to organise when you are wheel chair bound, in a nursing home and not surprisingly, given everything about who and where you are now – in body, mind and environment, that it is usually all about YOUR wants being met and met NOW!  Is THAT where my natural impatience stems from, I wonder ..?

Several weeks ago I was hauled into the head mistress / AKA the (nursing home) manager’s office to be told of bad behaviours, possible causes and then courses of action.  I went to you next … “Why did you do it?” I asked gently and you said there was a voice in your head telling you to … So that’s what drives you on now … What voice organised roses for me then, I think smilingly today ..?  I must remember that, when the other, darker voice is at work on another day in our lives …

So this is our now.  Mother become child.  My brother and I take you out and about and have to look after every aspect of your care as we go.  And one day I observed lightly that it was our Karma – we neither of us children had children, so now we were taking care of our version of child …  My brother smiled back …

There is so much water under the bridges of our lives now.  So many tears, so many shoutings, such anger, such blame.  Yes blame, such a heavy, self victimising blow of a word, of a deed.  Oh I blame blame blamed you for so much, for everything, in between those times I thought I had struggled away to be a different creature, a creature of light and laughter, the blonde haired cherub of your proud creation.

Then always I would return to you to break the news … that I was back in black …  And more blows reigned on you – no grand babies, no soft Nanna lisps to be loved and spoilt … my heart breaks to think you will probably never have that from your line.

From my babyhood on, I never doubted that you loved me, though at times you tried hard to disguise the fact, in some very extreme ways.  Your own childhood was lonely, broken and unloving and you told me you had decided you would not repeat the histories of your mother and father’s poor parental conduct, with your own children.

You were one child alone, a little girl with chestnut hair and an indomitable spirit, who refused to go to school one cold day because the colour of your tights weren’t right … who skated, loved the cinema and had a cat called Spitfire … I loved those stories of your life back then.  Though too there were the stories of betrayal, loss, ridicule and shame – the darker stories that were also woven into your life fabric.

And we shared more stories on long weekend afternoons when we watched old black and white movies on the sofa, together.  You knew all the decades old gossip of every star, gleaned from escapist movie magazines of way back when and I took it all in.

Then the tides of time turn and we grow up and grow old and there were more years and many more tears between us two.

It is an oddly natural thing to see a sort of reflection of you that is so similar and yet so very different.  Sometimes your face appears in me, sometimes your voice and oft times I have called the dark chiding hateful voice sometimes spiralling in my soul – you too.  ‘You are just like your father’ you would accuse, and he would sometimes say ‘you’re just like your mother’ and then in another moment I would be different to her.

The constant family comparisons …  The fascinating DNA lottery that gives us both blue eyes, me with blonde hair, you with dark.  Father and brother with brown eyes, father dark haired, brother fair and so on and then our myriad talents, skills and personalities – our very mysteries of making, born and nurtured.

You were born in Scotland.  I loved that – it marked me out, made me more exotic!  Yet some how Scotland rubbed off, as you left it at 18 years of age; it did not hold in your voice and there were only small clues in our Sassenach lives … some words, some poems, a Broons annual …  So a lot of your life was left behind there and I hardly knew any family from back then, except for my Nanna.  You often compare me to her – your mother … my popularity, my nature you said … that which is so different from one, is so like the other; now there is one particular photo of her cradling a baby me and looking at it now, you know exactly where I sprang from …

It is not for me to compare us in nature, since she left this world when I was six  … just too young for remembering much except the gifts of sixpences and dark chocolate she would save for her grand children’s visits to the dark little flat in Birmingham.  But there is just one more happy story, amongst the many stories to be unfurled …  You in hospital mum, having just given birth to me and Nanna comes in to room so excited and cries “where is she, where is she”, wanting to meet and know me for the first time.  And always that story was told with such pride and laughter.

And there is so much more, so many stories, so much to say and yet really, so little.  Now it boils down to this – the blaming has had to STOP for me.  I try to journey away from that, from so called past misdemeanours.  It has taken so long and I kept on blaming until recent history; even when I had tried to fix, to analyse, to change.

Then one day I literally woke up and realised, that all those dark words and actions were not really you.  Through out all your life you have done the best with what knowledge and resources you have had; and so then I was just left to love.  And love changed a lot, love created a force field around me and radiated from me, to stop me barbing and griping … and with out that, you had to love more too.  Now it’s not a complete cure … there are times when I am tired or facing a low moment and it surfaces again.  Yet I know, come what may, that I have escaped hate and guilt and I can always say, truly, that I love you.

  I love you, mum.

     Sandy Bach xxx

PS: My mother lived with Parkinsons Disease and if you would like to donate to the excellence cause of care for, and research into this condition, please follow this link…

My Valentine Gift from Mum …