My father left when I was six months old. To this day I have never met him. I only found out his name on my twenty-sixth birthday. I was raised by my mother’s grandparents while she worked a till, making her way as best she could after being for all intents and purposes banished from the family home, a single mother in the 1960’s.
My mum was the single fixture in my immediate family for a very long time, yet it was a never a friendship. Mum was always there but always harried, always deeply religious. I grew up on my own and made life several sorts of hell for her, probably out of some sort of attention seeking and a desperate need for my mum to act like I thought other mums did.
It took me so long to understand that she did the best she could. She was not a ‘natural’ mother and the practicalities of raising a kid never came easily to her. Controlling the selfish force of mayhem that I became is an art she never mastered. Fortunately, circumstances and the few family friends who managed to connect with or influence me reined me in before permanent damage was done.
Yet she was the constant in my life. She may have been the person I lied to most and manipulated mercilessly at times, but she was my mum. In my teenage years, I got new friends and benefitted from a long, hard look at what they endured under the guise of parenting. I realised that my mum was pretty damn awesome, in her unique, quiet way. Then my step dad went awry and things changed again.
I became the provider of the house. For a decade out of school, two-thirds of my wages went to mum so she could run the house. I learned how to fix things, how to break things and repair them so she didn’t know, deal with threatening phone calls aimed at my kid brother and a host of other duties that in an ideal family would never have occurred. I also became a heavy metal kid, something I look back on with a smile, it is almost too cliché for the scion of a ‘broken’ home to turn to rock ‘n’ roll.
Mum got through it all. A little estranged and even more religious, but she coped, barely. She moved up north when the family home had to be sold and the proceeds split as part of the divorce agreement. She settled in a little village and made her way as best she could. I didn’t see her as often as I liked as my wife hated mother’s silent home, almost a religious retreat in its stoic calm.
Then my marriage ended and things changed again. Mum was always there, supporting me without question and involving even more of Nottinghamshire in praying for my soul. But something had changed. She seemed reduced in some way, like the world had gone a little beyond her comprehension.
After a couple of years of gradual losses, financial catastrophes and an increasing knowledge that something was wrong, one of her few good friends in the village intervened and informed my brother and I of the terrible details of mum’s actual life, not the one she portrayed to us. A few months later, the medical tests confirmed our worst fears.
Mum has dementia. It is the compound, implacable variety. The person I see occasionally and talk to every week is no longer my mother, while horrifyingly she still is. It is the most difficult thing in the world to admit that you hope your mother dies quickly from her illness, rather than reach a point where she becomes vegetative or even worse, where she finally realises what is happening to her. It breaks my heart every day to live with this.
But as she stood by me regardless, unknowing and uncaring of my crimes in the love she had for her sons, I will ensure she has the very best of care in the love I have for her. We are a little family and she was the heart of it. While I am destroyed to admit that I cannot care for her personally as I would end up hating what she had been reduced to and loathing myself for doing so, I know me and as such can use the skills life has given me to ensure that her carers and financial wellbeing are forever the best that I can arrange.
It’s Mother’s Day and I’m grieving, loving and helpless in the face of one of the two things I would give anything to change but cannot influence in any way. Crying as I type but resolute.
Love you, Mum.