Three Deep Breaths

My mother turned 70 recently, I was going to write about it on the day but it felt contrived at the time. I’ve written about her before, years ago. When she read the piece she was flattered but perhaps a little embarrassed. “You’ve made me sound like Mother Teresa!” While my mother didn’t take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience (definitely not obedience) she did dedicate a substantial amount of time to sustaining the lives of not only my sister and I, but a few additional family members as well.

I will fight the urge for the broad colourful strokes of nostalgia and stick to the facts, the black and white, for that is exactly who my mother is. No bullshit, get to the point, actions speak louder than words my dear. She sent me a quick note yesterday, she’d read my piece and clicked on the comments. Her instructions were clear.

Don’t become bitter even though the people’s comments are so nasty. You will lose your particular brand of writing which is very special. Three deep breaths we know whoever wrote it is a dickhead.

Dickhead is one of my mother’s favourite words. Which is funny because as a child I never once heard her or my father swear, we were all made to use the term thickhead. We sounded like a family cursed with speech impediments. Dickheads appear regularly in my mothers life: on the television, in the news, and often in call centres and on the football field. She has the warmest heart but doesn’t suffer fools well.

My mother and I have talked often of her simplicity towards right and wrong, good and bad. Her own mother died when she was sixteen. It was her who was summoned to call the doctor, quickly, run Maxine. She ran as fast as she could, with her heart pounding and the vision of her mother in her mind she sprinted to the closest telephone box. Her heart racing as she flipped frantically through the pages in the telephone book for the name of the doctor; faster, do it faster, was it Mac or Mc? How to spell it?  Frightened, panicked, desperate. That was the day her life changed.

“When you go through something like that you begin to expect the worst. You know that the very worst thing can happen, because it did.”

My mother’s strength and resilience has come from getting on with things. If you do her wrong, don’t bother apologising, just get on with it. She’ll never forget – but she will forgive. While she wasn’t singing I love you’s in harmony at bedtime she was busy with actions. Yes I’ll throw the ball to you one hundred times in the backyard, yes I’ll get up at 5am and drive you to swimming training, yes I’ll drive the entire team to the netball courts and sit in the rain while you get whipped by 40 goals.

A girlfriend and I were chatting about teens and leaving home. How did we feel? Were we equipped? Did we look back when we left home? Was there a pull to go home in the holidays?

“I missed my Mum” I said. “We spent so much time together, she was involved in everything I did. It wasn’t that she said all the right things – I just really missed her company, both her and Dad”.

There was and still is a collective we in our relationship. We’re made of stronger stuff…We’ll get through this… three deep breaths, we know who wrote this…

A parent can give a child the gift of we. We is what makes one stronger. To know that you’re never travelling alone, that there’s always someone there. It doesn’t have to be physical. I realised today that I will never lose my Mum, she’s there throwing the ball one hundred times, driving me to swimming training at 5am, sending me notes of support.

If I can give my children anything, I’d like them to have that.

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