The years are flying past so fast! It’s now four years since we started to lose you. It seems like yesterday in some ways, but then so much has happened. You’ve missed so much, Mum.
Mabel started school and is absolutely flying – especially in her reading. She is reading books at home that are for 8-year olds. You’d be so proud, Mum. I can hear you boasting about her to all your golfing friends and all the extended family. I’d be rolling my eyes, embarrassed by your obvious gloating, but you wouldn’t care. You’d just smile at me.
She is the most wilful of all your grandchildren, apart from Annie, Emma’s youngest. The two littlest girls are on a par with their attitudes, confidence and ability to drive Emma and me utterly bonkers. You’d be cheering them on from 200 miles away, wouldn’t you! You loved a rebel, Mum and every so often you’d show glimpses of the rebel you could or should have been.
You didn’t really meet Annie, not when you were you. She will learn about you through us, don’t worry.
Martha is now in Year 5! Can you believe it? It seems like only a few months ago when you were here and we both took her to school for her first day in Reception. Mabel arrived the next day, so you were in charge then for a couple of days while my lady bits recovered!
She’s doing so well at school now and has overcome her fear of maths. She’s excited about choosing her “big” school in September and is in love with a boy in her class. He’s nice, Mum. You’d approve. Martha continues to be a kind and caring big and little sister to Archie and Mabel. She really does have the largest heart of us all. She asks about you a lot and sometimes will just give me a cuddle for apparently no reason, though, I know the reason, of course. The reason is you.
Archie is now 12. That cherubic little boy has become a pre-teen and he’s simply ace! He hates his curly hair, but not enough to be weird about it, he’d just rather it was straight. He’s doing so well at senior school and is getting fantastic results in all his tests and exams and he’s top of the class right now for the number of credits he has been given for his work. This will be no surprise to you, though. You always thought he was bordering on genius! I always thought you were being slightly biased, but perhaps you were right. Perhaps this kid will change the world!
He mentions you a lot in his school work. When he is asked to write about his family or what has defined him. He doesn’t tell me, but I see his words when I browse through his exercise books. He misses you, Mum.
The rest of us are plodding on as best we can. I now write for a living! Can you believe it?! I’m still singing in the band, in fact Dad came to watch our gig at New Year just a few months ago. Lizzy-Loo got him up dancing. You’d have laughed. You’d have laughed whilst you were up dancing, showing the rest of them how it’s done.
I worry about Dad. He would never tell me if he was struggling. Some days I hear him take a deep breath down the telephone line and then force a smile as he says, “Hello!” I know he is pretending to be okay. I know some days, he is most definitely not okay.
I also know you’d be surprised by him. He is washing and cleaning and keeping the house in a decent state. It worried me slightly when he asked me a few months ago how to dust. Goodness knows what he’s been using to clean the surfaces before I showed him your old stash of dusters and at least a year’s worth of furniture polish in the utility cupboard. You loved to stock up, didn’t you? Dad is keeping that tradition alive, at least. There are half a dozen boxes of “Just Right” cereal in the garage, even though the only person who used to eat it was you. He still buys it when it’s on offer.
And kitchen roll. And Bathroom cleaning spray. And those micro-fibre cloths. He has the potential to become a proper weird hoarder without you there keeping him in check. Don’t worry though, one of us is up visiting every few weeks, so we’re keeping an eye on him. When we leave, he always tries to pack us off with something or other – some cereal or packs of cloths or toilet rolls.
Kindness itself, that man.
A few years ago, Mum, I didn’t think we’d ever cope without you. In some respects, we aren’t and perhaps we never will. My house still needs blinds and curtains and despite annoying the local fabric shop on numerous occasions over the past few years, I have not been able to bring myself to ask someone else to make me any. That was your job.
I am also in need of growing old advice. I’d love to know what the hell is going on with my chin hair and what I can expect when it comes to the menopause.
A few years ago – when life was f***ing mental and you were seeing rapists around the house and running out the house in the middle of winter in your bare feet to escape the dangerous man inside (Dad!) or leaving the taps running all over the house, or chatting to the bin, or getting lost and stuck in a farmer’s field for 3 hours so the heat-seeking helicopter had to come and find you – I couldn’t see how we would ever get used to this new reality. How we would ever learn to cope with what life has thrown at us. After all, you were the rock on which the rest of us had our foundations deeply entrenched. Your absence has been utterly devastating, like nothing I could try and put into words.
But, we are doing it, Mum. And I have been sitting here, writing this letter to you and trying to figure out how. How are we managing to get through, how have we managed to keep things together, how has Dad managed to cope on his own when you were his whole world?
The answer is simple. It stems from you.
We are strong because of you.
We are a connected and loving family, because of you.
We support each other because you taught us how and led by example.
You made us all who we are today and that is the reason we have soldiered on, through the pain, through the intense sadness, through the sometimes-hilarious moments that no one could believe unless they were there. Through the living hell that is loving and grieving for someone who has late-stage dementia.
This is now the 3rd Mother’s Day since diagnosis, the 4th since this all began. The reason I bought a card is for my benefit, not yours. I know that. In fact, I wasn’t going to buy one, but, then I spotted this card in amongst lots of others. I was actually looking for a baby card for a friend who has just had a little girl, and I couldn’t avoid seeing all the Mother’s Day cards. But this one, with its slightly damaged-looking, slightly broken heart made my own slightly damaged, slightly broken heart thankful.
Thankful that there is a card that represents how I feel. That my heart will forever be a little bit damaged and a little bit broken now. But it will forever love you.
You’ll probably try to eat it like you tried to eat my face, when I tried to kiss you the last time I was up visiting.
Try not to eat it. It won’t be very nutritious.
I love you Mum and I will miss you forever.