“Hi hon, what’s the chance of me staying over tomorrow night?”
Blimey. Getting my mum to visit is like trying to secure an audience with Jennifer Lopez; imagine my surprise when her last visit extended to an overnight arrangement.
It was great to see her. My daughter loved having her Nanny around for more than a quick lunch. We did the school run together, I cooked a meal for all of us and once my daughter was in bed we had time to chat.
My mum talks a lot. About anything and everything. Her job mainly, then my Dad, then my brother, followed by stories from back in the day. It’s very easy to get swallowed up in what can be a one way conversation. Luckily I’m a good listener. Sometimes I’m grateful, especially on days when I don’t really want to put a voice to my feelings. Other days I wish I did more of the talking.
The day was a lovely mixture of chit chat and endless cups of tea but as night fell, I felt the urge to be real. I do a great job at being ok most of the time. Keeping things light. I love giving my mum advice on whatever her issue is that day but sometimes in a parent and child relationship, it’s nice and necessary, to be the child. We kicked around a few non issues before I decided to open up. Test the water. I like to keep myself mentally and physically busy; almost to the point where I avoid relaxing at all costs. Relaxing forces me to be alone with my thoughts – not a fan. I finally explained to my mum that I was mentally tired.
Going into therapy is a great thing for me. I have so much rattling around in my head, from the past, present and future; it can be all consuming. We don’t talk about my eye disease. We don’t talk about any serious things as a family. We never have. I’m grateful we don’t rehash everything on a weekly basis, as that would be awful but to ignore the rather sizable elephants in the room is just daft. Is that denial? And if it is, whose denial is it?
She sat and listened while I spoke about my concerns for my future. My almost constant state of bereavement that I experience when it comes to not driving anymore. My thoughts on the major childhood surgeries, the consultations, the minor ops, the Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, the RP diagnosis – the first and second time. I could see the tears forming in my own eyes. I worry sometimes that if I ever actually cried in front of her, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
I uttered this very real and raw sentence before my voice cracked under the enormous weight of my feelings.
“I’m tired of being brave mum. I’m tired of always having to deal with the big stuff. I honestly thought there would come a point where I had paid my dues. Instead I just feel constantly shafted by the universe and it’s just not fair. I’ve been through so much since day one, it’s just so cruel”.
Now in a movie, this would be where I would ugly cry, like a woman that’s at the end of her rope but instead, I do what I didn’t realise I do often – I stuffed it all back in. Where did it all go? The tears that filled my eyes never fell, not one single tear. It’s like my brain told my heart “Sorry hunny, we don’t do that here”.
I was doing what I had always done. I had modified my behaviour to protect my mum. I was sweeping my feelings under the rug so I didn’t have to deal with her reaction, which my brain was already telling me wouldn’t help. I was sweeping it all back under the carpet to spare her. I would usually make a joke at this point; convince the person that I’m talking to that despite all this crap, I’m actually totally hunky dory and I was just venting for no reason other than to take up air. Not true but easier…easier for the other person.
My mum quickly made light of the conversation, telling me that the worst case scenario might never present itself and before I knew it, I was listening again. While she was talking though, I had a breakthrough.
Now, my poor mum blames herself for what happened to me when I was born. I understand that, all mother’s would do the same. In all honesty, I have never blamed her, not for one moment, nor will I. I told her this many years ago, hoping that it would release her from any guilt she carried; release her from that pain that held her like a prison. I was born with facial paralysis, caused by damage to the 6th and 7th cranial nerves during childbirth. What happened was unlucky and no one’s fault. My poor mum always starts speculating on whether she did this or that wrong. Constantly asking herself what she could have done? I can’t imagine that vicious circle but I was hoping that I would have been able to remove that chaos from her mind and that ache from her heart. Knowing how she feels about my medical trauma, has prevented me from being able to talk about the fall out from it. This leaves me quite isolated and feeling like I have to be brave every day and deal with it all alone. This is not her fault but I’m still in this weird situation…stuck.
I never speak of the daily struggles and mental and physical pain that comes with my condition. I don’t want to hurt her but I also need to be free to talk to her about it. To be real and vulnerable about the messy days and to just be honest about how bloody hard it all is sometimes.
Guilt is a tough emotion to navigate. We both carry it. She feels guilty that I got hurt and that in turn makes me feel guilty for needing to lean on her, on days when it all gets a bit much. We don’t hug either. If she doesn’t know what to say or how to say it, a hug would be great. You know, the hug that makes the world stop spinning for a moment and makes your inner monologue quiet. As a parent myself, I hug my daughter daily and shower her with cuddles and kisses. I love her so much and tell her so many times her eyes roll and she says “yes mummy, I know!”. In contrast I don’t remember any of that as a child. My Dad was similar and my brother is even worse. We barely speak, let alone hug…I genuinely don’t know what I would do if my brother came in for a hug. Probably ask if he needed money or if he was dying.
It’s bittersweet that my family is openly loving to my daughter. She experiences a totally different version of them. Maybe I have just done a really exceptional job at showing everyone that I’m perfectly fine, no matter what keeps landing in my lap. Maybe they think I don’t need anyone so leave me to it…yes maybe it’s that. I’m going to fly with that theory.
My mum asked me if her visit made me depressed. Not in the least. I just saw it as a perfect opportunity to talk to her about deeper issues. We speak almost daily over the phone and laugh every day, talking about the nuances of life. This sleepover felt different and I wanted to seize the day. I don’t ever want to wish I had said something but didn’t. As we get older, I’m more and more aware of the time passing. As I watch my friends mourn the loss of their parents, as the circle of life keeps turning, I know I need to fix us. My family is trapped in that box marked ‘plenty of time’. We all think there is plenty of time but the truth is there isn’t. It’s not depressing, it’s just a fact and if we do have plenty of time, I want to spend it talking about real stuff, mending things that have been broken, checking on things that were once overlooked and most of all…getting all those hugs!
On a lighter note. Until we move to a bigger house that allows for a guest room, my mum will not be sleeping over again anytime soon. I love her dearly but man alive, she snores like a congested bear! At 4am I found myself climbing into bed next to my daughter, with my pillow in hand. It’s been years since I squeezed my fully grown self into a single bed, let alone a single cabin bed with a small occupant already taking up most of it. My daughter was thrilled to see her mummy getting into her bed.
“Mummy can we talk?”, sure, I said, thinking it must be something urgent that needed immediately addressing at this ungodly hour.
“I spy…”. Nope! It’s definitely not time for that.