Letting Go

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“Let go”

The words that I whispered into my dad’s ear as he struggled through his final moments.

‘Letting go’

The last stage of grief is acceptance.

Next week will be the third anniversary of Ma’s passing.

Dad’s death was hard enough but his illness was terminal and we had time to prepare. Mum’s came as a complete shock – dying without warning of natural causes.

I experienced pain like I’d never known. The woman who had carried me in her womb, arms and heart was gone.

No goodbye.

No last “I love you”.

I couldn’t comprehend that Ma, who would reduce workmen to quivering wrecks with her Hyacinth Bucket approach, had succumbed to death like this. I’d imagined that she’d be immortal, like my auntie B (90 odd now) and giving death the V’s until she was ready to go.

Not so. Death came quickly and broke our hearts.

As if losing her wasn’t devastating enough, we had to clear and sell her house – our family home. Anybody who has gone through this will know just how hard it is to put your loved one’s life into boxes and plastic bags.

My brothers and I started this task with heavy hearts but the process took us on a journey of remembrance. There were tears of sorrow and laughter in equal measure. There was no fighting over who should have what. We instinctively knew. Also.. Ma would have flounced down from heaven itself to clip us round the lugholes if we’d have argued.

I took a lot of Ma’s personal stuff such as her clothes. I was always nicking them when she was alive, she had great taste did Ma. I needed to have things that she’d touched or worn. (excluding undies – I’m not weird!) I needed to feel close to her, as close as it was possible to be..

How could something as mundane as a hairbrush become so important?

It was a plain hairbrush but a few silver strands of hair remained within the bristles.

Her hair.

Whenever I went home to see her, I’d always use her hairbrush and she’d do her nut. She hated anyone using her brush – she had a thing about nits. But I’d finally got my hands on the hallowed hair brush without the risk of being bollocked, although a part of me expected it to fly out of my hand.

The most precious items were the brush, her engagement ring and a scarf which was infused with Eau de Ma, the unmistakable aroma of perfume and fags.

Whenever the sadness got too much, I’d take out the scarf, bury my face into it and cry my heart out.

I was angry at her for dying. I was angry at myself for not being there.

I know now that this was a necessary part of the grieving process.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the stages of grief but everybody’s experience is unique to them.

I experienced all but the bargaining stage with my mother. There was nothing to bargain for as there was no forewarning.

Sadness took the place of anger and it all but consumed me. But, day by day, I got through it by talking and writing about her.

Gradually her clothes have gone into charity bags until only a few special items have remained.

Three years later, the smell of perfume and Silk Cut on the scarf is all but gone but it won’t gather fluff in the bottom of the drawers. I will wear it on a winters day and remember how beautiful she looked wearing it, walking towards me in our little cafe in town.

I am no longer broken. I am no longer lost. I am just on a different path.

I will never be the woman I was before she died. How can I be when she was part of me and I of her?

I was very close to my mother and the depth of my grief is because I loved her so much. Grief, after all, is the price that we pay for loving someone.

Death is a given, yet we’re not comfortable with it unlike a lot of cultures. We fight against it. It’s still taboo.

Ma had 70 years of good health, despite a liking for gin (and whiskey) and puffing on 10 fags a day (slightly more when the gas bill came in) She lived a full and happy life! But she’s back with my dad, most likely getting 15 years worth of nagging in.

Letting go isn’t easy but it is necessary in order to move on. You never get over the loss of someone you’ve loved with all your heart but most people learn to live with it. There are no rules with grief. Some people take months, others take years. Sadly for some, moving on is impossible.

It’s taken me three years to pick myself up but I’m there and on the 27th, I will raise a glass to my wonderful Ma in remembrance of a life lived with love, laughter and dignity. Despite a few moody adolescent moments of me calling her a cow, (then legging it as fast as) I am so proud to call this exceptional lady “Mum”. She couldn’t have loved me any better. I couldn’t have loved her more.

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”~ For One More Day  Mitch Albom

 

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‘Ma’ 4th August 1939 ~ 27th August 2011

 

Image Credit ‘Bench’

Your Song

Dear Son,

All of us have moments in our lives which define us.

All three of my children have brought something different into my life but you, being the first, changed it beyond recognition.

Throughout my pregnancy I had advice and read books, but nothing adequately prepared me for the feelings that came when I first held you. No words that I could ever write could do justice to those feelings but I hope one day you will understand.

When I woke up on that April morning, you were two days early. I’d convinced your Dad that you were on your way. He was slightly miffed because it was the first match of the cricket season. I was secretly chuffed that I’d got one over on him but I kept my glee hidden beneath a pained expression.

“You sure it’s not just wind?”

I instinctively knew that a good fart wasn’t going to do it this time. So I grabbed my hospital bag (which I’d packed months previously) and went off to become a mother.

You kept us waiting for 21 hours  (little git!!) but you finally put in your appearance in the early hours of Sunday morning. The word’ forceps’ had been used and it’s as if you thought “Sod THAT, Mother! – I’m comin out!!”

And out you came a whoopin and a wailin – your very first performance and the one that I treasure the most.

They whipped you off to hose you down and check your bits and I was gobsmacked at how chunky you were! I was expecting something tiny seeing as your Dad and I are like Borrower’s but you broke the 8lb mark and I was like…WHOA!! I was double checking the tags to see if there had been a mix up!

While they were seeing to you, I was given a cup of tea while a nice young man in wellies checked my bits. Nice bit of info for you there, Son. You’re welcome. I keeps it real.

The midwife (and cantankerous cow) placed you in my arms and there it was – the moment which defined me.

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The little bundle is you.

Before that moment the world was still pretty much revolving around me. But when you become a parent you grow up and in the early hours of that Sunday morning – I grew up.

It stopped being about me.

It became about you.

You were the child from hell – the only one of my children to get BANNED from playgroup!

And hyper???

One lick of a Smartie and you’d be rampaging all over the place sweating and shouting “COWABUNGA!!!”.

You had waaay more energy than you knew what to do with but luckily I had the energy to chase after you.

Then there were the ‘Lynx’ years fraught with the “I HATE YOU ALL, YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE!” *slams door* scenarios. But karma is a bitch, Son and when you are on the receiving end of your teens rampage, you will hear the distant sound of my laughter from within Shady Pines Retirement Home.

So here we are…

I’ve watched you grow up into a remarkable young man. A man who loves the limelight and that in itself fascinates me – shine a spotlight on me and I’ll die but you thrive on it. You always have –  right from the time you flounced around the school hall as a very animated Joseph in his Technicolour Dreamcoat. You wafted that coat about and completely stole the show – filling my heart with love and pride. These moments made up for you being a little git.

Watching you on stage and screen is a surreal experience for me. Sometimes I have to give myself a little pinch to make sure I’m not dreaming but what you do is only a part of who you are. Whether you act or clean bogs – it’s not about what you do but about who you are. You’ll always be my boy – the first little person ever to call me ‘Mummy’.

Whatever you do today on your special day, have fun and know that I love you with all my heart.

Mum xxx

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You cute. Me bad perm.

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world ~ Your Song – Elton John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady ~ The Small Dog With The BIG Attitude!

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This is the tail tale of an incredibly feisty Jack Russell cross called ‘Lady’.

I spent most my childhood, (and early teenage years), begging Ma for a dog. Ma didn’t like dogs, but I figured that if I wore her down she’d give in… I was wrong.

Me: “Muuuuum”

Ma: “Whatever it is the answer is no!”

Me: “But Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum”

Ma: “What?”

Me: “Can I have a dog?”

Ma: “No you bloody well can’t!”

Me: “But you said…”

Ma: “I know what I said, my girl, but I’ll be the one who ends up walking it, feeding it and cleaning up after it blah blah blah”

Me: “Yeah, but no, but yeah, but honestly Mum…I’ll walk it ten times a day, I’ll go without sweets to feed it, I’ll pick up it’s poo, I’ll get a job, (even though I’m only 10), AND I’ll wash the pots until I die… I PROMISE, Oh please Mumsie, Mother Dearest.. PUUUURLEASE????

It was a relentless bombardment designed to grind her down but Ma was made of stronger stuff. She was in the WRAF but the SAS would have been more suitable.

Needless to say she never cracked.

Once I left home, one of the first things I did was to get a dog.

Lady was one of litter of puppies found in a cardboard box on a moor in the middle of November…some lowlife had left them there to die.

The story ends well, they were all rescued.

Lady was about 8 weeks old when I saw her and her siblings in a big cage. She trampled over their heads to get to me and went on total lick-fest on my hand. She stole my heart that day and 17 years later it broke to let her go.

Lady was a challenging dog to say the least. As dogs go, she was fairly ‘orrible.

She hated ‘walkies’. How many dogs do you know who hate walkies?

She detested being outside even in summer. Our other dog would be sprawled out on the lawn, belly in the air, basking. Lady would be curled up on the sofa.

She would wee in the house when we went out (separation anxiety) and she would wee with excitement when we came back in.

Then there was t’other ‘ole…

On the few occasions when we actually got her out for a walk, she’d wait until she was directly in front of a family having a picnic and then she would turn her back on them and take a dump. She would not shift until the deed was done. The times I’ve heard ‘EWWWW! what’s that doggy doing mummmay?’.

‘Don’t look darling, some people have no shame!’

I’d apologise profusely as I cleaned up after her…(not that we’d actually done anything wrong). What can I say? The bitch liked an audience!

She woofed and snarled at any dog, (or person), who came within 50 miles of me, (or the boys). She trashed cupboard doors, TV remotes, Christmas trees, cushions, shoes, books, front doors, carpets and wallpaper.

She trawled bins, crapped on carpets, scoffed cream cakes, (from off the table), vomited in shoes, peed on the other dogs, (regularly), stole their food, (regularly), howled when left alone longer than two minutes and was a general nuisance.

And she hated the vet!

And the car!

I’m not joking she was that bad. Most people wouldn’t have put up with her. Maybe she would have been passed from pillar to post or worse. But fate threw us together because somebody up there knew that I’d never give up on her. She was damaged by the trauma of her abandonment and as a consequence the world overwhelmed her and I understood that.

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We had her spayed after we found a scruffy terrier attempting to ‘give her one’ in the street. She’d got out through the fencing one day after a particularly windy night. That was the first and only time that she ever ventured out on her own.

Despite all these problems, I loved her. I really loved her. The children came along and she accepted them. More than that she protected them, (and us). I’m convinced that the fearless little bugga would have given her life to protect us.

She would fall asleep on my lap in the day and at my feet at night.

I loved nothing more than to bury my face in her fur and breathe her in. She smelt like biscuits but in a nice way. Whenever I was upset, she would nuzzle me and lick my face. Some people say that dogs are not capable of empathy but I disagree. That little dog knew when I needed comfort.

I watched the transition from juvenile to adolescent and from adult to geriatric.

Age faded her face from brown to white and her beautiful chocolaty eyes became opaque. In the last few years she slept most of the time. She didn’t like to be touched and towards the end, I had to pick her up wearing a pair of cricket gloves in order to take her up the garden because otherwise she’d pee where she lay. She was on medication but the vet said that she wasn’t in pain, she was just elderly. But sometimes we heard her crying and we’d find her trapped behind the fridge or outside behind the bushes. It was becoming more and more obvious that she was no longer firing on all cylinders…

I’d convince myself that it was time for her to go to the vets and then she’d have a good day, as if to say, ‘Not yet, Mum, there’s life in me yet’.

Then one day I found her collapsed on the floor and my heart sank…

We took her to the vets and for the first time ever she didn’t fight. The vet sounded her heart and advised that euthanasia would be the kindest thing for her.

I said goodbye to my old friend with tears streaming down my face. I told her that I loved her and held her tightly, breathing in her familiar smell for the last time, then I whispered in her ear ‘Thanks for choosing me’.

I didn’t think of it as ending her life…I thought of it as the last act of love that I could ever do for her and with that she closed her eyes and made her way to Rainbow Bridge

I’m glad that I found the courage to hold her and see it through to the end. It remains, to this day, one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do..

In my wardrobe, there is a small wooden box. The box contains her ashes and it’s my wish that it will go in with me when it’s my time to go. I know I’ll see my little girl again. I know she’s waiting for me.

I don’t think I’ll ever find another dog quite like her.

She was unique. A one off – my four-legged soul mate.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” ~ Josh Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love with the Worlds Worst Dog.


21 Not Out

21 years ago today, Tommy Nutter (he designed bell-bottomed trousers) went to that great fitting room in the sky. Meanwhile in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, a baby boy was born. His entrance into the world was dramatic…as in he wasn’t breathing. He was as blue as a Smurf but he soon spluttered into life when the midwife gave him a hefty smack across his arse. The thwack could be heard in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne but it did the trick. He weighed in at just under 10lbs (to his mother’s amazement) and slept solidly for the next 24 hours, (to everybody’s amazement) not even waking when he did his first, and incredibly malodorous, poo. His mother wondered if she’d given birth to a sloth…

Dearest son,

It’s the big 21 today. You’re the man, key to the world and all that. Oh flippin ‘eck, a few lines in and I’m blarting already!

*composes oneself*

Time flies doesn’t it? It doesn’t seem that long ago since I was holding you in my arms gazing at you in awe and wonder. Actually that happened the other week when you visited but I’m talking about the day of your birth when I was lucky enough to become a mother for the second time.

I have so many memories of that time but the one that stands out is when everybody had gone and I held you and marvelled in the miracle of the life that is you and I knew that I would never forget that moment. It’s etched in my memory and in my heart. It was just you and me. I knew that once we left the hospital it would all change. So I made the most of those precious moments.

You were such a placid baby.. so easy going. Life was chaotic at that time but you had a calming effect on everybody around you. We called you ‘teeny little super guy’. You were so laid back you were horizontal.

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So laid back you were horizontal!

As you grew bigger, so did your smile and your personality. You took nursery in your stride. There is a video somewhere of you looking adorable as one of the shepherds in the Nativity. You were knuckle deep up your nose for the entire time but in your defence you weren’t the only one. And you were only three years old. So it’s OK.

You grew up sharing a room with your brother. This worked well until you both got a bit older and then it wouldn’t be an uncommon sight to open the door and see one of you pinning the other up against the wall by the throat. Happy times.

You never gave us any problems except for that one sleep walking incident where the door opened late one night and you walked in, sat down and said “You’ve all got to die now”. We did the hand wafting thing in front of your face… you were there but you weren’t there. So we led you back to bed and we slept with one eye open for a few weeks.

You’ve had lots of interests…cricket, rugby, drawing, gaming and music. You even took a liking to acting in your last few years at high school. It was a thrill indeed to see you and your brother working together… a double whammy for Mama’s heart. But eventually you found your own path and you realised that you preferred to be behind the camera. You’ve been following your dream of being a photographer ever since. You’re creative and I think you know that you get it from me. You’re also clever and I think you know that you don’t get that from me.

I hope you get to live out your dreams. I don’t see you everyday. I don’t get to talk to you everyday but I think about you everyday. You’re in my heart, every second of every day. You bring me a lot of joy and I’m incredibly proud of you. It’s an honour being your mum. Even when you shove my face into your armpits and say “Sniff them, Ma..that’s man smell”.

I know you make fun of my box of treasures, ( a box that contains, amongst other things, your milk teeth and cord clamp from the hospital). I think the words that you actually used when you saw them were “That’s a bit creepy actually, Mother” but the clamp reminds me that we were joined together once (however much you try not to think about it ha) and I paid good money for those teeth so damn right I’ve still got em. When I die you can have em back. 🙂

Happy birthday Son, keep smiling.

Love you always

Ma x

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So there’s this boy…he kind of stole my heart. He calls me “Mum”.