last night i decided to be kinder to myself.
This morning, at the kitchen table with my mother, 79, eight months a widow after 55 years of marriage, I found myself stroking her short fine, dark brown-with-whisps-of silver hair.
I was silent, stood beside her in her wooden chair, encouraging her to rest a little. Her habit is talk, do, then sleep. I’ve never really known her to relax. To be.
She’d trust for a few seconds, then the fear-words would come to fill the void. I responded with silence… She’d relax again. Receive. Be loved.
It’s only in recent years have we begun to be intimate like this. Last year was the first time I painted her nails for her. I don’t recall her ever doing mine.
I go to my room and leave her to potter. I’m visiting for a few days from London.
About an hour later I go back to the kitchen and she says something I’ve not heard her say before: “I’ve done three positive things this morning!”
“Great! What are they?” She describes them as I smile, inwardly marvelling at how in tune we are. This is magic.
At 12.30pm we get in the car and head to the train station for my return journey to London. Near the door to the platform now, and preparing to part, I sense a sweet, shared reluctance to go. Since dad died, especially, there are always tears when we say goodbye. It’s not easy.
“You look like a furry navy bear,” I say, noticing her fleece jacket. She laughs.
We hug again, her petite eight stones of fragile femininity resting against my pint-sized frame. I wish I was staying. That I could comfort her forever. Take away any bad feeling, just like she’s done all my life.
Up from the well of silence tears flow. We break apart, wipe our eyes and laugh at ourselves. There is so much love now we barely know what to do with ourselves.
Over the last decade, we’ve become friends. Real friends. Long come past the day in my wilful teenage years when she stopped the car (alarm bells!) on the way back from church and said if my behaviour didn’t change she’d ask me to leave home. It's been work. We have a habit of irritating one another with our speech! She moans that I mumble. I complain that she doesn't make sense and is negative. We've 'driven each other mad' many times!
Yet we're both honest; compelled by an inward longing to be closer. To polish off the dirt from this once-in a lifetime-only mother-daughter bond. It is very you-can't-put-words-on-it kinship. She ferried my entry back into the world. Has devoted almost half her life to me. And has forgiven me for everything, as I have her. Whatever ever hurt we've caused one another in the past was never intended. We knew not what we did.
I’m crying-wailing again as I write this. Heart-achingly grateful to know such love, and for the indescribable BLESSING of being at peace with one another.
If God takes her tomorrow, it will be fine. There is nothing left to say, explain, confess. There is just kindness and love. Silence and laughter.
PS. Go call your mother and tell her you love her.