Wednesday, 13 July 2011

My Golden Girl

Earlier this month I blogged about how I’d like my life to be when I’m ninety (2nd July - “When I am an Old Woman”). It gave me a few hours of joy to think of the most exciting and ridiculous antics I’d like to be able to get up to in my twilight years.

But life’s not like that.

Old age can be very lonely and an ageing body doesn’t always want to do the things we may have in mind for it.  A simple task like opening a milk carton or bottle of bleach can be a challenge.  And not just because hands and fingers become stiff, but because it’s harder to keep adapting in our ever-changing world.

My mum, now 84, was widowed at 54.  She never met another man and probably never really wanted to - we’re a loyal lot in our family! 

That’s thirty years of living by herself.

She’s seen all her close friends pass away, lost two sisters and a brother, suffered a minor stroke and continually fights depression and panic attacks.  She does all this with a (sometimes wobbly) smile on her face and constant determination.

No, life’s not a bowl of cherries when you get old.

Of course there are those who are lucky enough to still have friends to socialise with or still feel able to get out and make new ones.  We’re not all built the same though and some people just want to be in their comfort zone, surrounded by those they love.  In today’s busy world, this isn’t always possible - children have jobs and families of their own and grandchildren are often too caught up in their own lives to think to pay a visit.

For my mum, it can be a challenge just to take a bus to the town centre or, on a bad day, get through a lonely morning at home.  Once panic and negativity set in, it takes hold like a cancer and no amount of cajoling or pep-talking does any good.  It’s an exhausting and constant job, boosting another’s confidence whilst trying not to carry them completely or allowing it to affect your own outlook.  I’ve spoken to many people in the same situation and it’s very common to feel swamped by the other’s feelings while questioning your ability to do the job properly.

If I’m making my mum sound like a weak, pathetic grey haired old lady who just wants to sit at home in her rocking chair and fade away, that hasn’t been my intention at all.

My mum is the strongest woman I know.

It’s just that the joy has gone out of her life.  All her peers, the ones she truly loved, have gone.  But she’s not just playing the waiting game.

She’s glamorous, has a fantastic sense of humour, can put the white wine away with the best of them and, when she’s happy, she’s really happy.  She’s honest, fair, a good listener and a great friend.  And, even at her ripe age, she still actively takes pride in maintaining her immaculate gardens. I cherish every moment (even the tough ones) I have with her because I know she won’t be around forever.

When she’s at her happiest, it’s when she’s got something to look forward to - a family dinner or party - something simple, a date on the calendar.  Don’t we all feel like that?  We need a purpose, a sense of belonging, or we find ourselves at sea.

So I guess that’s how I’d sum my lovely mum up at the moment - she’s at sea without an anchor, bobbing along and fighting the waves that constantly attack her.

But she’s certainly not washed up yet.  And, in my eyes, she’ll always be my beautiful mermaid - serene on top but flapping wildly underneath.

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available at Amazon for Kindle. Now also in paperback at Lulu.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I love your Mum already! You're very lucky to have her. Much happiness to both of you.