Growing up mom was always there. She was the one who got us up in the morning for school, made sure we had a good breakfast and were ready to go. She was the person who cooked us dinner and made my sister Cindy eat her peas!!! (Cindy hated peas!)
Even though mom was a full time teacher she was always doing the laundry or cleaning the house. Not that dad didn’t help out all the time, theirs was a mutual job sharing relationship. Dad worked the night shift for a very long time, years in fact, so that he could be home most days to give us lunch and send us back to school. But mom was the keeper of the house (as was the duty of the wife in the 60’s) and it was really all about her children and her husband.
My dad was the centre of attention, he was a hero in my eyes. As a big 6’2” policeman I think I was in awe of him most of my life. Life for mom was about us kids doing the sports or the music lessons that we did and it was about dad and his hobbies, the police chorus, church choir and the Masonic lodge. Growing up I don’t really remember my mom doing much for herself. It seemed that we were her world.
In later years as I grew up and had my own life, my mom was always there. But I don’t think I really knew my mom…she was just mom. She then became dad’s carer even as early as when he retired from the police force as he was losing his eyesight to macular degeneration. So she became the cook, housekeeper, shopper and chauffeur. Then towards the end she took on the role of nurse. Those were tough years for her. Dad had never really accepted the fact that he had lost his eyesight and at times became very frustrated and tended to take it out on mom. Certainly not in a physical way but it was very hard for her.
Dad passed away almost a year ago now, in fact it will be one year on March 21st and after 54 years of marriage my mom seemed lost. Her whole life for the last 20+ years had been looking after dad. I didn’t know what the future would hold for mom but I remember thinking that this was her time now.
I talked her into coming to Australia for Christmas and staying on for a little while, even talked her into flying Business Class, to treat herself. When she called to say that she had booked for 2 months I wondered how we would get along! Mother, daughter and son-in-law in one house 24/7! So to be honest I was a bit concerned that there might be some tempers flying at some point in those 2 months. So I booked things to do and so did she!
Mom arrived on the 14th of December, we had Christmas…her first without dad. There were a few tears but there were also a lot of laughs. So for New Year’s Eve, again a first without dad, I booked the two of us to go to Uluru and I think that night was a turning point for both of us. It was a magical night, having dinner in the remote desert, looking at the star filled sky, then listening to a lone didgeridoo player. It was eerie yet beautiful. That night I think we both closed a chapter of our lives saying our own little goodbyes to dad. It felt like he was one of those stars looking down at us almost as if he was telling mom to go on and live life to the fullest. It was the best New Year’s Eve I have ever experienced.
Mom did a bit of travelling on her own to Western Australia. I think she was really nervous about travelling on her own but she had the time of her life, even trying ‘sand boarding’! Then came back and we went on a “Thelma and Louise” tour through country Victoria, Canberra and Sydney. We had the best time together with lots of laughing…in fact she nearly wore me out!
We did a lot of talking and really getting to know one another, I think, for the first time in our lives. And after dropping her off at the airport on February 13th I realised that I really had not just a mom who I love but a new best friend!
Even my sister said to me the other day “Mom left as one woman and came back another, I don’t know what you and Russ did to her!”. But I think that mom has just seized this opportunity to finally have a life for herself and I hope that she continues to grab opportunities at every corner.
I also realised that two months wasn’t enough, that there was probably so much more that we could have learnt about one another. Who knows maybe next year there will be more time to do that again.
Mom keep on living your life to the fullest, I love you with all of my heart and you really are my New Best Friend!!