It’s the odd little things that catch me: some middle-aged woman helping her old mum cross the road, a man sitting drinking coffee with his elderly mother, an elderly gentleman talking quietly with a teenage grandson. Things I will never get to experience. Mum will never be an old woman. Dad was never an old man.
I thought Mum was old when I was a teenager. She didn’t think she was old with her piggy tails and slacks (it was the early 80s) and young attitude. I remember looking at her, wrinkles, saggy boobs, and thinking, wow, I will never let myself get old like that. I am. And strangely enough (or not), I don’t think I’m old either (even though I have wrinkles and saggy boobs).
Mum’s still not old. She’s 74 years young and only a few months ago she was completely independent, waltzing around doing whatever she pleased – designing playgrounds, helping out at the school, cooking, gardening, driving, entertaining (she is still doing that). The moments she had to rely on anyone to do anything for her, she was annoyed at her “stupid body” not keeping up. And at times, she would defy her body and do crazy things like climb a ladder and use a shelf as a foothold while clearing away the cobwebs (by the way, that did not end so well).
I had always imagined Mum and I getting older together, I would go out with her on my arm, we’d visit galleries, have coffee together. I’d help her cross the road. I’d wait while she got her walking stick out of the car. We’d walk slowly and muse over the happenings of the world. Up until the last few weeks I haven’t needed to assist to that degree. Over the last 15 years since Dad died I’ve really enjoyed my chats with Mum. In early February, before we knew anything was wrong, we talked about friendships and loneliness. She has always loved our dog, Bella, and she talked about getting a Bella of her own to help counter loneliness and provide that excuse to go for a walk each day. “It would need to get along with Bella,” she said as she stroked Bella’s head.
It would have needed to as Mum and I have spent many quiet moments together over these last 15 years. I thought we would have many more. And that’s my sadness. I’m going to miss her, her chats and all of those moments we would have had together when she actually got old.
This is the sixth post in a series about my mother’s journey with terminal cancer.