Friday, 9 February 2018

An Orphan at 47

Today my Mother died, thats why I haven't been active recently. Until last Saturday I lived with her but that day she went to hospital and now I don't. It's all pretty stark.

Mum was born in Melbourne, Australia on the 25th May 1940 as Western Europe was being overrun by the Germans. Fortunately the war was far away, but it still affected her. Her Father who she always adored went away to serve in the Australian Army in New Guinea. In civilian life he made eye glasses, today they are mass produced but that wasn't the case back then, in the army he did the same thing. But like many soldiers he got sick and Mum always told me of how when he came home his skin was gray like an elephants. While he never saw combat the war destroyed his health.

Meanwhile his Wife was left to look after three children, one boy and two girls. But we were very lucky, everyone who went away came home, some better for the experience and others worse off. She grew up in a working class area when Protestant and Catholic children weren't supposed to mix. However an independent streak that she would have all of her life was clear very early on. She not only mixed, she even went to both Protestant and Catholic church serves!

As a teenager she left school early as was common in those days and went to work. She worked for the famous department store, Myers. She was quite attractive, she even did fashion modeling for their catalogue. Having an independent streak wasn't always the best thing to have, however. She married at 15, because in 1955 when a girl got pregnant she also got married. In the next 6 years she had 5 children and life was tough. Money was scarce and her health wasn't too good. In time both situations improved. In 1970 I came along and then a year later another, now there were 7 of us.

In 1973 my parents separated and Mum, me and my younger brother went to live with my Step-Father. Something that is quite bizarre about that time was that young people moved out of home as quickly as possible. To leave home in your mid-teens was not that unusual. Most of my brothers and sisters did just that. They were together for 25 years, until he died and 20 years after his death they will be buried together in the same plot.

Mum wasn't an obedient wife, she had a fiery temper and a strong will. So when I was growing up and Feminists talked about how downtrodden women were I thought that doesn't describe my Mum at all. She had an attitude to Feminism that was quite common in her generation, Feminists were man hating idiots but not everything they said was wrong.

The most important thing in her life was her family and she made great sacrifices for us. She was always on our side against the world, even when we were wrong. She spent money on us that she really didn't have. She stayed up countless nights making curtains and linen and clothes, or cooking. You always knew you were loved. However it wasn't only the men in her life who ran into her fiery temper and strong will. She knew how to keep children in line and she had a great deal of common sense. She often told me that children don't lie, they say what they wish was true. For example when a vase is broken and the child tells you they didn't break it, what they are really saying is I wish I had not broken it.

She was a great communicator, she could talk to anyone, no matter their station in life. All my life I have gone shopping with her and all my life I noticed that I was by myself, why? Because when I looked back Mum was talking to someone I had never seen before. I would think to myself why don't I know that person? But after talking for 5 minutes, 10, 15, 20 minutes she would say "well I had better catch up to my son/s", I would ask "Who's that?" and she would reply "I don't know I've never met them before".  Random people would just stop and talk to her, it never happens to me. And that didn't include the people she knew, the regular customers, the shop assistants who would approach her both in the store and out on the street and tell her they had put items away for her because they knew she would like them.

In many ways Mum made me a Conservative, she wasn't religious, although she did believe in God. But she was Traditional. Family was everything, be part of your community, love your country, be proud of your heritage and she was a staunch Royalist. She voted Liberal when 80% of people in our area voted Labor, we lived in the strongest Labor seat in Australia. For decades she wouldn't tell me or anyone else who she voted for. In the last decade of her life she was so angry at the Liberal Party, she was always angry at the Labor Party. She used to tell me that if Grandfather, her Grandfather knew she voted Liberal he would be shocked as he was a loyal Labor man. But as I pointed out to her, the Labor Party he voted for sure isn't the Labor Party of today. 

Mum always had health problems, sometimes she would be in bed for weeks, sometimes months. But she hated Doctors and hospitals and thought they were incompetent, for her at least, and she wasn't afraid to tell Doctors what she thought of them either. But then her spell would end and she would be as busy as ever, we always complained that Mum tried to make up for the time she had been sick. In March 2017 she had another spell of inhealth. She was 76 and it was showing, she was frailer and she she didn't bounce back like she had done in the past. She spent from March 2017 to February 2018 in bed. With only a handful of days outside of the house. Mostly she could look after herself, but as time went on I did more and more, but the most important thing that I did was being here.

She knew she was sick and she knew it was serious but she refused to see a Doctor. I said to her that one day she would be so bad I would be forced to take her to Hospital. Two weekends ago we had very hot and humid weather, so bad we are still talking about it two weeks later. Her health went down, but to be fair everyone went done. Then we had about a week of nice cool days and I thought she would pick up but she didn't. Last Friday night, I told her that it was getting time for me to take her to Hospital, but she didn't want to go. I told her that if she seemed better on Saturday morning I wouldn't but if she was I would. The next day she was worse so I called a Doctor to visit the house, he told her she needed to go to the Hospital. She still didn't want to go but I told her she was going. The Doctor then called a non-urgent Ambulance which arrived about 40 minutes later and took her to Hospital.

The two of us and one of her Granddaughters spent the rest of the day in Emergency. They told us that she had cancer and that her liver was failing because of the cancer. Sunday morning she was taken to a ward and she seemed to be improving. Then on Tuesday the Ward Doctor told us that there was nothing medical that they could do and the best they could do was make her comfortable. It was clear to us that she was dying. I then spoke to a Senior Nurse and asked her how long she had left and she told me somewhere between a few hours and a few days. A few hours later I asked the rest of the family to leave so I could talk to her, she was still lucid but very weak and hard to hear. I asked her if she had understood what the Doctor had said? She replied "Yes, he said I could go home". I then told her "no he did not say that, what he said was that you would not be going home. And that they thought she only had a few days left." Telling my Mother that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She cried, I cried and that was the last time we spoke.  I thought I would get another chance but that wasn't to be. That last conversation was tender and beautiful and it hurt like hell.

After that she mostly slept and it was all about keeping her comfortable until she died. This morning at about 9am she died as I was getting dressed to go in and see her. I did go in and I did see her. The night before she died she had 17 visitors in her room at the same time. She was greatly loved and she will be greatly missed. She was not just my Mother, she was my friend, we were always close but because we lived together as adults we were as much friends as Mother and Son. We talked and watched movies together, we listened to music, looked after each other when we were sick, we argued and we had our own lives. Tonight I am writing this in the house and she's not here and everything has changed and it will never be like it was. There are much worse things in life then becoming an orphan at 47 years of age, maybe.

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  1. Mark,

    I'm not sure if my first comment went through so I'll try once again.

    I'm very sorry to hear that your Mother has passed away. Please accept my most sincere condolences!

    1. 1. My condolences and sympathy.

      2. " While he never saw combat the war destroyed his health."

      Jungle warfare twelve non-battlefield casualties for each combat casualty.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your Mother's passing. How very fortunate that you were able to have so much love and friendship between you. I pray the warm and pleasant memories comfort and strengthen you.

  3. Dear Mark,
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your wonderful mother. Thank you for sharing a bit about the life of a remarkable woman. She has earned her rest.

    Kindest regards,

    1. Thank you Christine and your right, she has earned her rest.

  4. Dear Mr Moncrieff,

    I am very sorry to hear about your Mother's death. It's been several years since my own Mother died and I still find myself saying "Mum would like this book" etc. or wanting to share something that happened with her. So I would like to offer you my sincere condolences and pray for your peace and comfort in the future.

    1. Thank you, I think I will do that quite a bit.

  5. l love that you were with mum, value the time you had together, she was a special person, thats for sure, love pete

    1. Peter, great to see you read my post, love Mark

  6. It's terrible to see that great generation going. I have a great affection for them, and their particular mannerisms and style.


    1. Mr. Stamp, it's incredible to think that
      I am now one of the older generation in my family. Thank you.

  7. A beautifully written tribute. I'm sorry for your loss.