What is it about being sick? Even as a 45 year old, I want my mum. I took my girls away for an adventure to my childhood haunts on the Antrim Coast where my childhood ghost played and laughed with them. I watched them stand on the places I had stood, watched them climb on the ruins I had climbed, watched them potter on the rocks I had pottered on. They did all the things I did when I as their age, and I said all the things mum did when she was my age. It was a like a deja vu but the old and new where merged.
And then we all got sick. I don’t think I’ve ever had a night when all three girls where sick at the same time, but there we were, mid adventure in our little hotel, and like green bottles on the wall, one by one we fell. So we abandoned ship and headed home and I’ve spent another full night feeding syringes of medicine into gaping mouths like a mother bird feeding her chicks, until they all ended up in my bed and we moaned and sweated our flu together. I stumbled through the early hours responding to cries and giving out cuddles, and even though she is alive, I felt my mum’s ghost guide me from room to room, because she always looked after me. And despite being ill and on my own, I don’t mind that they are so clingy and miserable, and all they want is me.
Because all I want is my mum.
The loss of her means so much more when I really need her. I spent Wednesday with her, trying to get her to eat, doing her nails, trying to engage about meaningless stuff, because we can no longer talk about all about the meaningful stuff. I can’t tell her my husband has left, because she loved him and she loves me and I don’t want to inflict that pain on her. Especially when she is in a state where she can do nothing about it. And she would have done so much about it,
I think about that a lot. How she would have mothered me over the last few weeks, how she would have lain awake last thing every night and called me first thing every morning, worrying and fretting. How she would have taken that Belfast-Dublin train on relentless mercy missions of mothering, to make me tea, talk it through, or just sit quietly on the sofa stroking my hair when there was nothing left to talk about.
Instead, I get the Dublin-Belfast train, and make her tea, talk about nothing and stroke her hair because there is nothing left to talk about.
And now that I’m sick, I want my mum, just like I can see the girls need me. And I guess that is the biggest pain of the sandwich years – that I now have to play mother to them all, and there is no-one left to mother me. (Although Poppy assures me she will look after me when I’m old. Ruby already thinks I’m old – ‘are you old mum?’ she asks yesterday. ‘No,’ I say hopefully. ‘Oh,” she says. ‘You look it.”)
I’m lucky, I have three amazing girls who will (I hope!!) look after me, just as I know I will look after them until my dying day. I just wish more than anything my mum could still look after me. But then I think, it’s ok. She looked after me plenty, and her looking after was enough to sustain me still. And I’m glad I get the chance to look after her back…. and that’s the cycle of mothers and daughters…. we all look after each other.