A month ago or so I was checking the sheep in Higher Little Moor when a smell, a trick of the light, a tremor of breeze, brought back a memory as sharp and clear as a shard of crystal. It was of my mother and me at some stage during my early teenage years. The memory fizzed and exploded in my head with a poignancy that was physical. I was taken aback. It left me with a yearning for that part of my life. A pining that it was gone and I was no longer there.
When trying to explain the experience the best I could do was to liken it to a kind of homesickness. Since then these powerful recollections have occurred on several occasions. Out of the blue.
Many of us experience the difficulty of looking after parents as they age and become less independent. For some this will be a natural and gentle process for others it will be stressful and difficult. I fall into the latter category.
My mother suffered from a psychosis she skilfully hid when she was younger but one that became more and more apparent as she grew older, lately complicated by the onset of dementia.
Reflecting this, my relationship with her has not been easy for much of the last thirty years and it has taken its toll on us. Only recently has this resolved itself as she has become settled not far from here and is well cared for. So much so that over the last year my stress has all but disappeared allowing me to rediscover our relationship and enjoy being her daughter again.
Early this morning as I was making tea and washing up some blue and white china plates my mother used to collect for me, I was shot again with another of these time-travelling memories when it dawned on me…these aren’t memories, but a form of grief…I’m grieving her, grieving her as the extraordinary woman she was. Not in an inconsolable, heart-broken, anguished way but a tender re-gathering and reassembling of the inevitable interwoven meshing of our lives as mother and daughter, one that I’ve denied for many years due to the difficulties between us.
Now when I visit her I hold her hand and make her eyes sparkle with recollections.
When I say goodbye, I put my arms around her thin, rounded shoulders and whisper ‘I miss you’ and she squeezes my hand and says ‘I know’…