Finding Mother (‘s) Day
Mother’s day always there in March, just before the sweet smell of Spring in the air, a day to unite families together, to celebrate womankind, a day that should encapsulate everything you feel about your mum.
For me, Mother’s day was never circled in my calendar as I had a very fractious relationship with my mother due in part to her mental illness. We were never close as she was physically and mentally abusive towards me as a child which left a legacy of crippling insecurities as an adult. I was a battering ram for her to vent out her frustrations when her mind was tortured. I would witness my mum tortured mentally and there was no significant other to absorb her pain, so I absorbed it all. Her life had become a paradigm of disappointments. She never held down a job, relationship or friend. She was sanctioned multiple times and I relied on the kindness of strangers to care for me.
Barely an adult she sailed on a boat from Mauritius looking for a job and a better future. Mauritians have always been royalist, and pictures of the Queen are adorned everywhere, so coming to England was a natural decision for her. After all, the streets were paved with gold so they say… She was one of the early immigrants entering a hostile country that was distrustful of anyone of colour. I do believe the cultural shock and racism that was prevalent contributed to her mental illness. She formed a relationship with my father who is white and they faced immense prejudice. An incident that I recall from my Father is when he went to view a property to rent and the landlady was enthusiastic and agreed to lease the property until she met my mum. Suddenly, the property was unexpectedly no longer available. My father would pass the ‘for rent sign’ for weeks after thereafter.
Nonetheless, come Mothering Sunday, I’d observe with a pin-prick to my heart mothers and daughters savouring the day together, a special moment to be together and put aside differences that I could never. In my head, I would play-out a scenario of buying her flowers and treating her to whatever she desired as this woman gave life to me but the reality was very different. Loving mothers do not send letters full of bile, threats and then signing off cursing you. My mum would have made an exemplary student at Hogwarts.
Then dementia https://www.dementiauk.org/ reared its ugly head and trickled slowly into my mum.
Dementia is a decline in memory or other thinking skills. There are 44 types of dementia, most are progressive and a person’s function generally declines. 50 million people worldwide have dementia, 850,000 in the UK alone. Many witnesses the terrible decline in their loved ones and its irrevocable changes to their relationship. Far from it being the terrible disease, it has transformed my mother in a way that has erased all her anger and bile that she would spew daily. Dementia gave her peace of mind that a cocktail of drugs failed to do. It was like an angry caterpillar morphing into a gentle butterfly. Dementia was the lesser of two evils in my opinion. I would rather my mum have periods of absent-mindedness than be tortured mentally. It was the little subtle things that started to resonate. She started to smile warmly at me, she’s always had a smile like Christmas morning that was rarely seen, she would caress my hand like a vulnerable child, at first I remember flinching as she never touched me unless it was preceded by a punch. The first time her hand flicked a curl from my face left me speechless. I don’t feel an incumbent to her but genuinely enjoy her company. She might not remember what she did five minutes ago, her brain unable to assemble the pieces together but her memory can depict places and scenarios from old photographs and she still remembers me as her face lights up when I walk into the ward. She even has taken to bursts into pop songs at any opportunity to the exasperation of the other patients. Lionel Ritchie seems to be a particular favourite and her creole is still good despite being a London resident since 1961.
This year I have circled Mother’s day in my calendar. It stands with pride along with her birthday that also falls in March. I no longer have to play out that scenario in my head as I will be living it for the first time. I’d lost a mother to mental illness but dementia has given me one that I have longed for.