Tony didn’t spend time with me like the other new Dads. Most of them stayed the night in the maternity unit. Where nights were filled with the sound of doors opening, releasing high pitched baby howls into the corridors followed by doors closing and short lived eerie silences. Open, close, screams and silence all night long. I could hear their male voices proudly comforting their loved ones. I paced alone with my baby…talking to him about the world. I knew then I would be alone on this adventure. I held my baby close, rocking back and forth, staring out into the darkness of the night.
He was out sailing when I was crying about sore nipples, lack of milk, crazy hormones and no sleep. Mum sat with me instead. He didn’t bother to fit the baby car seat in preparation for bringing baby home. My Dad did that. Like an afterthought, he collected us from the hospital at 9.30pm. He drove us to my parent’s home because he hadn’t organised a place for us to live. Mum had set up the basinette complete with drapes of mosquito netting, hand embroidered white cotton linens and dreamy muslin wraps. My parents were everything he failed to be.
“I don’t feel very well luv….I think I’ll have to give it a miss today…I’m sorry. I’ll look after bub if you like.” Mum says leaning in the car window. Her face is pale and sweaty.
I left my eighteen month old boy with Mum and continued on my way to have an ultrasound and blood test. As I walked up the road, feeling finally free from morning sickness, I turned to see a car rushing toward me. No time to run. I was going to be crushed against the sandstone wall behind me. It would pin me at the hips and life as I knew it would be over…..my baby…..my son….my legs.
It was as if someone had placed a cup over the world and blocked the blinding afternoon rays of sunshine. The grass was cold and damp, the air was cool against my cheeks. The sound of a thud had woken me as I opened my eyes to see I was sitting with my back to a crowd of people. People staring, voices arguing….siren sounding. Nobody came near…nobody was helping me. The shadow from the cup was moving around the right side of my face…darkening….closing the curtains at the end of a movie.
I have to be strong…..I have to be strong…..something from Church kept going through my head. ‘False fears are foes, Truth tatters those when understood’….a woman is crying “I’m sorry….I’m sorry”. She is the driver of the car.
“Can we call anyone for you?” a man asks.
“No….my parents are elderly…you can’t upset them.”
False fears are foes……Truth tatters those.
Attention: Insurance Company
Date of incident: July 2003 Time: 3.23pm
Description: I was walking along the footpath when I heard a screech of brakes. I turned to see a car coming toward me at 60kms per hour. It hit me in the right hip throwing me onto the bonnet. I smashed the windscreen with my head and somersaulted twice through the air over a wall. I was eleven weeks pregnant.
Mum is forgetting things. I repeat the same story over and over but she still fails to remember. I leave notes around the house.
Dad went to the shops at 12.30pm and will be home about 2pm. You can call him on his mobile phone. I have written the number down for you. Love you….call me if you need me. Here’s my number.
Lots of Love XXX
Each day another small piece of Mum slips away. Life is all about change and loss. I live with a constant ache in my chest. When I wake in the morning the ache reminds me, all is not well. I have to be strong for Mum….and Dad. I have to be strong for my children….and myself.
The phone rings. “Hello?”
“I’ve lost the car again” Mum is crying on the phone. She knows.
“Ok Mum…those car parks are so confusing aren’t they. Not to worry …stay there and Dad and I will be there soon.”
I turn to my Dad whose eyes are sunken and dull…..“Mum’s lost the car again.”
I am writing to ask you for financial support for our children. Since you have not paid anything to date and the children are now at school, I feel it is time you helped me out.
“Mummy….can you read me a bedtime story please?” my five year old daughter pleads.
The school has placed her in their ‘Multilit’ program. It is for children with delayed literacy skills. I worry I haven’t spent enough time reading with her. My time has been consumed with caring for Mum.
“Yes darling….I’m just helping Nanny to bed and then I’ll come and read to you.”
“Mum…..I think I’d better help you have a shower…your bed is wet”
“I’ll do it myself when I’m ready”
“Are you sure? I can help you now Mum….just hop up and we’ll make you more comfortable for the night hey?”
”What did I just tell you….I don’t want to.”
“OK…I’ll come back in a little while”
“Sweetie…..are you awake?” My daughter is asleep. The book she loves is laying across her chest. Her little hands are still clutching the book in anticipation of my arrival. Too many nights slide by like this.
“Goodnight baby” I whisper.
“Mum….I’ve got the shower running for you…the water is lovely and warm.”
“Well you can turn it off again can’t you.”
“But Mum…you can’t go to sleep with a wet bed….your nighties all wet….let me help you please.”
“Oh God….leave me alone…..DAD….. get her out of here would you.”
“Darling…your sweet little daughter is only trying to help.”
“It’s Ok Dad….I’ll try again later. I’ll make the school lunches”
“Why aren’t you in bed yet…your sisters asleep already”
“The cat vomited all over the floor”
“Go to bed….I’ll fix it”
I’m writing to let you know the children were absent from school due to their Nanna being sick in hospital. We were at the hospital very late and the children were exhausted.
“Come on kids….I know it’s late to visit Nanna but we won’t have a chance for the rest of the week. You can do your homework there so all we have to do is get some dinner on the way home.”
“Can you do my hair this afternoon? I’m desperate.”
“Well….I’m working all day then we’re visiting Mum in the nursing home and then I’m taking the kids to swimming. The only time would be 7.30 tonight.”
I’m hot and my body is aching. I hope she’ll say no. I hope she might realise what an inconvenient time 7.30 is. My body is screaming with pain, my heart is pumping its usual adrenaline charged beat. Perspiration runs in riverlets down my spine.
“Are you sure that won’t interfere with the kids dinner time?”
Well of course it will, but you’re just pretending to be concerned, same as I’m pretending it’s no problem. Say no…..say no…..of course it’s a bloody inconvenience…..phoning me at the last minute.
“Yes that’s fine…I can pick up takeaway for the kids on the way back from swimming…see you then!”
No. The word I have so much trouble using. I was taught never to turn a customer away. I need the money…. I have super human endurance.
Mum….can you help me with this project….it’s due tomorrow.”
“Mum?” a voice startles me out of my light ‘mother’ sleep.
“I can’t sleep….I’ve got a blocked nose and I can’t breathe.”
“Do you want me to run a steamy shower for you?”
“OK…..I’ll get it ready for you.”
“Then can we watch Old Bear?”
“Baby…it’s two in the morning…..”
“Please Mummy…it helps me to go to sleep.”
Watching Old Bear in the quiet morning hours was a familiar routine when the kids were sick. Snuggled up under doonas watching Old Bear, Hoot and friends with their plummy English accents. The kids eyes grew heavy. I felt relieved to bid goodbye to the unsettling aloneness of night and welcomed the sense of hope in the greying dawn.
Dear Ms White,
I am the school liaison officer. Our records show your children have been arriving at school late. Could you please make an appointment to discuss.
Attention School Principal and School Liaison Officer,
I am a single parent of two children. I receive no financial or emotional support from the children’s father who has not made contact in over four years. I am currently caring for my mother who is unwell with Alzheimer’s and supporting my father through this difficult time. It is difficult to maintain a routine due to the unpredictable nature of the disease
My children arrive at school immaculately groomed. They always have completed homework and are well behaved students. The children are particularly close to their Grandparents. Since we live in the same house, they are affected by the frequent challenges which arise on a daily basis. If the children are five minutes late for school I would hope the school could be more understanding. Unless you have personally cared for a close relative suffering from Alzheimer’s, you would have no idea of the devastating domino effect it can have on families.
We sit in the fracture clinic at the hospital. It has been three hours. They cut Mums plaster cast off. Then they left us to wait for the Orthopaedic surgeon to check her arm. My daughter plays on her IPad. My son clutches his back pack to his chest and stares about the room quietly observing all.
I look at Mum’s tired face and tell her “I love you so much Mum.”
To my surprise she answers me with a voice as clear as yesterday…as clear as she once was…
“And I love you too” she smiles warmly at me.
She continues…” I love you to bits……………you’re very precious to me” she says determinedly. Her eyes fill with tears. Her fair skin becomes blotchy. She is overwhelmed with the words she was finally able to convey. The things she’s wanted to say, but couldn’t get her words to make sense.
“Aww Mum….you’ll make me cry……” through tears I’m laughing and smiling. The children have turned to us in amazement.
Since Mum became unwell I’ve been picking up the pieces…..filing away her memories…details…the stories she’s told me. When she stopped remembering, I realised that everything I had been told to date would be all I would ever know. I stayed in contact with extended family and friends. Because that’s what Mum did. Like a super powered alien with a thousand tentacles…my resourcefulness was far reaching.
“Hello…this is Marina from Lantern House”
“Your mother was not well this morning.”
“What was wrong with her?”
“She had breakfast…then she was not feeling well…”
I can’t understand this women’s accent…..I’m straining to make sense of what she’s saying.
“Where is she now……is she in hospital?”
“She is on her bed….”
“Hello…..I can’t hear you very well…..where is she now?”
“I am sorry….”
“What was that…..where is she now?”
“She is not with us anymore”
“Your Mother …..she is not with us…there was nothing we could do…..I’m sorry.”
“Oh……oh …….oh my goodness…..oh my God….”
“I am so sorry….”
I stop walking in circles.
“It was very quick…..fifteen minutes…your mother…she went very elegantly”
“Thank you…..we’ll be up straight away….thank you.”
I look down at my phone. The black screen has smears of beige makeup and perspiration on it. I press end. So this is the end. I look in the direction of my father and two children. My family…. minus Mum. Mum….the original Superwoman of the family. They are looking at me wondering what is wrong. I have no time to think. No time to absorb the awfulness. No time to think up a soft way to tell my children…tell my Dad…..her husband. My mum…..my beautiful Mum. We were on our way to visit her….five minutes ago we had made plans…..
I walk toward them. I can’t hear a thing. The world has gone silent. Their faces are expectant, they have no idea of what’s to come. When I open my mouth their lives will change forever. Like mine already has. I have to be strong. I have to be Superwoman. The moment I’ve feared all my life has arrived.
“We’ve lost Nanna.” The kids crumple. I look at Dad, raising my voice in case he didn’t hear me…. “We’ve lost Mum.” He lets out a groan of disbelief and shock.
We turn in toward each other. Arms entwined to form a circle. Pulling each other closer….gathering strength. On the way to the Nursing Home I am the straight guy. I am the practical, planning one. I talk to the children with the sensibility of a doctor. I tell them that nobody wants to be revived from a major stroke. I tell them Nanna is in a better place. I busy myself with concern for my family. I make phone calls. I am my Mum. I am Super Mum