When I tell people my mum has dementia they invariably say,
“Does she still know who you are?”
She does when I hug her and hold her close and tell her I love her. Her brain may not remember my name but her body can feel that she loves me. I know it.
The gift of dementia is that I have had four years to say goodbye to my beautiful mama. Four years to create new memories and remember some of her old ones. To hear the same stories again and again so the family history is firmly locked in my brain until it is my turn to fade away.
Four years to hold her hands and tell her that she is still a devoted mother. Four years of visits to calm the madness rush of single mother life in my head while I put her hand in mine. Four years of quiet afternoons to sit with her in silence while I rub hand cream into her old dry hands. Four years of cups of tea and bickies. Four years of running away from the nursing home in tears with a broken heart while remembering all the small ways she loved me. Four years to be reminded how she cared for our dogs, yelled at me over homework, washed our clothes, fed us endless dinners and sang in the kitchen.
Mumma loved her career before kids but she loved us more. Her four kids and seven grandchildren were her life’s work. Having our family was the greatest joy of her life.
Four years of stories shared with whoever else came to visit. Four years being able to take in her I am your mother and I’m not going anywhere fierceness, and four years to realise that I don’t care any more about our differences, fights over my clothing and hairdos and politics, I feel grateful that she cared enough to argue with me.
Four years to look at old photos and realise what she built for us. Four years to be reminded that she introduced me to Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and taught me how to sing.
My mum interviewed Squizzy Taylor and met Frank Sinatra and talked to colourful Sydney racing identities and was invited to all the best parties when she wrote the social pages. And still my dad, my brothers and sister and I and our kids were the best part of her life. Not all kids get to have a mumma like mine.
Some families have their loved ones snatched away in an instant, but I’ve had time to be with her and hug her tight and tell her how much she means to me.
In the past year she has wet her pants and worn her clothes backwards and spilt dinners and tea all over herself. She has let her hair go and not worried about matching her top with her skirt. All the petty little problems of life have slipped away and all that remains is that my mum’s face lights up when my kids and I walk in the room. That is love.
I know my dad is coming to get her soon, they will get to be together again and I have to remember that on the days that I’m missing her so much that I can’t breathe.
My mum was from a family of godbotherers, devout Anglicans who often quoted the bible. This is the only verse I remember from years of reluctant Sunday school attendance (Corinthians)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Hi, I’m Sonia, and as well as being a famous ex-dancer, TV wonder girl, motivational guru and gifted Botox devotee, I like to inspire and uplift my fellow mainly white Australians with the love I feel for other fearful Christian human beings. Today I hope we can all:
Dance like Sam Newman is watching
Pop pills like we’re Eddie Maguire
Work like Tony Abbott’s publicist
Love like Michelle Bridges looking in the mirror
Genuflect like Roxy Jacenko
Sing like the Madden brothers mentoring themselves in the shower
Live like we’re in Queensland in 1952
Ponder the deep meaning of our existance like Donald Trump’s wife
Drink like we’re Ben Cousins
Smile like we’ve had dermal fillers
For now you beautiful pale Aussies, Keep Calm and Dance like Sonia
How do we live in a world without Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Merle Haggard? Age shall not weary them, but 2016 has been a cruel year, robbing the world of my favourite artists.
The genius artist known as Prince brought my teen years alive with his sexy funk groove.
“All good things that say, never last. And love, it isn’t love until it’s passed.”
Please Stevie Wonder, stay healthy and strong.
Thank you Prince Rogers Nelson, your music, generosity of spirit and philanthropy will live forever
Here’s my sweet, romantic poem in honour of Valentines Day:
Roses are red, violets are blue
I didn’t get a thing today so f#*^! you
Were the flower delivery trucks parked at your door when you awoke? Did you hire someone to manage the line of men? I bet I received a better present than you today. I received self raising flour, drinking chocolate, a crumpled UNO card and bubbles (in the bath when my daughter farted)
What else did I get for Valentines Day?
Emotional turmoil – check
Feeling forlorn – check
Eviction notice – check
Sad, lonely and blue – check
When I was coupled up I didn’t get Valentine’s presents. I got the kids and he kept the used woman from the second hand stall at the markets.
Are you spoken for? Spoken about? Taken or taken for granted?
Three short years ago we were dressing up and celebrating your 40th birthday. You were the Queen of the ball that night and now you’ve already left us. And the only way I can contact you is to turn on Smooth FM and wait until a really corny tune comes on and sing my heart out like we used to do together when we were in your car or trying to outdo each other at karaoke. We miss you so, precious sunshine, funny witty friend, devoted mother. I see you when the sun lights up the evening sky across the sea and your songs come on the radio. Shine on beautiful friend, thank you for inspiring me to do good work in the world
Today the Australian Clown Doctor community say farewell to our beloved leader, ever-smiling, humble, generous, warm hearted Peter Spitzer, the son of Czech Holocaust survivors who became a doctor then started The Humour Foundation charity in Australia. In 1996 I remember sitting in the gym of a sweaty police boys club in Erskineville with a handful of other fools while Peter explained what a Clown Doctor program could look like. Peter’s vision made our work a reality. Over the years I had the privilege of working with Peter at Sydney Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Royal North Shore Hospital, as well as sharing meals at our conferences and hours doing workshops and training where he taught us more ways to help those suffering. We were always inspired by his love for all the fabulous families we are lucky enough to meet in our hospital Clown rounds. Peter Spitzer approached all human life forms with an open heart, eager to learn their stories, connecting with everyone, young and old, whether the head of the hospital or a small kid in need of some distraction. He had the sharp mind of an eager scientist, always enthusiastically sharing his findings with us, always looking for ways to better our work.
My years as a Clown Doctor were punctuated by visits to Peter’s house after the Bowral Ball, where he worked his magic and made people laugh, while the lovely locals raised money to continue our programs. I treasure the memories of staying over at Peter’s house afterwards, and grand breakfasts with Peter and his darling wife Judy as we discussed our work and new ways to fundraise with his beautiful band of supporters. Later I was lucky enough to work with Peter on the pilot Elder Clown program, where Peter shared his passion for making life better for adults living with dementia.
Dear Doctor Fruit-Loop (see I didn’t forget the hyphen) you gave us a purpose for our work. You never grew tired of seeing the joy on a sick child’s face. You gave our performing lives so much meaning, we weren’t there to show off, we were there to empower sick children and frail elderly people. It is always about them, not us. Clown Doctoring is not a job, it is a calling, and you showed us the way. We are so sad you have left us but we vow to continue your work, we want you to be proud of us. Adios Doctor Fruit-Loop, I will think of you and the twinkle in your eyes when I carry far too many props in my coat, whenever I see a rubber chicken, or see a child’s face change from fear to laughter. I’m so glad I told you how much we all loved you the last time i saw you. I have a job and a life of meaning thanks to you. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, you have left a magnificent legacy.
Goodbye our sunny, lovely friend. Some people are sent into our lives to remind us to smile, give our love freely and take pleasure in the simple things. Thank you for the joy and the sunshine you brought us, we will miss your beautiful face
Dear Maya Angelou, the world is a poorer place without you. Thank you for the love, wisdom and joy your writing brought us. Your words gave me hope in the darkest days of my life. Your strength and dignity in the face of life’s challenges are an inspiration.
Thank you for the joy you gave the world with your singing and dancing Shirley Temple Black. I remember performing in a tutu in my front garden as a four year old; I’d watched one of your movies and I wanted to be you.
Shirley was rare, a child star who turned into a high achieving adult. Shirley Temple Black started raising funds for the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society; a disease that afflicted her brother. By the early 1960s, she was co-founder of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies. In the years that followed, she became engaged in politics and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
She also became one of the first prominent women to speak publicly about her fight against breast cancer. After she had a mastectomy in 1972, she held a press conference in her hospital room and urged women discovering breast lumps to seek medical attention and not “sit home and be afraid.” Due to her openness around her experience, the New York Times stated that, “she is widely credited with helping to make it acceptable to talk about breast cancer.”
Today the ladies of the Shirley Clubs around the world will remember her with a smile.
“As long as we have Shirley Temple, we’ll be all right.”
Just when I think single motherhood is too crazy and I want to take them back to the pet shop to get a refund, I get this card from my 7 year old:
My mummy is so nice unique and pretty
Mummy I love you
Mummy I never want you to go away
You are the best mummy in the world
I did not pay her to do this. In the stressed out, overworked world of single motherhood we sometimes forget about the joy of mothering and that all the little tedious tasks of being a mother on your own add up to a lifetime of love and care for your children. So I’d like to pay tribute to all the solo mothers I’ve met, you inspire me with your hard work, dedication and devoted love. You are all yummy mummies.