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.
Today I’m thankful that I still have a mother, but if we’re going to have a day to celebrate mothers, please don’t ask me to:
Bake a cake for a fundraiser
Select a nanna scarf for me before I’m a grandmother
Volunteer for any initiative to improve the lives of already well-off people
Mend garments or
Clean up after babies
Also please don’t:
Buy me ugly socks
Make me a ceramic thingy that I’ll smash
Give me any more craft
Advise me to take vitamins, colonics, miracle cures or go for a run
Rescue another animal for me
Suggest helpful ways to brighten my floors
Today I don’t want to grow, inspire, achieve, strive or nurture, I’m cranky and I’m having a day off. Please quickly bring me a bottle of gin, tonic, lemons and an obedient bar man, then close the door on your way out. Your best present for Mumma is obedience and a big dose of shush.
Happy Mother’s Day! Single mothers will now have to provide ‘verification’ of their relationship status in order to claim Centrelink’s Parenting Payment Single. Single mums who leave parenting Payment Single and then return to the payment will also have to send the Human Services Department a photograph of themselves sitting alone crying into their one glass of Aldi wine on a Saturday night.
“From 20 September 2018 new claimants seeking Parenting Payment (Single) or single parents claiming Newstart Allowance will be required to have a third party sign a new form verifying that they are in fact single, then we can tattoo their scrawny necks and microchip them before we release them back into the wild,” the government announced as part of the 2017 Budget this week.
To be rewarded with vast sums from the government’s welfare-bludgers’ prize pool, I will have to find someone whom I don’t want to share the horizontal tango with, to verify that I am in fact raising my children single-handedly. I’m really not sure who I’m going to ask to help me with this. Will it be the merchant banker who picked me up at an art gallery and then took me on an incredibly boring date? The 22-year-old man working at my local servo who thought if he gave me a free juice and a bag of chips, that I’d go on a date with him? The guy who sent me ‘sexy’ pics of himself late at night on Facebook while his wife was asleep? He may be my best choice. Hopefully, he’ll get confused and tell the authorities that he and I have been shacked up for years with my children, his kids from three relationships, our cat and a feral budgie. Apparently, the penalty for making a false declaration is up to 12 months in jail. Which could mean I’m in for a nice break (Wentworth prison here I come) from mothering and working if my dreamy battler beau brags about our imaginary sexy times on social media.
“This is offensive and deeply disturbing,” said Terese Edwards, chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children.
“Who verifies? Do children get asked? Is there a neighbour watch alert? This is a slippery slope back into the dark days. I’m proud of our single mothers, they are doing a damn good job and don’t need the burden of Government prejudice.”
Terese is right, single mothers are doing a damn fine job, they’re the hardest workers I’ve ever met. But I quite like the neighbourhood watch idea as I’m a bad picker. I could have a panel of people telling me if I’m going out with the wrong dude. My neighbours could shout out to me, “If you bring that guy home, we’ll tell Centrelink,” and I’d be dissuaded from making a bad move on Tinder. Happy Mum’s Day from the Liberal Government. Scott Morrison what a generous man you are, you have saved me from a lifetime of bad relationships. I think I’ll stay home tonight knitting myself an old cat lady chastity belt.
As my 87 year old mother’s brain drifts further away into dementia, I realise that I don’t have much time left with her.Yesterday my kids and I took her for a lovely beach walk in a place where I spent a lot of time misbehaving as a teenager. So today I’m celebrating some of the gifts my mama gave me. Thanks to my mum I spent my childhood listening to great singers and story tellers. My mum has a wonderful voice and she loved singing to me when I was small. When ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ came out we would sing along to Stevie Wonder together. Love you mumma, thanks for your sense of humour and your songs
Flowers, chocolates, cards, a new house and a new car, my kids know how to spoil me on Mother’s Day, but apparently today they forgot what I really like so they got me some soap. And candles so that my cheeky youngest child, who is a trainee fire starter, can melt wax all over the house. Joy. And as it is Mother’s Day I am supposed to smile sweetly and be grateful and pretend that it doesn’t bother me, otherwise in a few years they will relocate me to a home for the bewildered that plays Phil Collins songs all day. Sigh. Motherhood is so glamorous and exciting isn’t it? Rest up today mamas, it’s going to be a big year
Shoplifting is not considered an after school sport for children
Prams look trashy for shopping once your youngest child is 10
Scary stories are for daddy’s house. Kids don’t need to be spooked by their mothers, they get enough terrifying experiences with step families
Try to stick with one father for all your children, it’s much easier on Father’s Day
Children don’t need to be disinfected with your brandy kisses daily
Try not to pick a boyfriend who has a crush on your teenager
Apparently not every man finds single mother cougars attractive, sometimes we need to put our puppies away; you really don’t need to flash your cleavage at the school Mother’s Day breakfast
Don’t leave your ashtray in your kid’s bedroom
A petticoat is a skirt. End of story
If you find a hot boyfriend, choose a lovely elderly babysitter for your kids
If you’re running late, groom your locks with a fork; make sure you remove the tines from your hair before you pick up
Six o’clock mother medication is not compulsory every day
Be an inspiring mother: When your children think of cranky, belligerent women they think of you