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
There are so many parenting books telling us confused time-poor parents how to raise our rugrats that mothers like me get lost in the blur of DIY parenting manuals. As a shortcut, here’s a few parenting strategies I’ve picked up in my 18 year journey through smotherhood:
Sycophantic soft soaping
Bubble wrap parenting
Single mothers take a portion of each one and back off. If we don’t let our children raise themselves we will end up mummy-fied
My eight year old’s teacher asked her where she would like to go on a class excursion. My daughter replied, “Dan Murphy’s*, that’s where Mummy would like to go.”
I was planning my 16 year old’s birthday party. She said, “Mum I don’t want any drugs at my party.” She could tell I was very disappointed, I didn’t know how to tell my friends they can’t come to her party.
I went to pick up my youngest child from a craft workshop. The teacher said, “We worked with coloured paper this afternoon and your daughter coloured in a piece of white paper with a bright green texta, cut it up into little pieces, put it in a bowl, then rolled the pieces into a long tube of white paper and pretended to smoke it. Where did she learn to do that?”
Later that night she said to me, “What’s a ghetto Mama?” Before I had a chance to answer she said, “Is a ghetto somewhere mamas go when dads have hurt their babies?”
*A well known bottle shop/off license chain in Australia