In a month’s time, give or take the odd day, it’ll be the sixth anniversary of the death of my father. So many moments from that time remain parked in my memory, an indelible reminder of a time of a great many tears but also a good deal of laughter and the love and support of wonderful friends. Many kind words were spoken – the worst thing said to me was meant kindly and, I guess, as a source of inspiration. It was this:
“You’ve got to be the strong one now.”
I knew it was true but I didn’t want to hear it. When Dad had first become ill, as Mum’s behaviour was given us increasing cause for concern, we spoke as a family of what the future would bring. My sister and I took some time off work to be with both Mum and Dad, something which seemed to concern them both. This, we explained, was pay back time, a return for all the opportunities and encouragement they’d given both of us.
Two weeks after Dad died, Mum received her diagnosis. In a sense, it’s been pay back time ever since – the balance of parent and child shifted for good.
Last Sunday, January 4th, was the 31st anniversary of the death of my maternal grandfather Eddie. This is such a cheery post, isn’t it! I was very close to my grandfather
and I mention the anniversary because the morning he died was the first time I felt a change in that balance of parent and child. Mum received an early morning ‘phone call from the hospital to say that he’d passed away. She came to wake me up, fighting a losing battle to hold back the tears. She leant on me and cried and cried. I was 20 years old but suddenly, I felt older. I felt I had to be strong. Mum needed me, perhaps as she never had before. It foreshadowed what was to happen a quarter of a century later.
I’d like to talk to Mum about the two events I’ve recalled here but neither seems to spark anything within her. All carers, whether full or part-time, have to be strong. Just don’t tell us that.