It’s not an easy subject to talk about.
But that’s probably a very good reason for continuing…
Becoming a parent has been a life-changing experience. It’s changed the way I look at the world – and I’m talking about more than the blurred perspective of tiredness!
As a dad, I’m growing more fully aware of the role my own parents played in my development. There’s a dawning realization just how integral they were to making me… me.
Which brings me back to my main point, that missing piece of the jigsaw.
It’s been 18 years since my mother’s premature passing. She was only 45.
18 years, really?
Some days it feels like yesterday. If I choose to seek them out, I’d easily find the emotions attached to her death – the hurt, the pain – knowing they’re all still as fresh as if it were a recent event. Which is probably why this chapter of my life is often kept in a room that I keep locked – ‘Warning, do not enter, unhappy memories lie within’.
My mother died of cancer. A cruel and merciless disease. It tore a hole in my family 18 years ago, just as it continues to decimate the lives of people up and down the country every day.
The thing is, as a parent, I’m now necessarily pondering the ‘What ifs?’ of my life. Actually, that’s not true. I’m pondering one, major ‘What if?’.
It’s quite simple really.
“What if my mother had lived long enough to know my son?”
Part of me thinks that such a question should never be broached, it’s a cruel conundrum to burden myself with, as a useful answer can never, truly, be given. Even so, I think of her a lot at the moment.
I was (just) 20 when she died. Looking back on it all I can see that I was a kid, nothing more. So immature, so tied to the apron strings, so lacking in any meaningful life experience. My parents had managed to shield me from the worst of what life had to offer, which, I think, is a big part of your role, as a parent. This, however, had a unintended side effect. It made the savage, gut-wrenching, unfairness of her death all the more piquant.
I’m not going to go into details. It’s enough to say that the disease tried to rob her of her dignity. It failed, but that was only because of the sheer force of will she brought to the situation. 45 is no age at all.
As a father I’m now aware of wanting to have a positive and lasting effect on my son’s life. Something that lingers. None of us know what tomorrow brings, but thinking back to my mum makes me what to take a little more control of today. I’m sure that she had regrets. We all do. But the regret that my mum shared with me was, and is, an inspiration.
Speaking, just the two of us, during one of the precious moments that came between influxes of nurses, well-wishers and medication, my mum shared a thought.
“I wish,” she said, with a wistful smile. “I wish I’d roller-skated more often.”
The sheer whimsy of this statement, from a woman who was staring into the abyss, has stayed with me. I take her thought to mean that she wished she’d lived in the moment a little more, that she had taken more time to enjoy herself. Forgetting to have fun is a trap, even with her warning all those years ago, I frequently fall into myself.
So what do I take from all this? Where does it go? I’m not going to stop thinking about my mother, keeping her alive in the memory is a duty that I have been given. I also feel that it’s my duty to tell stories of her to my son. I catch glimpses of her in him every now and then, just moments that evaporate as soon as I’ve noticed them. There’s part of me that feels on some level, he’ll know the stories of his grandma already – passed down in his DNA.
Well it might not surprise you to hear that, as soon as he’s ready, Sam will be getting a pair of skates. I’m sure he’ll skate rings around his daddy, probably with the assistance of a set of celestial stabilizers.
The Out of Depth Dad
5 thoughts on “The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw…”
Lovely tribute to your mam
, hope the little one enjoys skating:)
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Hi. I really enjoyed your post. I went through – and am going through – something similar with my mother and my children. Your post really resonated with me.
My mum passed away 14 years ago from ovarian cancer. She was just 50 years old and my twin sister and I were 18. People say grieving gets easier as more time passes by, but it doesn’t. I find it gets harder. Like you, when I became a parent I realised all that my parents did for me and it saddens me so much that my children won’t ever get the chance to meet my mum, but I always tell them stories of her and have pictures of her up in our home. I regret not spending more time with her. I was selfish and immature and didn’t realise at the time how little time we had left with one another. I wish I could go back and just spend every waking hour with her. I wish I was older back then so that I could have known the importance of that time we had left, but sadly I wasn’t and I only now realise that. All that I can do now is keep her memory alive and try my best to ensure I live a long, healthy life so that my children won’t have to know the pain of loosing a parent so young.
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Emily. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. You’re not alone in how you feel. If only time travel were possible, eh?