It’s been years since I’ve cried in front of Mum. My main role when I’m at home is chief cheerer-uper. Her mood is so fragile, and emotional memory so much stronger than factual memory, that any seemingly small upset can linger for ages. It’s impossible to cheer someone up when they can’t remember the reassurance you have just provided or even why they are upset. So I hate upsetting her and I also don’t want her to worry about me. Being a burden on us, now and in the future, has long been one of her main concerns, and for a long time she was unfairly aware of how sad it all is and how hopeless the future. But this morning she caught me out and it turned out to be a good thing.
It was a fraught morning. Undressing, showering, drying and dressing (which can go quite smoothly) were one long chorus of “ow; what are you DO-ing; mutter mutter mutter scowl; that HURTS; what are you DO-ing; I can’t breathe”. In the background, an on-going debate with Dad about an appointment that had been booked by Ali for Mum but had been forgotten and missed, highlighting again the challenges of remote caring.
Toenail cutting (or toe cutting as Mum seemed to think it was) finally done I stayed sitting on the floor for a moment to gather myself. At which point she asked me if I was alright. Not sure if I’d get the words out I just shook my head and stayed where I was. She asked again and a tear snuck out.
Mum: What’s wrong?
Me: I’m sad.
Mum [puzzled]: But we love you.
[Well that did it. Cue more tears from me and a move to hug her]
Mum [hugging me back]: We’re just silly old people.
Mum [rubbing my back and patting me]: It’s OK. Come on now.
And you know what? Not only did I feel better, but Mum’s mood improved too. I’ve been so busy missing having a mum, I hadn’t stopped to think that perhaps she was missing being my mum too. The role reversal has been so complete that I think it did us both good to remember, however briefly, how it was meant to be.
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