Some days I wonder where my mum has gone. Not in the physical sense – I know exactly where she is, in the same house that she has lived in for the past 65 years (and steadfastly refuses to leave).
No, I mean in the sense that the direct (some would say rude), immovable and inflexible old lady I am frequently presented with bears no resemblance to the patient, kind, smiley woman who brought me up.
In recent years, my lovely mum has become a Jekyll and Hyde character and more often than not these days, Hyde wins the day.
Never one to shy away from speaking her mind, she now does so at the top her voice in the most public and inappropriate places. Like at a family dinner, when she ‘whispered’ to me that the lady at the next table really shouldn’t be having desert and it was no wonder she was so fat!
I know that everyday life is becoming increasingly tough for her…
Her limbs have started to stiffen and simple tasks that she once took for granted have become increasingly difficult, painful even. I watch these changes in my mum and realise that we are all powerless against the will of Mother Nature.
Happily, my mum has always been in sound mind but just recently there has been a subtle change. She is a little bit more forgetful than usual and doesn’t remember things I told her yesterday. On other occasions, she tells me that same thing several times and gets annoyed when I point out that she really doesn’t need to phone me ten times a day to tell me about great aunt Bertha’s varicose veins.
I do try to understand things from her perspective but it is hard to support someone who is so prickly all the time, a bit like trying to cuddle a porcupine.
I know that, for her, the world has become a difficult place and my once fiercely independent mother would suddenly rather stay at home than venture out in it. Opportunities that she would have jumped at in the past are viewed as a series of obstacles to be overcome and are just too much trouble. And I can’t print her response to my suggestion that I get a wheelchair so that I can take her out more easily – you can imagine!
And yet, on other occasions, we still have a laugh together, mum and me. So I know that she is still there – the woman from my childhood. Sometimes these days, I just have to look a bit harder to find her.