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the pain of non-being




I don't write about my Mum much, just to say in passing that I have visited her or she is this or that. In a way the subject is just too emotional for me. I can visit twice a week and hold her hand and hug her and walk by her side but I keep myself from crying in front of her which is what I WANT to do all the time.


My Mum was a wonderful woman, a warm tender person in some ways but a feisty fighter in others. She was brought up mostly by her mother as her father was absent most of her growing up life. In those days we didn't think of people as seperated they just "worked away from home". So her father who was in the Air Force just simply didn't come home on leave. He just came home twice a year and spent some time with his family and very little time with her and her mother.


She and her mother lived with her grandfather and her mother worked on a farm, a large farm with cattle and poultry and pigs and fields of wheat and barley and an orchard and lots of people working it all. Her mother's concern was mostly the poultry but she also worked inside the "big house". Mum as a small child spent some time there too as her mum was able to have her with her some of the time. I guess it is fair to say it was a set up similar to those of Victorian times, the gentry and the workers who served them.


Mum wanted to go into service herself and did so when she was 14, it worked out for a while but she ran foul of her boss, a High Court judge when he was "in his cups" (drunk) and was asked to leave so her mother got a hairdressing apprenticeship for her and she did six years of that. She met and married my Dad and eventually they had two daughters. Dad was a soldier in the British Army and has held a prisoner-of-war in Germany for four years. He came back from the War and found England changed so eventually he persuaded Mum that Australia was the place to be so we emigrated.


Dad loved Australia, he was free of the class system, didn't have to take his hat off to the boss, could be and say and do what he pleased. Mum missed the British way of doing things, she knew what life was supposed to be like and the Australian ways of doing things were nothing like that. None the less I think she was happy most of the time. She had a home and a family and a good man to look after her and that was her world.


In her later years Mum became attached to a Pentecostal church and because she played the piano and organ she became a leader of one of the ladies groups and did the Bible studies. I think that suited her, in my opinion the little "talks" she wrote for the ladies meeting were better than the sermons from the pulpit. They were more grounded and focussed on people's everyday needs. She became a great prayer and people came to her with their troubles and woes and went away feeling much better. I think that is why I became a person of prayer too.


On the downside she smoked and how I hated that. She was the kind of person who couldn't be without cigarettes and woe betide someone who crossed her when she was short of money and out of cigarettes! So my saved pocket money sometimes went to get her cigarettes. I'm not elaborating on that except to say an addiction is an addiction. But she was kind and generous in other ways and so I never let that get in the way of our relationship.


My sister and my Mum fell out and didn't reconcile for fourteen years. In fact my sister came to Dad's funeral and I hadn't seen her for most of those fourteen years. Now she is in my life again but sadly not in Mum's life. She says she is allergic to the cleaning products they use in nursing homes so can't visit Mum. Hmmm... I can't do anything about that and try not to worry too much about it. For some people there is a hurt in the past that turns into a black hole in their lives and can never be filled. Who knows why?


I sat with Mum today and I thought about a lot of things, about the good times we had, about her ability to outrun us, out play us, how she fooled around and made us laugh until we cried. I remembered her poetry, her short stories that were never published, the music she would write and play for us but she always threw it away because it wasn't good enough, or so she said. She also did landscape painting for years and I have a few lovely paintings hanging on my walls and a few more that I alternate with those. A lot of people have a painting Mum did and gave to her friends as a token of her love for them.


She had some mini-strokes and about ten years or so before Dad died in 2000 she began to show signs of something wrong. Not exactly dementia back then but forgetfulness and confusion. Dad slowly took over a lot of things that needed process thinking like shopping and correspondence and paying the bills. By the time he died he was also cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry. In the last few years of their life together her behaviour was erratic, and she could be aggressive and strange in the way people with dementia are.


After Dad died I had Mum live with me for two years but I also had Ray with his stroke deficits etc and in the end decided to place her in a facilty that was dementia specific and could deal with her strange behaviours and allow her to be who she was and do most of what she needed to do. She paced round and round the corridors and still does, more slowly now but round and round and round. Is she happy there? Maybe...it is hard to tell now she no longer speaks, smiles or shows emotion. I know she is sometimes unhappy as she tries to tell me in her gibberish and when she can't she moans and tears fill her eyes and she looks like a small unhappy child.


I sat by her side today and thought about how we think of human beings as sensiate and thinking beings. I wondered if that makes Mum a non-being as she doesn't have the ability to express, to show emotions, to communicate what she is thinking. I don't know if that is painful for her, I do know it is painful for me being with her and loving her as I do.



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Like Mother Like Daughter is so true in your case Sue. Two GREAT ladies. I know, if your Mum could understand and convey things to you, she would be telling you how very very proud of you she is.


I'm happy for you that you have in your heart fond and loving memories of your childhood with her. Those will be with you always.



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Wow! Sue, that spells MOM upside down,


I enjoy reading your talk of your mum and I am so glad you understand and your love for her is forever perhaps unlike your sister. The thing is it's her mum too, nothing can change that.


Hold on to the paintings I intend to see them at your house one day. I still feel I will get another chance to return to Australia to visit you and Ray plus some if not all the other members there who are on the message board.


I want to give my wife that trip so she can see what I've seen in Australia years ago. My prayers are with your mum and Ray for their recovery and well being and for you as the care giver you have been to this day.

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your blog made ne cry & wish for loving daugter like you in my own family. you are indeed your mom's daugter.




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in reading your blog about your mother i know she will never be a non-being as she has touched so many lives in many important ways. i am sorry for the pain you must experience each time you visit your mom. she sounds to have been a vital woman who lived life fully and certainly raised a beautiful and caring daughter. i believe in my heart that while your mother may not be able to express her feelings now she is aware of your touch when you hold her hand and can feel your love for her in her heart when you visit. kathy

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