This is my dear late Mum’s house as it stands now. It was my childhood home until I married at twenty years of age and moved out. I’ve been reminiscing about this house over the last couple of days. One of my sisters had been back to visit there recently. Although she advised me against it, I asked her to share her photo with me. Big mistake! Huge mistake, in fact. It’s no longer how I remember it. Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey. The window frames have all been painted stark white over the original orange. Orange was Mum’s favourite colour. The steps outside are also not visible in this photo. The neat box hedge has completely overgrown, as has the glorious pink azalea shrub. I feel so sad. I shouldn’t have asked to see this photo. I should have known it would be different now, six years after losing my Mum. I still miss her so much. I always will.
The steps at the front of the house were a barrier for me for the last four years before Mum passed away. Being a wheelchair user now, there was no way I could climb them to get into the house. To make matters worse, Mum was severely agoraphobic, which meant she couldn’t leave there. It meant that we didn’t see each other for all that time. It broke my heart (and hers). We spoke on the phone a lot, especially towards the end. I would call two or three times a day to check she was okay. She mainly was as fit as a fiddle … until she had her stroke. Before that happened, she would vigorously mow the grass, raking it up, digging and planting flowers and tomatoes.
Those last four years were so painful. I didn’t feel sorry myself; I never did, but I felt angry and frustrated about my disability stopping me from seeing her. It was hard to come to terms with, and we missed each other terribly. The only time I got to see her in those last years was when, towards the end, she was admitted to hospital after her stroke. Hospitals are nearly always accessible. She was never the same after that happened. I wrote a post about this at the time. You can read about it at https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/.
I’m glad I can’t see the inside of the house; it must be so different now, and it would only upset me further. The kitchen was always my favourite room. The kitchen units were orange, as was her one-person teapot, which sat permanently on the side waiting to be filled. She loved her cups of tea and her toast and marmalade, which she’d have for breakfast every morning. After we lost Mum, there were all the usual formalities to arrange; the funeral, the interment, the house to sort out etc. My sisters came from various parts of the country to deal with all this, but I had no choice, being unable to go up those damn steps. My sisters were very kindly involving me as much as possible by taking pictures of everything, so I could decide what I’d like to have. I chose Mum’s little orange teapot. It reminded me so much of her.
I have a tradition now. Every year, on Mum’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, I take myself off to a quaint tea shop in my city. I order myself a pot of tea (I usually drink coffee) and some toast and marmalade. Sometimes, I order a slice of cake – Mum always enjoyed her cake. Having recently bought the loveliest card I could find in John Lewis, I sit for a couple of hours and write to her. I write it as a conversation between us, just as if she were there with me, drinking tea and eating toast or cake. It makes me feel closer to her at those times. I wish she were still here to join me. But, however much I write, it’ll never make up for those four years when I couldn’t see her. I missed so much of her later life. I think I’ll always miss her – the pain doesn’t lessen. Perhaps, it will in time.