The Missing Mum Years

My childhood home

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 Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey.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.

Mum’s orange teapot sitting comfortably on my kitchen windowsill

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.

Wars – so futile – my family’s ‘blood’*

WHEN … HOW … IF ONLY …

I am almost lost for words so I’m borrowing the Jimi Hendrix quote …

“WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE OVERCOMES THE LOVE OF POWER, THE WORLD WILL KNOW PEACE”.

I’ve wanted to write about my feelings over this war. I wanted to write something worthwhile, something moving, poetic perhaps but I feel nothing I can say can do enough justice to this situation and the terrible suffering of the Ukraine people. I’ve been so lost for words that all I can do is to write what is in my heart …

This Russia – Ukraine war … any war … is futile. It’s awful, appalling and totally heartbreaking. I watch the news on television a couple of times a day; I hear the news on the radio – every hour and it just gets worse and worse; it gets more and more terrifying and horrific and I fear for the innocent and brave Ukraine people. However, I’m trying to take a break from the news today because it’s beginning to break me but I feel guilty at not keeping up with the latest developments knowing that the situation is likely to get worse. I feel helpless to do anything other than to send money which I have done. All war is brutal and barbaric.

The Second World War broke out on my birth date in September 1939. I wasn’t born then but so many of my family members were. My birth religion is Jewish; my grandparents and the generations before them lived in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Hungary. They were caught up in the war when Adolf Hitler invaded and began to send the Jews to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. All Jews were made to wear armbands with their religious sign of The Star of David on them. This included my family. This is their story …

The Jewish people were made to wear this badge on their armbands. It’s the Star of David (their religious symbol). This was so they could be easily recognised and made targets of.

Many of my family members died in the horrific and inhumane internment camps in Auschwitz. There are chunks of my family tree that are missing. We’ll never know how our family died other than to say it would have been an atrocious and pitiless ending of their totally innocent lives. It hurts me to think about it and yet somehow, it helps to ‘talk’ here. I should say, it’s definitely not my aim to upset of offend anyone reading this.

One of my grandmothers (and my grandfather) was living in London with my mother and her sister (my aunt). My grandmother chose to remain in London, running a terminus café for the bus drivers to enable to get people around. Fortunately, their house, nearby, wasn’t bombed as so much of London was. The school over the road was hit but was, at the time, empty of children, thank the Lord. My Mother was eight-years-old and got evacuated to the country for safety. She wasn’t happy and missed being with her mother and my aunt who stayed together in London. My aunt stayed home being only a baby at the time. My Mum had been sent to stay with an elderly couple with no children. They treated her badly because they’d been forced to take a child off the trains but didn’t want to. My Mother had many miserable years there. She was forced to go to a church which practised a different religion to her own.

When my Mum was alive (up until six years ago), she talked of those times. She talked of bomb shelters in the garden; of hiding in basements, (a painful parallel with the besieged Ukrainians now). She talked of rationing when a banana was like Christmas come early. However, she never talked of our missing ‘blood.’*

When I lost my Mum in 2016, my sisters and I decided that I would take all the family photos to sort through them to share them with my sisters. These photos have been sitting up in the spare room ever since. There must be a hundred, at least – I can’t bear the thought of going through them knowing that our missing relatives will be painfully and obviously absent. My sisters are very understanding and supportive which is a blessing. I will do it one day … I owe it to them … I will … when I’m ready …

*’blood’ refers to the blood of our family, our past, our history, our ancestors.

MOVING FORWARD – THE PASSAGE OF TIME AND BIRTHDAY CAKE

Image result for Steampunk Clock

Why an image of a clock to begin this post with? This is because it is actually a good depiction of my feelings and where I’ve been at for some time. Life has felt rather surreal during this last year. The clock face also shows the passage of time I have been through over the last few months.

At last, I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting back to normal after my Mum became ill, had a stroke, and I finally lost her only five months ago (almost to the day). There was the funeral to get through (and all that encompassed) and now, we are dealing with probate, Mum’s will and the sale of our family home after spending my first twenty years of life there.

However, as far as my psychiatric health in concerned, I’m feeling brighter which is good (and about time too). I am now on different and new medication which, in the last week has begun to help improve my state of mind, and I’m sleeping so much better which makes a great difference to how I feel during the day. The severe anxiety attacks have also lessened which is a huge relief.

The many cogs in this clock also represent changes in a more positive way … slowly … as time has ticked by and the wheels have been turning, my relationship with my son has improved, and we have become closer which means I have more contact with my two beautiful grandchildren, Josh and Lily who are a delight to me. I have definitely become closer to my sisters, particularly the one who lives the furthest away from me. We may be separated by many miles but are hearts are inextricably linked and always will be.

The recent passage of time, like each cog, has been whirring, clicking and ticking by slowly but steadily. A lot else has changed in that time too. My eldest granddaughter has now turned eleven and will be going up to senior school in September, and my youngest granddaughter will be starting primary school at the age of four-and-a-half (she seems too young). Where has the time gone? Am I really old enough to have a granddaughter in senior school? Goodness! I must be older than I think! I’m definitely older in years than I feel and I am fortunate enough to be told by several people that I don’t look my age. However, I am reluctantly coming up to ‘a biggy’; a big ‘0’ birthday in three month’s time (which I’m trying to ignore) … ugh! How am I going to get all my candles on one cake?!

Image result for Birthday Cake with Many Candles

In addition, I would like to say thank you to my dearest friends here at WordPress who have stuck by me through thick and thin over the last year or so – it can’t have been easy at times. Their blogs have kept my head above water some of that time by distracting me with their diversity, interest, humour and compassion. So, shout out to Bun at https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/ and Mick at https://mickcanning.co/ and Carol anne of https://therapybits.com/. Also, thank you to any of you who may have called in or dropped by my blog and hung around with support and kind words too. Love to you all, Ellie xxx

MIXED EMOTIONS (AND POTTING UP GERANIUMS)

elderly woman gardening

(Photo credit: http://www.healthtap.com)

Ok – so this isn’t a picture of my Mum and those plants aren’t actually geraniums, but to all intents and purposes, both of those things could have been facts as that’s exactly what my Mum would have been doing at this time of year if she were still here. She loved geraniums of all colours and would have been repotting them all into bigger pots as they would have grown after their dormant period in the dark and damp basement of the house. They would have all been neatly arranged on the patio outside the kitchen, making a huge splash of colour in the garden.

In fact, this was actually what she was doing along with mowing the grass, cutting the hedge and tying up raspberry canes just two weeks before she had her stroke last year. She remained in hospital from then until the day she passed away just before the New Year this year.

I miss my Mum. I hurt. I’m still hurting. I don’t when or if the hurting ever stops. I have photos of her in my living room and by my bed and yet, believe it or not, I can’t look at them. I cannot look at my Mum. I just am not able to ‘make eye-contact’ with her. Perhaps, it’s too early. Perhaps it’s the pain of not having her here anymore. Maybe, it’s the shame. Perhaps, the guilt that I wrote about in a previous post is telling me that she would be ashamed of me.

I can vaguely scan past the photos. I know the one on my desk in front of me so well. It was a photo I had which was taken only weeks before Mum had her stroke. It’s a picture of her in the garden which was always a sanctuary for her, with the big honeysuckle rambling up a large trellis covering part of the brickwork of the house behind her and next to that are the peach-coloured, climbing roses clambering up the wooden fence. The patio in front of her, adorned with pots, large and small of her favourite geraniums, orange, white and red, all in full bloom.

But, every time my eyes catch the slightest glimpse of her face or her eyes or smile in the photos, my heart is wrenched from my chest, and my mind is screaming, “Noooooo ….”  I cannot cry – I really can’t. My eyes are prickling from the sheer pressure of my tears building up behind my eyelids and fighting to get out. Maybe, I can’t can’t cry because I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t ever be able to stop. I want to go and visit her grave and lay fresh flowers there, but it’s 50 miles away with no public transport with wheelchair access so impossible. Sometimes, I still feel so close to her and almost forget for a second that she has gone. At other times, she seems so very far away.

All the legalities regarding the will, probate and selling the house are continuing to go on in the background. It’s so hard to think of my childhood home being taken over by someone else. Who knows what will happen to it … maybe, it will house another family for many more years although there is also the possibility that it will be completely gutted and turned into several flats and that’s much harder to stomach. Moving on, emotionally, isn’t easy but I have to remember too, that it was only five months ago that Mum was with us and living in that house.

Mum was a great one for ‘keeping things’, usually followed by, “It’ll come in useful for something”, a trait that I’ve inherited. Amongst all the ‘useful somethings’, we’ve unearthed photo albums, not just of our childhoods but also of Mum when she was growing up and even some of my great-grandmother in the 1800’s … real treasure … a pictorial history of my family on my Mum’s side … fascinating. It’s going to take me forever to sort through all of those photos and distribute them to our remaining family. They’ll certainly provide me with lots of happy and no doubt, funny memories too which will probably eventually get passed down to my grandchildren and who knows, perhaps their grandchildren one day? Actual history in the making. Mum would be pleased.

TRAPPED WITH BROKEN PIECES

Image result for a chameleon caught in a spider's web

I’m in an awful situation, a predicament in fact, that I cannot escape, no matter how hard I try. I am doomed to failure through my own success. Death would be a very welcome end for me. I fear the devil and going to hell, but I know that our God is a forgiving God and I know that I will surely confess my sins and will do so honestly and willingly. Apart from which, our God is an all-knowing God.

I am a chameleon … a woman of many disguises. I mould myself to be whoever you wish me to be. My being lives only in your imagination. I have no peace or harmony within my mind. I just have a very toxic brain and equally toxic thoughts. I am an imposter … Ellie, yes … but somehow, I appear to be a very skewed version of my very soul.

I am a master of disguise, a keeper of secrets, living a life of self-deception. I figured I knew my very essence, but I was just kidding myself. It would take a very experienced private investigator to fathom me out at my most raw and vulnerable, to expose the very core of me. I feel unclean and wretched … contaminated is a word I have used more times than I can count to describe myself.

I’m a shadow in a mirror. I am a stranger you may pass in the street. I am both the spider that spins the web and also the fly which is caught helplessly in the centre of it all. Jagged glass has nothing on me … come too near, and you will surely be wounded by the shards.

Therefore, approach if you wish but only with extreme caution and entirely at your own risk. I can damage hearts, not willingly or intentionally but inadvertently.

I am what I am, and I detest that fact with a passion so fierce that I could be the ignitor of the very flames of hell themselves. I am what I am … or am I??

I am broken but don't want to hurt you with my pieces

Translates as “I am broken but don’t want to hurt you with my pieces.”

 

 

THE BUSYNESS OF GRIEF

Image result for white poppies

The funeral was beautiful in as far as a funeral can be thought of as ‘beautiful’. White poppies adorned the wicker casket which was interwoven with daisies and wildflowers and not the sombre, traditional dark wooden coffin that many people have. Mum was a great lover of flowers and plants, and she tended her little patch of garden so carefully over her 86 years. It’s sad to think of it being so neglected now as is the old and empty house which was my home for many decades.

It’s been six weeks since my precious Mum passed away. The sadness and loss will never leave us all, but it’s strange how people differ so much in their ways of dealing with grief. My youngest sister is very tearful and is deeply mourning the loss of my Mum. She’s unable to concentrate on her studies, nor cope with her part-time job. My other sister has travelled home again and has thrown herself into her work. However, she is frequently prone to breaking down in racking sobs and is in need of much consolation from her colleagues.

As for me, it’s as if nothing has happened. I think, if anything, I only feel numb and apart from weeping briefly at the first news of my Mum’s death (and I haven’t cried since that day), I am carrying on with life much as usual. I’m keeping myself very occupied and haven’t really stopped since the funeral. My life is as busy as ever and with assistance, I’ve been concentrating on sorting my house out as much as I physically can.

In fact, over the last two weeks, the whole of the downstairs of my house has been decorated. The builders have only just left and there is a huge mountain of mess to clear up. The smell of paint is lingering and I haven’t quite got used the new colour scheme yet. The new curtains are being put up tomorrow along with the new ceiling lights. It’s been ‘all go’ for a few weeks now and I’ve felt quite excited by it all but somehow, also exhausted in equal measure.

I know in my heart that my frantic busyness is just a way of coping, or perhaps, rather a way of not coping or not wanting to face reality because it is all too painful. However, reality has a way of kicking us in the ribs when we try to avoid it. There are Mum’s possessions to deal with and the house to sell. There is so much of everything to be sorted into heaps of ‘deal with now’ or ‘deal with later’.

There are so many practical issues to deal with that I haven’t had time for emotions. Emotions are something of which I’ve had far too many of in my life and I’m not welcoming these new and painful feeling that are threatening to engulf me. I have been fighting them off for weeks but I know, or at least I think I know that as soon as I stop rushing around, those emotions will not only wash over me but quite possibly drown me.

Frighteningly, this seems a distinct possibility and I find myself desperately looking for the person that can ‘save’ me. But then, I realise that very person is the one no longer with me other than in spirit and spirit doesn’t seem enough now. I’m not a child anymore and yet right now, I need my Mum more than ever and she isn’t there, and I have to face the painful fact that she will never be here again. Rest in Peace, Mum. Rest in Peace.

 

 

 

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t been able to post anything on my blog these last few weeks and probably won’t for a couple more weeks at least, as very sadly, my Mother, who was very sick, passed away last week. I am devastated as I’m sure you can imagine. I hope to be back when everything has settled down. Thank you for your understanding. Ellie x  😥

GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

MAKE LOVE ~NOT WAR

Image result for Love and Destruction

A few parts of this post are taken from one of my previous post, last year, with some new additions, adjustments and amendments. It includes a poem (below) that I’d like to share with you. written by a friend, Katie. Some of you might have already read parts of it but for those of you who haven’t, I hope it touches you as it did me.

I don’t claim to be an expert or even a particularly knowledgeable person when it comes to the subject of Planet Earth. I failed geography and history, abysmally at school. However, I do care about what we are doing to our world and beyond. I care about all the people who have suffered and lost their lives, those who are still suffering and those who will suffer in the future whether it be by natural causes, illness, disasters, war, violence, poverty or by any other means.

I care that we are destroying our planet; destroying our population; destroying our people, wildlife, and nature. I care that we are ravaged by war and violence; that we are polluting our planet and the atmosphere. I care that a huge number of people are homeless, roaming the streets, roaming the deserts, the plains, the forests and the wilderness. I could continue further, but many of us know the facts already.

A very close friend of mine, Katie, wrote this very moving poem which I wanted to share with you here….

The winds of Mother Nature are blowing on the Earth
Accepting all we’ve done to her since our sweet sacred birth.
There are babies curled in cradles unaware of hate and crime
Dreaming of their Mummies in the loving hands of Time.
Forgive us sweetest Mother for the ways that we’ve grown old
For independent streaks in us that turned our hearts too cold.
We’ve sinned so much we’re hurting and the pain is plain to see
That first we were so innocent on a gentle, rocking knee.
How love could turn to awful hate and safety turn to terror
Is based it seems on single thoughts that have their root in error.
Behind us and in front of us is such an awesome Love
That would have us in its gentlest hold in time with God above.
If only we could fall down flat and beg to stop the violence
Our hearts might cry sincerely out, then rest in hallowed silence.                                    

©Katie Marsh 2015

The recent and past atrocities have really brought home to me just how fragile our lives are. If only the power of love could overcome the power of war then maybe, just maybe we could experience peace in our time. Perhaps it would be a start

I am scared for all our futures; I’m scared for our children’s futures, our grandchildren’s futures and all future generations after that, if by then there is still a habitable planet to live on. The list goes on and on … and on … and on … and on … until infinity …

MAKE LOVE ~ NOT WAR.

.gif - power of love - power of war

BROKEN PIECES

 

 

 

broken soul

There once was hope, when I was whole
but shattered now, I lie with you
My dreams are but a breath away
in cloud so high, sky deepest blue

  Reflections of my inner soul
are fragments scattered on the ground
These shards of glass that glisten so
when depths within my mind are found

My heartbeat slows like tidal ebb
It scolds me while my world is bleak
and forms a map in front of me
paved with ashes; words unique

  Broken pieces; shadow sought
Thoughts flow fast but mind so scarred
where once I was; I am no more
Dust to dust; I’ve fallen hard