Today’s date was always less significant than tomorrow’s.
The day before mum died.
It was a day of breath holding for the past 28 years. Dread for the big day, the 25th. 28 years because the 29th year mum was still alive. It was the day that I actually dropped my shoulders with relief, with no idea of what was a few short hours away.
The morning started off with caution.
It had been a week since we got the news that mum had had a ‘mild heart attack’ while cycling to work. Her bike being pushed over 9km every morning to her ‘little job’ at a small manufacturing business on the other side of town. A rush visit to the doctor’s with my older sister and then admission to hospital gave us all the terrifying news. But she reassured me on a quick midweek visit that she was fine and I was to continue with our weekend plans to visit my then, fiance’s parents at the coast. I don’t think I relaxed at all those 7 days, and I was doubly concerned about me traveling 700km away from the crisis back home. But I couldn’t say ‘no’ in those days and I reluctantly went along dreading any horrible call, during the two day trip.
We returned from the coast and back at work after a quick stop at the hospital on route home, I continued to worry. The morning of the 24th was the first genuine exhale, I caught myself doing, after her phonecall. Mum was home and feeling great. Not having smoked a cigarette in the past week must have been stressful on its own, but she reassured Dad that she had stopped and told me cheerfully that Dad was going to return to work the next day. I can’t remember the full conversation sadly, it’s been wiped out of my memory but today I tried to recall what we must have said to each other. I know I told her that I would come down on Sunday after I worked on the big rugby match that was going to be played on Saturday. A few pleasantries would have been shared and I know I breathed heavily out when I put down the office phone. If only I knew that that was to be the last chat with her. I would have lingered longer, I would have asked her all sorts of questions, I would have told her I loved her and I would have asked her to tell me that she loved me.
I knew that she did love me, but I never knew how much I needed to hear the words until she was no longer here to say them.
I have reread my birthday cards, the letters written to me on my gap year and examined the thin blue airmail paper hoping that the ink won’t ever fade, to read her signing off
No clear ‘I love you’ but a very definite unwritten and unsaid message.
That 24th day of July in the year my life changed forever, was a day of hope. A return to normal after the scare. Plus, a life without Mum in it, was unimaginable. The relief spread over me, and no doubt I chatted to all the other sisters in the network. There was no cell phones yet, so landline calls were the extent of conversation at that time. Sadly the rest of the day remains insignificant. Much like all the other ordinary days when Mum was alive.
Now almost 29 years later, I can’t believe that it has been so long without her. An unimaginable future became my reality. My adult life has gone without her to witness it. I wasn’t able to think of her as anything other than Mum, because I was busy being young. It’s only as I appreciated the path of life, that I started to wonder what her young dreams were, the questions I could have asked about her own mum and who she was before she met Dad.
This time of year always comes back to the trauma, the shock and the havoc that the 25th wreaked.
29 full earth orbits around the sun. The first few years were indeed without light, full of the shadow of death. But now it’s more a case of loss of what could have been. The missed chances to get to know her, for her to know me, to watch her age into the wise council of elders in our home town. I’m sure she would have enjoyed my skits, my dressing up and the laughter at my characters.
I sometimes see her reflection in my face, her footsteps in my slippers and I feel her in my heart.
Once again, I get reminded..
I am, because she was. xxx