Thanks to my old blogging friend, DJ, I thought I should answer her in a post (as my reply to her was getting too long!)
So, in answer to her request to talk a little about Mum, here goes.
No, I look nothing like my Mum! She had black, not-very-thick (thin) hair, and gorgeous olive skin – I have loads (masses of) fine red hair (naturally probably slightly strawberry blonde, but have been various shades of red since my teens) and very pale skin. Our bodies are similar, she had a tiny waist and hips, but no boobs, I have an hourglass shape – boobs from Dad’s side (and then some!) Mum was 5’2″ and I am (almost) 5’4″. Her mother was 4’10” – so we are “progressing” lol. Mum had stunning, kind, green eyes, high cheekbones and a beautiful kind of heart-shaped face, I have a different shaped face, a broader jawline, and missed those cheekbones – but have her eyes, we all do. My daughters both have her beautiful eyes, and long, lush, dark lashes. The eldest especially, she was constantly asked as a small girl if she was wearing falsies or mascara, when of course she was far too young to be wearing either!
I look like my dad, as does my next brother down, with the youngest brother like Mum, he has the face shape, the dancing, cheeky eyes and her colouring more (with lighter coloured hair.) Interestingly, I saw some old family friends a few years ago – from 40 years ago – and they commented how like Mum I am, so that was nice, but odd, as I look nothing like her. I think I have some of her mannerisms, definitely a similar sense of humour – although mine is dirtier and more cynical. I also am the caretaker, but I think that is possibly a gender and place in family trait, as the girl, and the eldest (to all intents and purposes.)
Mum was old fashioned in one sense, she was a stay at home mum, who helped on the farm occasionally. When the marriage fell apart, she was the one who stayed and ran it, which surprised me no end! (Although Dad pretty much just ran for the hills, I guess.) Once it was sold she moved into town and got her first job in twenty years, and went from strength to strength. Mum was stylish, always as well-dressed as she could afford to be, and had gorgeous, well-designed, thoughtfully decorated homes wherever she ended up. Never to my taste, she was a lot more girly and classical than me. Mum was resilient. She always saw the silver lining and never let life get her down for long. I tend to be more like Dad, with his tendency to darkness and dwelling on his own crap. I have always been very aware of that and made choices in life to not go down the path he likes to dawdle about on.
I know how lucky I was. Mum wasn’t spectacular, she didn’t split the atom. Or even finish high school. She labelled herself as “a bit dumb,” but she had enormous emotional intelligence, and loved fiercely. She was bubbly and sparkly, and she made every room she entered more fun. She had wonderful friends, loved to entertain and laugh. This stood her in great stead when she discovered my Dad was gay, and had been cheating on her with various “hook-ups” for several years. She lived quite some distance from where I do and did, but was always available for love, advice, and was super practical. She adored my kids, I had the only NZ grandchildren when she died, both of my brothers have since had families, but my three were her onlies then. I feel blessed she was so into them that she made the journey to visit often, and even had them all for my first “night off” the week she died, She had been hanging out for my youngest daughter to be weaned, so she could take a week off work to have them come and stay at her lovely island home. They were just 2, 4 and 8 years old, and it felt so weird to not have them overnight, as I had never had them all stay somewhere overnight before. We have some cool photos from that holiday that the kids had with Biddy (her choice of name for the grandies, her father’s pet name for her as a child) and Pa (her lovely husband.)
Mum was born to my pretty, petite grandmother in Perth, Western Australia (Mum was an Aussie) just after WWII ended. Grandma had married an American submariner at the end of the war who was stationed at Freemantle, and they had their first baby together. Mum was around six months old (maybe less) when her father was away on manoeuvres and Grandma discovered he was already married with three daughters in the States. I imagine the shock was immense, she had been receiving his pay and everything. They never heard from him ever again. Mum never knew this until she was about 14. Grandma married Grandpa when she was around two years old, and they had a lovely love story, just adored each other. Grandpa loved Mum to pieces, and they had another child, my Uncle Geoff, a year or so later. Mum had a difficult relationship with Grandma, who was super critical of Mum, but heaped love on the golden child, my uncle, who was good looking, sporty and academic, none of which Mum thought she was (she was good looking, at least, lol!) Mum adored her little brother, and they were very close, all their lives. I think there must have been some kind of lingering resentment from Grandma (who was wonderful to us) about Mum. Mum always made the most of it though, and was always careful that we wrote letters and kept in touch, we visited as often as finances allowed (it used to be a real mission to get to Perth as it wasn’t really on any real flight paths, so cost about the same as getting from NZ to London.) I had been to Perth eight times by the time I was 13. The last was the school holidays before I turned 13 – so was still half price – and Mum and Dad sent us all that way on our own. Was such an adventure and Grandma and Grandpa spoiled me rotten! Mum was very close to her maternal grandparents, my lovely Ganny and Pop, and they were the ones who were very supportive of anything she did. I think that must be part of the way she grew up so very loving and caring.
Mum died suddenly at just 55. The death certificate states cause of death to be “septicemia (splenectomy).” She had suffered several periods of ill health in her youth, must have had a compromised immune system, as such things as childhood measles had her hospitalised for long periods. She got them all, rheumatic fever, mumps, unexplained illnesses, etc. She had difficult childbirths, and was told after I was born that she probably shouldn’t have any more children as she and I were in hospital for two months after my birth. She prolapsed, haemorraged and “died” for twelve minutes, was raced to the bigger hospital and I have her notes, she was admitted pale, collapsed and pulseless, and took a long time to recover. The same thing happened again when my middle brother was born, just not quite as severely. When she was pregnant with my youngest brother, she was having a pre-natal visit with her doctor at around four months, and he discovered she had very swollen groin glands. He asked her how long they had been like that, and Mum had no idea, he then examined her other lymph nodes and they were all swollen. His father had just died of Hodgkins Lymphoma (or disease as they used to say) and he was on high alert for the symptoms. She was not quite 26 and had three children at home (my adopted sister lived with us by then.) She had the tests, and she had Hodgkins. He referred her to a specialist immediately and she was told they were going to abort the baby and start radiotherapy straight away. Mum refused, asking for a little time. The cancer went into a kind of remission while she was pregnant, so when my youngest brother was born (at nearly ten pounds, we were all good sizes, but he was the biggest) they whisked her off, growled at her for breastfeeding, and started radiation therapy on her. She was in and out of hospital for at least six months. The Plunket nurse (baby checks) didn’t know who this baby’s mother was as the neighbours all took turns to take him for his checks, etc! When he was about four, she had the cancer return, and her spleen was removed in the process of her treatment. In her 50s, because she worked in women’s health and was having a bone density scan at work, Mum discovered that she only had 90% of one and 10% of the other of her lungs left. At first they thought she must have had TB at some stage of her life. Turns out the radiation had burned and shrivelled her lungs! When she caught a bad cold – that last few days of her life off my stepfather’s littlies who were visiting while she was looking after mine – her immune system was severely compromised (which I was only vaguely aware of, as Mum let nothing slow her down) and she was medivac-ed off her island home to Auckland Hospital later that night. She died the next morning despite heroic efforts to save her with every antibiotic known to man. I had seen her the day before, as I called and decided to pick the kids up early, which she agreed with. That was a bit of a warning sign. She would NEVER freely give up time with the kids! I got up there, ferried across to her and found her crook in bed with “the ‘flu,” and I just thought she needed rest and quiet. So I hung out her washing, and gathered the kids and their belongings and crept out, giving her (unbeknownst to me, of course) one last kiss on the cheek.
Her husband rang me early (6ish) in the morning and told me she was flown to hospital overnight. I said, “I’m on my way.” He said “no, she’s stable for now, she’ll be okay, come see her when she is conscious, I’ll call you.” Only about an hour later he rang me again and said, “you better get here now.” So I quickly found my FIL to look after the kids and hopped in the car. I drove down the farm to find TOIL, he thought I was mad, I had only driven up there the previous day, Mum was fine. I drove up there, a little “panicky” and recall so clearly the point on the motorway, about twenty minutes from the hospital, when I just calmed. Turns out I missed her by twenty minutes. I believe it was Mum ensuring I got to the hospital in city traffic safely.
So, she went within twelve hours of her GP making a house call (I know, house call, gotta love island life!) to her at around ten the previous night. Quickly, and before her time, but still beautiful, and vibrant. That’s how I prefer to look at it, not as terrible loss, but at what we did have, the time we did have and the love she shared and taught us.
Love you always, Marilyn xoxoxo