Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mothers day: My mother is one tough old bird!

The last few months have been quite tough and I suffered a lot of emotional stress.
Then I thought: Do I really have it so bad?

My mother is just short of 82. Born before WWII. Helped German and Italian POWs during the war as a child. Got married in 1955. Turns out not so good an idea. The man, my father, was a well spoken, educated and intelligent man. Unfortunately he was also deeply flawed. Psychologically and physically abusive to his children and his wife. Changed our family name and dragged us half way across the world to avoid being involved in some nasty business in the UK. Treated us and my mother like sh*t. And bragged about how he had made us all tough. We all left early.

Except my mother. "Better the devil you know..." she would say. So she stayed with him for 50 years enduring personal poverty while he wasted money on extravagant and just plain stupid projects that never made money.

Then he died. A sigh of relief. She was alone with him when it happened. In a caravan park in a tiny outback town in South Australia. Waited there while my siblings travelled thousands of miles across the country by car to get her, drive their car and caravan back those thousands of miles and arrange the cremation. I was in the UK and unable to help.

But she persevered and was still powering around making friends and getting stuff done. When her health started to fail, she moved to the Gold Coast to be closer to us and bought a house with the meagre results of her marriage.

Then she got a cancerous polyp in her nasal cavity.
Then her kidneys failed.
Then we found out she had an aneurysm this size of a fist on her iliac artery.
Then she had a cancerous growth on her forehead.
(Update) Oh. I forgot. She had to have her left big toe amputated. We drew dotted lines around it for the surgeon. My mum was amused. The surgeon was not.
Then the doctor said she had no more than 18 months to live.
Then we found out her lungs are on their last gasp.
Then she was put on the no resuscitate list so that if she started to bleed internally she would get morphine and be allowed to die without pain.

All of which had little or no effect on her outlook and sheer bloody mindedness to get on with life. I help when I can by taking her to dialysis and being present at medical discussions because she's almost deaf.

So at 81, she was carting a bucket of water out the back door and tripped up. Smashed her face into the outdoor table and broke her knee on the concrete. Undeterred and uncaring of her injury, she continued to do what she intended to do. Then went back inside and started a load of washing. And took out a basket of clothes and put it up on the line. "Because it needs doing for Gods sake!"

When the ambulance arrived she was still standing up pegging clothes. With a broken knee.

As I said. Tough.

So off to hospital. They don't use casts anymore, so she had this velcro thing around her leg. Two days later the nurse caught her walking up and down the corridors "To help heal the knee. Doesn't hurt *that* much." So we had to get her a walker. And every time I visited her she demanded that I take her downstairs for a smoke.

So frickin' what? She's 81. She's a grown woman with a mind of her own which is as sharp as a razor blade. I'm not going to argue with her. So off we went to the designated smoking area.

For weeks now, she'd been struggling to get into my car when I took her to dialysis. She won't accept help getting in and out. I wanted to, but she's a tad scornful of physical help. I could see she had some sort of back pain and knew she'd been taking the occasional panadol for it.

The we found out she'd fractured her spine. Months ago. Frickin' hell. She's been walking around, getting in and out of cars, having dialysis three times a week and even doing the shopping. With a frickin' fractured spine!

Again. Tough.

So the next time you moan about having to go to a Mothers Day lunch or complain about a stubbed toe think of her. 81. Tough as nails, full of life, making jokes and taking it on the chin.

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