There are no pictures of my mother and me up on the walls of our house. I talked about my father briefly here, but never mentioned my mother. The truth is my father’s life and death can be condensed into a story in my mind, but my mother’s presence and influence in my life is much more complicated.
My mother is a poetic intellectual who believes in choices and who has supported me endlessly through oftentimes seemingly insane decisions. To give an example, some years ago I asked to go back to university in the UK newly blind, living alone in a new house and on monthly chemotherapy pulses. My mother didn’t even blink. She flew with me to the UK and left me crying and petrified on a train platform, unsure I even knew how to get home. She must have been terrified when she got on that train. I knew that then too, but now as a parent myself I get chills even thinking about it. But she respected my choice and loved me enough to allow me the freedom of it. By the end of that year I was confident and knowledgeable enough to be able to take a train and boat by myself and cross Europe, blind and on chemo.
The following year I couldn’t walk and was in a wheelchair. She drove me, a cane, a wheelchair and my dog, single-handedly through Europe to take me back to my house in the UK. Then she drove back home. Five years ago I confessed to her I wouldn’t be able to live by myself anymore, that my medical reality was such that I needed help to live a semi-independent life. In response she packed up all her things, a lifetime of things, left the only country she’s ever known and all her friends, her life, and moved across the continent so I could have a shot at the life I chose.
The day I found out I was pregnant with Dot my mother was in the house with me. When the test turned positive I screamed for her, paralysed about all the unknowns and risks a pregnancy would bring. She was outside the room with a good friend of ours when I was giving birth, through those five days and nights that went so very wrong. She was next to me in the operating room and while I haemorrhaged, my blood pressure crashed and doctors were panicking, she was the first person to hold my daughter. In that operating room, when the doctor handed Dot to her she sang a Greek lullaby while she held her so the first sound in Dot’s life would be joyous.
I can never undo the deep sorrow she feels for my medical situation and for Dot’s. The only thing I can do is try as hard as I can to honour her, her love and her sacrifice. And love her. And learn from her and the complexities of her character and spirit.
So today and every day I am so deeply grateful for my mother’s presence and example in my life.