Tag Archives: mother

Losing Mum. Part 2.

I have wanted to write this for a very long time whilst at the same time really really not wanting to. It’s more of a need than a want I suppose. I need to write it down. I don’t want to because it will hurt but if I don’t then I will forget and that hurts more. It is an itch I need to scratch, a scab that must come off. A purely selfish act.

How someone dies isn’t who they were. It is the end of who they are but not the end of them entirely. They live on through us, through their deeds and actions and so in turn they are part of us. Not just genetically but through the connection that they made with us whilst we were here together. Their death hurts us. We feel their absence. They have been ripped away from our timeline. We grieve not for what we have lost but for what we can no longer have. For what we cannot share with them any more.

So this is what has taken me eight years to write down. It isn’t a perfect account but sometimes it is okay for things and people to be good enough. I hope it is good enough.

Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes)

25th September 1944 – 7th December 2006

It was 10am ish and I was at home in Swindon, still lazing about in bed thinking about Christmas. So looking forward to going home to Northamptonshire to spend it with my parents, my sister and her husband and my husband Ben’s family. I was still so happy after our wedding that October and I had spoken to Mum the night before to tell her that Ben and I were trying for a baby.

It had been a funny phone call. Mum called me from her home in France (she and Dad lived there part of the year and Northants the rest) to tell me that she was having a 70s dinner party that night. She was ridiculously excited because she had managed to track down a Black Forest gateau which she felt was an essential for the evening and we laughed about it, reminiscing about 1970s food – prawn cocktails and cheese and pineapple hedgehogs. I told her we were trying for a baby, it would be her first grandchild. She was over the moon and I pictured her face and her reaction when I would tell her I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait!

At the end of the phone call she said “goodbye darling” which you might think normal. But it wasn’t. She phoned me and my sister almost daily and Vikki will vouch for me on this that she always ended her calls with “I love you! Speak soon!”. I know it’s easy to say with hindsight but it felt wrong. I rang her back with a made up excuse about a recipe I needed and made her say it. “I love you”.

Daydreaming about all the fun there was to come I suddenly snapped back to reality as I heard the front door open and close again just as suddenly with a bang. I froze, remembering that I was in bed not properly dressed, listening to the footsteps thundering up the stairs.

Suddenly my darling husband Ben appeared in the bedroom doorway. His face was grey and he had obviously been crying. I remember him saying “Your Dad rang me, it’s your Mum…..” His voice trailed off and in that moment I knew. I knew that he wasn’t going to say that there had been an accident or that Mum was in hospital. My beautiful, brave and wonderful man, my best friend in all the world, had come home to give me the most devastating news.

Before he could speak I said “Please don’t say it please. Please let me not know just for a minute longer please…” Then there was just silence and then the words came “Your Mum had a heart attack this morning…I’m so so sorry baby….she died this morning…..”

I don’t remember much then. Just beating his chest as he tried to comfort me and pushing him away as if somehow by saying it he had made it happen and that this was not real, it couldn’t be real and I could hear screaming over and over. It was a while before I realised it was me.

I don’t know how long it took before I could speak coherently. When I finally could though I remember saying that we had to drive to Northamptonshire immediately. In my grief I had forgotten entirely that they had been in France.

Finally I spoke to Dad. He had called Ben at work because he didn’t want to tell me whilst I was home alone. He could barely talk and when he did he said “I need you princess please come”.

I remember speaking to my sister, both of us sobbing down the phone, barely able to understand each other but knowing that we had to be together somehow. She and my brother in law drove from Milton Keynes whilst Ben silently booked flights and a hire car and I randomly threw things into a suitcase.

I went next door to see my neighbours and sobbed in my dressing gown and pyjamas whilst sitting on their sofa. I went back home and called my ex husband and we cried together as I knew he had kept in touch with her and that they were still very fond of each other. I rang my best friends and they listened with disbelief.

My sister finally arrived and I remember running outside in bare feet and we stood there on my driveway holding onto each other for dear life, crying in the pouring rain.

We all drove together to Bristol airport. Queued to get on the plane with tears streaming down our faces. Once on board I had to explain to the air stewards that we weren’t terrified fliers but that our Mum had just died. They left us alone and we drank gin to dull the pain.

Somehow Ben and Pete found the hire car in the dark and managed to navigate us to La Pistoule, Mum’s beautiful home in France.

Dad was waiting for us on the steps, his hands clamped tightly over his mouth as he tried to hold in the grief that threatened to burst forth at the loss of his dearest Jenny, his best friend and love of his life. His wife was gone and so was our Mum. Forever.

Then he told us.

It had been 10 hours since Ben came home to tell me she had died and Mum’s body was laid out in their bedroom upstairs. She would be there overnight. They would collect her in the morning. He thought that we would want to say goodbye.

We didn’t want to see her like that. We wanted to remember her how she was. She didn’t look like her. They had already embalmed her and she looked like a waxwork. I couldn’t even look at her properly. I wanted to kiss her, to touch her but I couldn’t. I was paralysed with fear and grief and I knew that she would feel cold and wrong and dead.

My sister collapsed sobbing in the doorway. I knelt at Mum’s bedside unable to touch her or look at her.

I barely slept that night knowing she was only a wall apart from me and Dad slept on the sofa in the upstairs lounge outside their room.

The next morning Stephanie, Mum’s friend, their gardener, came in to see Mum with me and talked quietly to me in French and held me whilst we cried together. She had seen the bodies of her relatives laid out before when they had passed away but we hadn’t and we were unprepared and it scared us in our grief. I regret not holding her hand one last time and not kissing her goodbye but I couldn’t and I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

It was years later when I finally got help for my second lot of Post Natal Illness that I discovered that I was also suffering from untreated PTSD. The two combined meant a misdiagnosis of Bipolar disorder which has since been revoked but not before I struggled through weeks of taking anti-psychotics and anti-depressants whilst trying to look after a 3 year old and a baby. This was no-one’s fault and I don’t blame my Dad at all. He was grief stricken and was coping in the only way he knew how. He thought it was the right thing to do.

The coroners came to take Mum away down the steps that led from her bedroom to the gravelled side garden. Vikki and I hid until they had done it. We couldn’t bear it.

Afterwards we went to clear up in their bedroom. We found her nightdress cut to shreds and the empty adrenaline needles and packets in the waste paper bin. We had to try to piece together in our minds exactly what had happened as Dad wouldn’t tell us much at all. He still can’t talk about it even now, eight years later. We wish he would, he thinks he is protecting us but not knowing is worse. We have to respect his choice though and his right to privacy no matter how hard it is not knowing the full story of Mum’s final moments.

We stayed at the house for over a week in the end I think, maybe two. There were tears and fights and dark times. I smoked too much and couldn’t eat properly. It was December and so cold and the only slippers Vikki and I could find to buy were giant blue monster ones which looked wrongly comical starkly contrasted with our pale, heartbroken faces. Dad, Vikki and I divided a long list of family and friends between us and took turns calling them all to tell them Mum had died. It was horrible, reliving our pain through them and hearing them unable to speak and some, like us, screaming in shock.

We arranged for Mum’s body to be repatriated back to England with the help of a wonderful English lady who dealt with that sort of thing but the airline lost the paperwork and everything was made all the more difficult.

Dad initially wanted her cremated but we couldn’t bear that as we knew she had always wanted to be buried in the Lake District, in the Langdale valley with her parents. In the mountains that she loved. So we pushed for the funeral there which it finally was but not until the 23rd of December. And not until after we had re identified her body at the hospital in Kendal where they had to do a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. I remember my sister crying and saying in a very small voice “Dad why won’t she wake up, why can’t my Mummy wake up”. It was devastating all over again.

Mum had died of a fatal heart attack. She had severe sclerosis of the arteries of her heart. She had smoked up until 2 years before her death and she drank and ate what she liked and never exercised in later years. She knew she wasn’t well, she couldn’t walk far. We all begged her to go to the doctors about it especially as she’d had two minor strokes (TIAs). She wouldn’t. She didn’t want to know. She used to say “I don’t want to get old and dribbly and if I go mad just stick me in a home, I won’t know after all will I?” So congratulations Mum, you did it your way in the end as you always did. At home, in your own bed, in your sleep.

I wrote the eulogy with Dad’s help, he couldn’t face it and I stood up with Ben supporting me and read it in the Church in Chapel Stile. I felt like I was floating a over my body watching myself speak whilst praying that my body wouldn’t fail me, I knew an MS attack was imminent. I still couldn’t believe it was happening.

I still can’t.

I just kept thinking that she wanted Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” played at her funeral and that Vikki and I had promised her and we didn’t do it because Dad didn’t want to. I still feel that I let her down.

I remember us all trying to have Christmas together at their house in Northamptonshire, ironically now only 15 minutes from where we live. It was an awful time, like we were actors in a very very bad play. I remember standing at the kitchen sink with Ben’s Mum and asking her “when will it stop hurting so much?” As her Mum had died only a few years previously. She looked away and replied “you really don’t want me to answer that”.

I realised that the reason we all loved Christmas so much was Mum. She was our Christmas. She loved it so much. It was a long time before I did again.

Mum was 62 when she died.

She never met her Grandchildren – my children Isobel Jennifer Rose, Jack Alfred Roger and my Sister’s son Mason. She never saw them take their first steps or in their uniforms ready for their first days at school.

She didn’t see me run the Race for Life 10k twice last year after my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis 14 years ago. She didn’t see my Sister train to work at the preschool she is currently at after finishing all her qualifications. She never saw me finally pass my driving test. She never saw me and my sister finally come through the worst of our years fighting mental illness. She never saw us become Mums.

She did see us both marry our loves though and I know that she died believing we were safe and cherished.

We miss her and we always will.

Mum, I am so sorry you never got to spend your retirement years with Dad as you planned with your Grandchildren around you. I wish you were here to guide me and comfort me. I wish I had been given the chance to repay everything that your gave to me and sacrificed for me. I wish that I had said thank you more. I wish that I had said goodbye….you did say goodbye though didn’t you? I just wasn’t ready to hear it…..

Goodbye Mum.

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Survival and my Mum part one

As you know, I’ve been a bit sorry for myself lately – physically and emotionally. Okay. I’ve been having a massive pity party but you know sometimes it helps to get it all out. Sometimes it doesn’t and we need to work through it by ourselves and it’s good to know the difference.

I’m far from perfect though and can’t always tell the difference but writing helps me and it’s cheaper than therapy! I know I have a long way to go to work through all my crap but hey, I’m a work in progress and this work in progress needs to start thinking happy thoughts.

A lot of this had been because I miss my Mum. A lot. Like every day a lot. She was my best friend and she understood me and my baggage in the way that only a Mum can. She stuck by me through everything and I always knew she loved me no matter what dreadful shit I put her through.

I often spend too much time feeling sad because she isn’t here and because I don’t get to share all the new amazing things that happen every day with her. She isn’t here for me to ask for her always incredibly wise opinion. She isn’t here to ask about great recipe ideas when I have totally lost my cooking mojo. She isn’t here to ask for the parenting advice I desperately need. But most of all she isn’t here to be the Nana that she so dearly wanted to be to her Grandchildren.

But then I started to think the other day that actually she is here isn’t she? After all I am half her! I have all the memories of all the years she was here too! So I am going to try and remember all the fun and awesome stuff about my Mum so that I don’t forget because sometimes I feel her memory slipping away and it scares me. I find it harder and harder to hear her voice and the way she hugged me tight. I don’t want that to happen because she was a very special lady.

I will write about what happened when she died but I’m not ready yet, certainly not at the moment.

So here’s some stuff about my Mum, to help keep her alive, because sometimes I pretend she is and I pretend I could just pick up the phone and she’d be there. It’s not denial. I know I can’t really do that but it is survival and we all have to do that in whatever form it takes.

My Mum was Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes) She liked to be called Jenny and this year she would have been 70 on the 25th September. We would have done something special for her I like to think because she did love to have fun.

I have a great memory of her headbanging to Queen at my wedding with my dear friend Sue who also sadly passed away after my Mum. I like to imagine that they are being drunk and disorderly somewhere together with gin and Freddy Mercury.

Mum loved Queen and she wanted ‘Don’t stop me now’ played at her funeral but I couldn’t pull that one off as my dear Dad just couldn’t. I still feel to this day that I let her down on that one and am still trying to think up a way to make up for it.

She also loved her red Audi TT roadster and she drove around very cautiously in it with Freddy blasting out very very loudly. She wanted to be buried in it but I couldn’t pull that one off either, sorry Mum.

She really liked gin. See? I take after her…

She was very very funny and had a dreadfully infectious laugh. Once she started that was that. I remember being in France with the whole family and we were a bit tipsy at a café where a mariachi band were playing. The trumpet player was definitely wearing a wig which unfortunately for him seemed intent upon rotating around on his head as he enthusiastically jigged about. This caused Mum to shout ‘WIGGY’ at every possible break in the music and then promptly look around innocently. Naughty Mum.

I had an Art teacher in high school who’s name was Mr G Bennett. I told Mum his christian name was Gordon and she came home extremely red faced from parents’ evening. It was Graham. Sorry Mum, it was just too good to pass up! She was trying very hard not to laugh whilst pretending to be cross.

Talking of parents’ evenings there was one rather special one where I had drawn a lovely picture of Mum and written a piece about how great she was and that she didn’t even jump on chair when we got mice in the house. It was the same parents’ evening where my sister had drawn a picture of Mum and Dad holding what appeared to be martini glasses with the caption ‘My Mum likes to drink a lot’. I remember her saying “So your teachers now think we are alcoholics living in a vermin infested house!! Great!!”.

Once Mum and I got so drunk at a Christmas party in our village that Dad had to get the car to bring us home. We lived about 300 metres away. I blame a certain Mr B and the vodka. well that was our excuse anyway. I was 16 and thought it was just orange juice. Oops. Oh well it was the 80s, it wasn’t such a nanny state then!! Sorry Dad.

Mum loved parties. She also loved food and was an incredible cook who could always rustle something up out of nothing. Her Christmas dinners were especially legendary! She studied home economics and needlework at college despite going on to teach Special Needs later in life before she retired early. She wanted to help my husband look after me after my diagnosis of MS.

She told me that a college assignment she once had was to knit a pair of gloves. She and her classmates suspected that the teacher had her favourites so they decided to repeatedly submit the same pair of gloves as they didn’t have to be all handed in at the same time. They all got different grades. She was right. She hated injustice. She told me that when she left college she sprayed FUCK YOU in weed killer on the grass bank facing the main building. I hope that was true and knowing Mum it probably was!

She loved Science fiction and read Asimov when it wasn’t cool and she went on to introduce me to Star Trek, Dune and Star Wars. I remember queuing in the pouring rain in Ambleside in the Lake District with her to watch The Empire Strikes back only to be turned away because the tiny cinema was full. We were devastated although still got to see it when we got home to Suffolk. I still remember both of us nearly in tears and so began my life long love of Star Wars which my children and thankfully my husband share with me.

She loved my husband and affectionately called him Big Chick much to his embarrassment and amusement. She often did it absentmindedly in restaurants for some reason and I remember when she died Ben saying broken heartedly between sobs “who’s going to say Big Chick pass the salt?”.

She made everything fun, especially Christmas. I remember feeling like all the fun had been sucked out of it as I realised that it was her that made Christmas fun. This was a few weeks after her death on the 7th of December 2006, barely 2 months after mine and Ben’s wedding. It took a long time and two children to help get that back. She always spent weeks choosing exactly the right gifts for everyone and she got it pretty perfect every time.

When I was in my twenties and had come home for Christmas one year, I woke up abruptly at 5am with her jumping on my bed. I asked her what the hell she was doing to which she replied “Revenge darling, revenge! For all the years you woke me on Christmas Day far too early!” whilst giggling.

So if you wonder where my refusal to grow old gracefully and my slightly strange sense of humour come from, as well as my love of gin, Sci Fi and the generally bizarre now you know….

She loved Monty Python, Spike Milligan, Billy Connolly and Only Fools and Horses. She loved my Dad so much she once said looking at him was like looking at a beautiful painting she could never tire of and she was fiercely but silently jealous of any woman who so much as glanced his way. She loved my sister and I more than her own life. She found life painful, rarely watched the news because she couldn’t bear the hatred and the hurt in the world. She was kind and gentle and couldn’t deal with conflict or disputes. She just wanted everyone to be happy.

She made us happy and for the time I got to spend with her I will forever be grateful. I wish that I had told her more often just how incredibly special she was and how I could never repay all the things that she gave up and did for me. I wish I could have said goodbye. I hope she knew just how much we loved her and still do.

I will try to remember her every day and for the memories to hurt less and make me smile more.

There is so much more but then isn’t that exactly how it should be?

Not how she died but how she lived. With joy and laughter and love and kindness.

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Confessions…..

I made a mental note a while ago to write about confessions. I felt I needed to ‘fess up’ about some stuff in a light hearted jovial way which might prompt you all to join in if you felt the need. Nothing too heavy I thought, I’ve been getting a bit deep and meaningful of late. Of course my mind then spiralled into all sorts as it inevitably does, it would appear that I am just made that way however I will try…..

I am scared of the dark. Yup I am 40 years old and I am scared of the dark. Like, turning the light off and dive bombing into bed when my husband is away with work (because we all know the duvet has a special built in forcefield that will protect us from all kinds of nasty) kind of scared.

Too scared to drive in the dark unless I absolutely have no choice and can talk to someone on the phone car kit all the way. Mainly my fault because I watched THAT episode of CSI with the super bendy black latex gimp suit wearing serial killer who hid in the spare wheel well in his victims boot and then freakishly climbed out and murdered the poor woman whilst she was in the car wash. I really wish I hadn’t watched that. I check the boot before I get in, frequently.

I am scared of driving on Motorways. After years of procrastination I learnt to drive and finally passed my test on my daughter’s 1st birthday in October 2008. It was a seminal moment in my life – freedom at last – and I imagined all the adventures we would go on together. It seems however that I am a bit of a scaredy cat in the motorway department plus I am scared of the dark – did I mention that? I can do it in good light and minimal traffic if I am feeling 100%. Perish the day when I’m not and an emergency means I have to down a bottle of Rescue Remedy and hit the road. I will need therapy afterwards.

I am scared of getting lost. A lovely friend once told me that there was very little unchartered territory in the UK so provided I had a map or could ask someone I should be okay. I like her optimism. I have zero sense of direction and rely way too heavily on my sat nav which also appears to have a diminished sense of direction and very strange ideas of sensible routes. My husband says it’s rubbish and ancient which makes me love it all the more. It is a bit wonky like me. You know those tales parents tell of heart in mouth moments when they’ve lost their precious child for a split second or worse, longer? I asked my Dad once about that he replied “I never lost you ever, you were never out of my sight.” Interesting – is there a correlation there I wonder?  Or does he have a selective memory? Or did Mum just never tell him? I lost one of my kids in the house the other day – for a good 5 minutes (it felt like about 15). He was hiding in the wardrobe pooping in his pants. Special. This is also a blog for another day…..ah Encopresis you old fucker leave my poor boy alone.

So, talking of parenthood here comes the BIGGY of all confessions – I can’t help but feel that is the perfect word to use due to the title of my blog as I think of another equally lovely friend who told me her kids call doing a poo a biggy. I love it….

Sometimes (by which I mean much more than once a day) I think I shouldn’t have had children. Not because they aren’t completely awesome little people who light up my life as well as covering it in dollops but because I am not naturally maternal. I mean, I literally cheer when I drop the little darlings back at school after the holidays and sometimes do backflips just because it’s Monday. I am massively intolerant of kid mess/gunk. I don’t automatically love all children just because I have my own, don’t hate me. Soft play is actually my kryptonite and I am noise intolerant, suffer from sensory overload at the drop of a hat and can’t seem to be able to put on my special Mummy hat/face/demeanour at a moment’s notice when I am tired, frazzled and sleep deprived. I sigh at the prospect of craft activities, detest my baking being interfered with at times and I DO NOT DO SICK.

I love my children but I am not the sort of mother that I imagined I would be. Not that I spent a huge part of my life thinking about it I just knew I wanted children and therefore assumed that because I did I would be instantly marvellous at motherhood. Wrong. When I did think about it I imagined that of course I would be very cool. I would drive around in a camper van being all free-spirity with my little rugrats going to festivals and introducing them to all things alternative. We would make dens and mess and be barefoot and carefree and it would be awesome. Every day would be an incredible adventure. I would homeschool and not be beholden to “the Man”. I would make them cool clothes on my Mum’s old sewing machine and bake everything from scratch from food that I had grown myself. Simple.

No.

It turns out that my carefree gene only extends to myself and that presented with 2 small children I just want some co-operation plus peace and quiet. I want to be chilled out and cool about life but the reality is that I just worry about everything and have a parenting style which leaves a lot to be desired if I don’t want my children to rebel horribly and leave home as quickly as possible. I do love being a Mum but I honestly believe that I am shit at it. Don’t misunderstand me, I will pull your arm out of it’s socket with my teeth if you hurt my family in any way at all. I am that sort of maternal not the gentle, fluffy kind that I would like to be.

Sometimes I just want to be on my own, to read, write, drink tea and eat stuff I shouldn’t. I get to do that a lot more than a lot of Mums I know so I am aware how ungrateful that sounds. Maybe I should just go live in a cave or up a mountain. Like a hermit but with really great broadband and chocolate and things would stay clean for more than 1 minute.

Confessions are an odd thing aren’t they?  This could get really dark if we let it couldn’t it? Let’s not do that because that isn’t how we started and we all know we have secrets which are a whole different ball game. Instead I’d prefer to bob back up to the surface with a few more less serious ones and hope that you can add more to the list……

I hate roller-coasters and have no intention of sucking it up and going on one for my children.

I haven’t been sick since I was 7 years old as I have a phobia about it.

I shave my hairy toes.

I don’t really like peas but I eat them to set a good example. The small boy shaped one hates them so I must have a shit poker face.

I often wear socks several times as I just take them off and stuff them in my boots. Mr Moore says I am like a teenage boy.

Occasionally I wee in the shower. It’s liberating, I recommend it. Only in my own shower though not anyone else’s. I’m not that skanky.

Sometimes I forget to wash the kids for a few days…they don’t smell so it’s okay right?

I need to go on that hoarding programme. My house is a nightmare but I am going to deal with it. Now I have said that publicly it means I have to doesn’t it?

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