Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mum's birthday

was yesterday. She's 74! Yikes, my mother is 74 and she was 22 when I was born! A sobering thought.

Last year I got confused about the international dateline; I rang her to wish a happy birthday a day late. Well it was March 8 my time but March 9 her time. A poor excuse as it happens, given that I know very well, and have known for quite some years, about time zones. I still enjoy telling Americans that they are the last people in the world to enter a new day!

I rang Mum today on the right day, courtesy of being in The Philippines and a mere three hours behind Melbourne. In Melbourne Summertime Phoenix is 18 hours behind Melbourne!

We were never a particularly demonstrative family. I don't think Mum and I have ever said we loved each other. It still jars on my nerves to hear Morgan say to her mother 'I love you.', particularly when I don't believe a word that comes out of her mouth. But even if I did believe what she says I have to admit that it would still jar to hear those words; we never said them.

Which isn't to say that we don't love each other. We just don't say the words. Since I never grew up with the words it follows that I'm not comfortable with hearing them. Even my wife and I don't use the words though I'm sure she would given half a chance.

I don't think of my mother as being a septuagenerian. She's Mum. That cheery woman who wiped my bum when it needed wiping and who taught me self sufficiency. I remember when I was six years old and bored. 'Mum, what can I do?' A question asked in 1960 just after my father had died and she was doing the ironing. She endured patiently enough for a while but the fiftieth time was once too many; she took the glass of water she'd been dabbing onto the ironing and threw it in my face. Only the water.

Stated that way it sounds terrible; child abuse anyone? But remembering the incident I can only think of it affectionately. Even at the time I can remember first surprise and then laughing. An adult throwing a glass of water at someone? Risible. I'm not imposing adult judgements on a childhood memory; I really did find it funny. That's my Mum!

Another time, in the chill of a Melbourne Winter, I'd just got out of a warm bath. 'Mum, what do I do now?'. Mum answered 'go stand outside the backdoor.'. So I did. My grandmother was shocked. I shivered a bit but I'm here to relate the story.

My mum's a cool elderly lady who had a hard life and who hopes to live another two decades. I hope she does too. I had the ill grace, during tonights phone call, to order her to live another 3 months minimum. If she does that she'll have outlived my grandmother. We talked a bit about that; Mum was surprised that Gran had died as young as 74. As she described it, she'd always thought of Gran (my fathers mother) as a very old woman. Well, she was for a 22 year old in the early 1950's. A forty year age difference at that age is a lot.

A few years ago Mum survived stomach cancer. A surgical procedure that took more than half her stomach worked and to this day she eats very small meals about six times a day!

It's been a standing joke in the family for at least 20 years that Mum will bury Misery Guts (my stepfather) and then blow the entire family inheritance enjoying life. We'd sit around the dinner table at Christmas and joke about it and my second wife thought it the height of bad manners. I really hope Mum does do it. She deserves it.

Mum? I love you. Keep on kicking and enjoying life!

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