“Oh Lisa!”. My mum was mortified, shuffling quickly away from the display of artwork and casting my poor, totally oblivious, dad a sideways look. In doing so she’d probably drawn more attention to what was an innocent work of art by an eight year old than she’d intended. Below the carefully crafted picture was a description which read in my best joined-up ‘My mum’s name is Glen and she works in the bookies’. My mum was keeping up appearances long before Hyacinth Bucket came on the scene.
My mum was a force of nature. She would talk to anyone and I mean anyone…years of working in the aforementioned bookies had allowed her to hone her interpersonal skills like no one else. I remember trips to the supermarket taking much longer than the expected time on a regular basis, much to my despair, as we bumped into all the ‘regulars’. On holidays abroad, she could and would bump into people she knew. As kids, our drawing paper would be betting slips and we would have an endless supply of those little biros to write with – perfect for little hands.
She was generous to a fault and would always be buying people little treats and making them feel special. When I was away at uni, she would make an annual Christmas visit with advent calendars for everyone and a festive crate of Stella. When I finally settled ‘up north’, she loved coming to visit as she thought everyone was so friendly and this created endless conversational opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong; she was imperfect just like the rest of us. She loved to shop, sometimes without thinking about the consequences for her bank balance. She was possibly one of the world’s worst drivers and would have my sister and I cringing in the backseat as she berated other motorists, accompanied by various hand gestures and the words ‘Peace, brother!’ She was obsessive about housework and would leave a daily note for my dad, reading ‘Hoover and dust’ (I still love the smell of Pledge now!). I don’t think mum had the easiest of childhoods, growing up with two parents who didn’t particularly like each other. While my nan was the loveliest of nans to my sister and I, I don’t think my mum ever felt that she lived up to her high expectations.
When my dad died, it was hard for her to get on with life. They’d been married for nearly 40 years. From that point, my mum, my sister and I became ‘The Three Musketeers’ My mum would phone me every night to run through everything from the mundanities of her working day through to what was on the telly. This became a part of my own daily routine and if she didn’t ring I’d be worrying about her.
In true mum-style, she struck up a great friendship with my new northern next-door neighbour and would come up and visit us on a regular basis. She loved my then new boyfriend, now husband, and treated him like the son she’d never had. When she found out she was going to be a ‘Nanny’, her words were once again ‘Oh Lisa!’ but as soon as she saw her new grandson for the first time, he won her heart. Whilst all this was going on, she’d been back and forth to the doctors with niggling tummy troubles and on New Year’s Eve when #1 son was five months old, my sister called me to say that it was Ovarian Cancer. The bottom dropped out of my world right then.
If anything, her diagnosis gave her the biggest kick up the bum and she had a new lease of life, going out more, socialising and booking holidays left, right and centre. In one last selfish act, she didn’t want to know what her prognosis was and just got on with living. Her final holiday was a ‘Tinsel and Turkey’ vacay. One week later, on the darkest of November evenings, my sister and I were shepherded into a room by a kindly-faced nurse, who told us that our lovely mum had died. Just an hour earlier, she’d told my sister and I to ‘sod off’ in not so many words, demanding that my sister get her some more Christmas shopping money out of the bank. She missed the arrival of her second grandson by two months.
So when Mothers Day comes around, it’s always a day of mixed feelings. My boys love it and put so much effort into making it a nice day, but it’s not always easy to be light-hearted when someone’s missing. Seeing Mothers Day cards in the shops can always make me cry; there’s something about not having anyone to send one to…it just makes the day seem a little less complete.
This year I’ll be spending Mothers Day with my sister and our husbands and our wayward children in Cornwall. I’ve no doubt that mum and her crazy antics will crop up in conversation at some point; my boys love to hear about her. By keeping her alive in their memories, I’m helping myself as well and talking about her is my favourite way to remember her. She was larger than life which makes the hole she left that bit harder to fill. If there are a few tears on Mothers Day, it will be because I miss her and I know that was lucky to have her.
If, like me, you’ll be missing your mum on Mothers Day, I’d just say be kind to yourself, expect the day to have its ups and downs and go with the flow. I imagine if my mum were reading this now, there’d be another ‘Oh Lisa!’ on the way.
You can find more of my ruminations on life, parenting and gratuitous wine shots over on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you there x