Do children root you somewhere, tether you to a place and time? I have no mother and no children, and sometimes it’s like having no ceiling and no floor.
My mother died when I was 18, but she’d been ill for a few years. In the end I put her to sleep myself, encouraged by a blubbering district nurse. It was a dark winter’s evening just before Christmas, and my mother was in her own bed, the dog nearby.
‘Give her some more….. more than that!’.
She was in distress, mute, but wouldn’t die. I was her carer, in charge of her brown glass bottle of diamorphine and little plastic shot glass, on a surprisingly casual repeat prescription.
Years later my cool friend told me it was liquid heroin: I was stunned.
There was no drip or anything that bleeped, only a framework placed over her like a tent because the sheets hurt her bones and made her bray in pain. (Our miserable cardigan-clad neighbours said they heard it through the walls).
She was 39.
It was macabre, nothing redeeming or Hollywood film-like about it. My father went mad, then bailed on us. I walked into the world with severe shell-shock, convinced I’d be dead by 39 (it’s a common reaction, apparently). I didn’t make plans easily. Shrugged in the face of high salaries and pensions. I already felt too old for all that.
And I was dead set against having kids.
I was too young and too busy in my 20s for any of it to register properly. By my late-30s, though, I started to want to get phone-calls from my mum. I had alienated those closest to me after being diagnosed with endometriosis and launching into a semi-secret, panicky phase of unexpected fertility treatment:
DID I now want children after all? HAD I made a terrible mistake not trying sooner?
Surely my mum would have been the one who kept on phoning and didn’t judge me, or hate me for being obnoxious when I was at my lowest ebb. I was her child. But of course she didn’t ring, and then eventually no one did.
Because who rings anyone these days, apart from mums?
I know mothers can be burdensome. Mine wasn’t particularly affectionate. But it’s strange to be free-floating, with no one below you and no one above you. You can be rooted sideways, to your partner, to siblings and their children, but still feel like you don’t belong anywhere.
I don’t believe in God. But he makes an appearance sometimes when I’m struck low, and then I curse him.
Because sometimes I feel doubly ripped off, and I wish my mum would get in touch.
Just to see what she turned out like.
1951 – 1990