It’s Mothers day here in the UK, or to be more correct for my pedantic friends, Mothering Sunday. This was the one day each year that the serving staff were given off so they could go home and visit their mothers. Well that means that I’ve had to let all the staff go to their respective homes, here at Sheppard Towers and I am alone attempting to fend for myself. I hope I can make this single candle I’ve found last until they come back. Maybe I can find a husk of dry bread somewhere…
Anyway, I thought I’d share some memories about my mother who died in March 2006. I know it doesn’t fit into one of my three topics but there it is.
When we children came along, Mum gave up her job at the Post Office to look after us. That meant she was always there for us. On leaving the house for school we kissed her farewell and on arriving home again we called her name to hear her answering call, not because we needed anything particular, just so that we knew that she was there and all was still well with the world.
We knew Mum loved us and was interested in us. I confess that my childhood memories are few but I remember one scene in which I was coming home from school. Something had happened there and I was very upset. Very upset and yet still being brave. I was walking through the several alley ways en-route home. Brave, being brave, being upset but holding it together. Courage, Craig be brave, don’t let the tears out. I came around the last corner to home and there was Mum, for some reason walking up the road towards me. At the sight of her I could hold it no longer, the dam broke and tears poured forth. With a forlorn wail I ran into her waiting arms and was comforted.
There were times that we children didn’t want to attend school, usually because we’d not done our homework and would get into trouble with a teacher. This cut no ice with Mum. We should have done it instead of our usual faffing around so we needed to go and face the consequences of our actions. If we were sick, it was another matter.
I remember not wanting to go to school on one of those occasions. Mum had resisted my pleas to stay home and sent me on my way. I’d found that by focussing my attention very hard on my stomach I could feel an ache in my stomach that I sufficient to report to Mum still being honest, just about. That was important. We had always been taught that we needed to be honest in all our dealings. On this occasion, I focussed and focussed and walked around the block, returning home with a sad countenance to report still feeling stick.
Mum took me in and as I was sick gave me a cup of powdered Brewers Yeast powder mixed with water to drink. Brewers yeast is highly rich in the complete vitamin B complex and was very nutritious. It would be bound to help me get better soon. I must make clear here, Mum knew her “medication” was as much a warning to next time as a remedy. Brewers yeast was absolutely disgusting to drink. Awfully bad. Yuch!
Having given me the “medicine”, I was then sent to bed for the day and “in order to help my stomach rest and heal” was made to fast for the rest of the day. Finally, I was made to rest the complete day, so unable to attend any evening activities.
From then on we had to be serious about staying home from school. We had to decide if it was worth it. Difficult decisions.
When I was born, I was born with clubbed feet. In case you don’t know what that is, it is where the feet are turned in to the centre and on edge. Imagine two putting clubs facing each other. That was my feet. This was back in 1958 and the doctors said there was nothing they could do. I would grow up confined to a wheel chair.
This couldn’t be right, thought Mum. There must be something that can be done. She thought and prayed about this long and hard. The impression came to her that she could do something. She could massage and manipulate my feet, stretching the muscles and guiding their growth so that they would become properly working feet. She had no training on this but felt the she would be guided in doing the right things and so set to work.
There followed at least eight years of daily (perhaps twice daily) physio sessions on my feet. Sometimes I’d cry “No, Mum, I don’t want to, don’t make me!” with tears running down my face. What a baby I was! I can only think now how hard it must have been for Mum, having to spend so much time, having to persevere with no thanks from me. It really required dedication, love and a long view on life. She was creative in finding new exercises for me. I remember that we had an alcove on one side of the fireplace. I had to sit there and try to walk my feet up the wall, as high as they could go while keeping my feet flat on the wall with Mum urging me on to further heights.
Today, my ankles are still pretty weak and stiff. When I’m up on tip toes I still only manage to get my heels an inch off the ground. But other than that I’m good to go. I play football on a Saturday morning and squash during the week. I visited an osteopath once when my ankles were aching badly and on hearing the story, he described my feet as modern miracles. I think of what could have been and bless her name.
Just a few more stories and then I’ll quit. Mum was always interested in people. Somehow, when our friends came around, she’d end up talking to them and asking in depth and personal questions. Yet these heart to heart conversations did not make them want to avoid her. Indeed the opposite was true. We, my siblings and I, were running a dance for 18 to 26 year old’s at church. After the dance, the weather became foggy and we found places for many attendees to stay. There were a number, however, that wouldn’t stay anywhere else – only in our home. We had people sleeping everywhere, even in the hallways and on the landing mid way down the stairs. In the morning, Mum and Dad got up, and seeing so many sleeping bodies around, simply announced it was pancakes for breakfast that day. There was a great spirit of acceptance and welcome to all, engendered by my parents and particularly by Mum. We counted the guests and found that we had an extra 32 people that night.
As teens and older, when we came home late at night after some event/date we were expected to pop into her room to chat, so she could hear our experiences and so she could then go to sleep. Dad would be there barely managing a bit of consciousness but it was Mum we spoke to. She’d ask us what happened and how we felt about it. It didn’t matter how late it was. Sometimes when it was too late, we’d stand outside the door wondering if we should knock or go straight to bed. In the end we’d usually knock, just a light tap and Mum would invite us in.
We lived about a mile from the high street and Mum had difficulty getting all the shopping home for all of eight of us. Dad hit on the idea of building a wooden shopping trolley to help. It was a copious thing and each week she took courage to take the beast on a shopping trip, brining it back laden with the things we needed. At the time I never considered that this was anything other than a brilliant idea. People knew Mum through that trolley and it was certainly unusual.
All this didn’t stop as we left childhood. Mum was very concerned about me leaving a standard job and starting my own business, we talked a lot and she counselled me about studying, getting married and all other important aspects of my life. She’d certainly let me know what she thought, but it was my decision and I was secure in her love for me.
Mum, and you too Dad, were examples of faith to us. Every day, we prayed as a family. Every week we attended church because it was the right thing to do. I remember going camping, as we did every year, and the Saturday night bringing terrible weather. Come the morning all our clothes were wet and our Sunday best bedraggled. We could not stay home, though. We wanted to be there in whatever garb we had and knew that our dismal best would be acceptable to God. This Sunday, however, in view of our sorry state, Mum could not have us sit in the main congregation. Instead, we sat behind a curtain at the back of the hall. We received the meeting and then left early before meeting our fellow members.
So Mum, thank you for your sacrifices for us. Thank you for your constant love. Thank you for your example We are you legacy and we bless you name and love you too.