I can’t believe that my mum is dead.
For the past six months, I’ve called her every day, sometimes twice a day. I’ve spent at least two weeks a month at her house.
When my mum was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my whole life changed. Things that had seemed so important before (Spanish class, getting Spanish people not to hate me with the fire of a thousand sols, going out, friends, work, weddings, being vegetarian) just sort of faded away. I just started to think “A tomar por culo”, “I don’t give a crap”. I just didn’t have the energy, about everything. I had bigger fish to fry.
I stayed in and watched box sets that I had illegally downloaded. Breaking Bad, The Following, Orange is the New Black, Girls, Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow, The Wire…I was sick of hearing happy people complain about normal things, like their boss, weight, hair, or not having money. “My mum is dying” I wanted to say. Although I felt I couldn’t say that as it wasn’t fair, and would cause social awkwardness. I know that feeling, when someone starts to talk about something awful that I know nothing about, and I think “Shit, what do I say? How to I fill this ever growing silence? Say something, quick!” and then I just blurt out something ridiculous like “Have you tried this cheese?”.
I got stressed out. My shoulders cramped, I couldn’t move my neck. I started to have panic attacks. My brain stopped working. I started reading books with pictures; art books, graphic novels. Almost nothing in foreign languages anymore. My brain seemed to have lost that capacity, hopefully temporarily. I was scared.
Now she’s gone, what do I do? My whole life, my mother has been my compass. Everything she said not to do, I did, with gusto. I dyed my hair a thousand colours until it fell out. I volunteered my ass off, working for free ever since my first student loan freed me from the need to have a minimum wage job. I swore (and still do) like a sailor. I play poker, beat all the boys, and rub it in their faces. I’ve never dated someone for their wealth. I prefer trousers to skirts.
And she was still so, so proud of me. Anything I did half well was some kind of miraculous marvel of wonderment. My mum always thought the sun shone out of my rear, even/especially in the face of evidence to the contrary.
I never appreciated her until she was dying. I never forgave her and accepted her as an imperfect person who always tried to do her best, until the last years of her life. I suppose the young judge their elders harshly, until they get to that age where they are expected to do all the “adult things” and they are like “Oh. This shit is actually quite difficult and tiresome”, and they realise that actually being a child with no responsibility had it’s up side, and that having the keys to the house and the car means you have to pay the bills too.
I’ve asked my sister if she can disapprove of me and she has said that she will try but I doubt that it will be the same. You really never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.