Mum died, Tuesday. She hung on for our birthdays, when I would come up to Gosford and visit. I Came up last weekend, left 2:00 pm Monday. We all think she just gave up, really. She was always terrified of winding up in a nursing home, always frightened she would lose her marbles at the end, as Dulcie did. Neither happened – we played scrabble together Sunday night. She got ‘Arroyo’ on a double word score.
I knew it was the last visit. I said “goodbye”, rather than “see you next time” as usual. She was to old and weak to stand at the door and wave as I left, as usual, too exhausted to have a little cry and put the kettle on. I had arranged on Monday for ongoing care. She, I think, wasn’t interested. She wanted her son to move up to Gosford and live with her, and I was unwilling to do it. So one final visit, and then she died the next day. I wrote something about that, but it’s a little raw for a blog entry, I think. And I can’t find it.
Here’s the notes I wrote for her eulogy. I didn’t read this out verbatim, but I didn’t ramble too much and kept mostly to the topics here.
Read it if you like.
The main thing about mum is something that is perhaps not obvious – which is, that she was a survivor. She was tough. Not that that’s rare: every nice old lady who makes it to their late 80’s is.
I didn’t know mum as well as an adult friend would. After childhood, I became a surly and withdrawn teenager. I left home at 19 to go to Canberra, never to return except for twice a year: at christmas and her birthday.
But I do know that she, in her 50’s, raised two kids on the age pension. She would paint portraits at Circular Quay, all jaunty and pleasant for the tourists. She would busk at King’s Cross. I didn’t understand that she didn’t just do it for fun, but that we needed the money.
But these things – the busking the street witnessing – these were things that she loved to do. She loved the bustle of the city, the people, the activity. She loved colour and movement. An artist at heart – always a little lost, I think, out in the world.
Aside from her art, the other part of her life was church, and Jesus. She was always looking for a small community church, a family, a home, a place to belong. I recall a succession of small congregations and odd characters. She joined a small church of 50 meeting at Double Bay – Christian Life Center – but left when it grew too big and uncaring.
But if always little lost, she was never timorous – she had courage: I don’t think I understood how much. She would go to Kings Cross on a Friday and Saturday, and chat with whomever and witness. She would street witness at Punchbowl and Central Park. She was not afraid of the dark – she’d seen worse, although I won’t burden you today with stories. I was there, too, for some of them. She did what had to be done, as well as she understood it.
I have miscellaneous memories: the christmas camping holidays rock-hunting all across eastern australia. The piano-accordion, at which she was never very good; the steel guitar, at which … well, it isn’t difficult to play, I suppose. Music wasn’t really her thing. Her quavery old voice – she was old for as long as I knew her, really.
But this is more about who she was than what she did. A a product of her time, I think. A moth to a flame, she never wanted to return to the country.
Ty for your support, these last few years.