Earlier this year, for about three weeks, I struggled. Partly it was the endless grey weather. Partly it was the endless low-lying winter bug. And partly it was the goddamn grief. Back again.
You think it’s done with you, you’re definitely done with it, and then it’s back, out of nowhere. Leaching all your energy. And all the meditation, healthy eating and early nights in the world won’t help. So you just have to sit and wait for it to pass.
It was frustrating. “I’m done with that phase”, I raged to myself. “I am fine”. But I couldn’t make myself feel better.
A few weeks before, I had been away for a couple of days with a friend. Usually, Herself is nonplussed at the prospect of a couple of days of maternal absence. Will there be Friday pretzel with Grandad, playdates with Noa and Roo, and will Daddy bring me to school and put me to bed?
Fine, see you in a few days with my present Mommy.
This time though, she took against it. For weeks afterwards, she was liable to turn suddenly and say “I missed you Mommy,” an accusing glare in her eyes. “I missed you too love, but I knew you were with all your favourite people,” I tell her. “Yes but you’re also my favourite people Mommy, I need you in Dublin.”
“I get you, Beanie,” I think to myself. Sometimes you just need your mum.
So in the greyness, I ring mine and cry down the phone. I’m too busy with work to leave the house for the lunch or walk she suggests, so she comes over with lunch and coffees from The Food Room. We have one of those chats where one minute you’re discussing the banal day-to-day, the next you’re bawling, apropos of nothing apparent.
Is there, though, anything more satisfying at those times than a body-shuddering cry on your mother’s shoulder? Afterwards I feel cleansed, almost preternaturally calm.
Things only your mother can do for you when your marriage falls apart:
Truly convince you that your child will be 100% ok after all this, when the fear that they might not becomes almost immobilising. You know that no one has both of your welfares more at heart, and mine, anyhow, is not a talented dissembler. I would know what she really thought.
Breathe new life into all areas of your home. Most guests will stay in the public areas of the house (I say this as someone who lives in a two-up two-down terraced house, so, such as they are). Your mother will be up in your bedroom lying on the bed having a chat without a moment’s thought.
Give advice which at the time you will frustratedly dismiss along the lines of “you’re missing the point of what I’m saying”. Said advice will then percolate down, and you will think “she might be right”, and then you will realise “she is absolutely right”.
She can simply just be there, in a way that is more seamless than anyone else. Sitting around with a sick child when you’ve taken the day off work, watching The Late Late on idle Fridays, a cup of tea on a Tuesday evening after Herself is down. Nobody feels less guest-ish than your mother.
Realise without being told that running a house on your own can be tiring, and empty the dishwasher.
This week my mother toppled me from poll position of people Herself would like to put her to bed, by dint of the Mo-ssage (a bedtime massage by Mo). Aside from your fellow parent, there are not many people you would ask to put your child to bed while you skip off to a yoga class. Your mother will do this for you.
“How’s your mum?” A friend asked recently, complete with wistful tone and head tilt.
“She’s fine”, I say, baffled, before realising that she means how is she coping with all this. Telling your parents seems to be another layer for a lot of people in these circumstances. Breaking it to them, and then having to watch their understandable sadness.
“Have you been hiding some great upset”, I ask her? Grieving quietly, unbeknownst to me? To my face, there has been nothing but calm assurance; “this will be fine, this will pass, everyone will be fine.”
“I just want you all to be happy,” she says.
She is a realist. “I don’t believe in regrets” she always told us growing up. It was one of her parenting mantras. That and the broken record, her main takeaway from an assertiveness course taken in the seventies. If I ever start repeating the one sentence to you in a heated conversation, I am broken recording you. The no regrets has become a watchword, a reflex action.
With this, there is no getting bogged down. This is not a tragedy. Life happens. This is life happening. You deal with it.