It’s the little things that make me laugh

My mother is 86-years-old and for the 59 years of my life, she has been there for me as a mother and as a friend. Our relationship is changing and I’m more of a carer now but the deep affection I have for her hasn’t changed.

I’ve understood more about her life now as I’ve shared similar experiences with my grown-up family. I’ve learned a lot from her and, while no one is perfect, I have to say for me she was a very good role model. I’ve learned a few things from her that I’d pass on to my own children.

She never criticised our husbands and partners and you could have a moan but she didn’t give her input. She never complained about members of the family to other members and she never broke a confidence.

She is selfless and kind. Her patience with with her in-laws was remarkable and she was only 29-years-old when they came to live with us for four years. As on only child, my father had responsibility for his parents all his life until my grandmother died at 91-years-old when my Dad was 70-years-old.

Mum also nursed her own mother until she died in our house when I was 11-years-old. She had a tough time as her Dad died when she was 22-years-old and she married two years later. As a teacher in those days, she had to resign when she got married. I was born and after five miscarriages my sister was born when I was six-years-old. She was absolutely adored as was my other her sister when she arrived nearly two years later.

Mum taught till she retired at 70-years-old. She was a wonderful teacher and saw the children as individuals and taught special needs for many years.

In all my life, I never heard her curse or swear or argue with anyone. Her faith has been a huge part of her life and being a practising Catholic was central to her life. It governed her thinking and behaviour. The changes in society over the years have been huge and wouldn’t necessarily have fitted in with her views, but she has accepted the different ways her family are living and their differing values. My mother is the centre of my Dad’s life, his carer and soulmate. I remember walking down Grafton St about five years ago and I saw the two of them walking hand in hand down the street.

It’s the little things that make me laugh. She went to confession to ask if it was okay to buy me trousers (I was 12 and stretchy pants with in fashion). I remember she wouldn’t buy me a Barbie and said the chest was too big so I had to settle for flat chested Sindy!

When I was 12-years-old, she gave me a book called ‘My dear daughter’ for sex education and said the guideline was not to do anything you wouldn’t do in front of your mother!

She is a wonderful granny and great granny and loved by the grandchildren. The biggest compliment I got recently was a stranger greeted me when visiting my mother’s church and she said “you’ve got your mother’s warm smile. She makes everyone feel cared about”.

Sometimes I see my reflection in a shop mirror and go “Oh, I look so like Mum” and who wants to look 86! But I also know that I will be very fortunate if I can grow into old age as gracefully as she has and with happy lines. She has borne a huge amount of physical pain and doesn’t complain.

I’m going to be devastated when she dies. Her unconditional love has always been there for me and the cheery voice at the end of the phone. She is unique and I love her very much. I’m fortunate to have time to spend with her. She is no saint and could win a prize for passive aggressive techniques, but I will have a huge hole in my life when she is no longer there. I’ve learned from her that growing old is tough, you’re mentally the same but your body is letting you down. You are also fearful of the future and your ability to live independently. I hope I can support her in the next part of her journey and care for her the way she cared for me.

God bless you Mum.

–  Brenda McNulty, Dublin

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