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mum

Understanding Unconditional Love

A dedication to my late Mum, a truly remarkable woman.

The 1st of April is a very special day for me. It is the day in 2006 I met Dave and learned about ADHD for the first time, but it is also my Mother's birthday. Today she would have been 94.

Mum was 85 when I told her about my diagnosis of ADHD and her response blew me away. Always down to earth, supremely no-nonsense and practical, I expected her to tell me to stop talking nonsense and get my life sorted.

Instead she said, "it explains so much about my own life" and she wanted to know more. I gave her a copy of our audio book, "I'm Audacious, Original and Innovative ... I Have ADHD" to listen to and with her typical enquiring mind she asked lots of questions.

Mum, having been brought up in a Victorian style family, struggled to express love and emotion demonstratively. My 6 siblings and I grew up learning to "do the right thing", being of service to others and putting our own needs last.

Sadly when she came to live with me after Dad died, I took her in as a sense of duty. As a wife and working Mom with 2 young children I did not have the emotional maturity to understand what she was going through. Neither of us had learned to communicate our feelings and for 4 years we lived together in mutual silent resentment. She was lonely and lost in a strange town with few friends no doubt knowing she was a burden. I was consumed with guilt that I was impatient and intolerant. Our conflict resolution skills were zero.

Twenty years later we finally started to build a true mother and daughter relationship. Through the pdfLiving ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme I was beginning to learn some communication skills, learning to express my feelings, deal with conflict better and being less resentful and self absorbed.

Ravaged by skin cancer Mum was becoming more frail and whether it was because I was more approachable or because she realised time was running out Mum started to talk about her childhood, her loneliness and her restlessness.

She told me how she always worried about me, her 2nd youngest, as I was her day dreamer child. We shared many common traits.

I realised where I get my itchy feet from. Like Dave and I, Mum was happiest on the road. She travelled the length and breadth of South Africa on her own after Dad died. She told me about her solo trip through the Transkei when a lorry driver was worried about her. He followed her all the way, stopping when she did and kept telling her that old ladies should not be travelling alone.

It was probably the hardest thing for her to accept as she became frail that she couldn't get out and about. There was nothing she enjoyed more than to be taken for a drive out into the country.

At the beginning of 2009 Dave and I took to the road in a bright yellow trailer and we slept in a tent. We travelled South Africa doing our ADHD talks and workshops. Mum was envious whereas so many other family and friends were horrified.

When an accident put paid to our adventure in May 2009, I felt a strong need to move back to Durban after an absence of 35 years. I knew Mum did not have much longer to live and I wanted to spend the last few months close to her.

When she was moved to frail care I used to visit most days. A large tumour was preventing her from opening her mouth properly and swallowing and she was slowly starving. She refused to have a feeding tube. It was humiliating for this dignified woman to be wrapped in bibs and to be fed with a teaspoon. She could no longer read as parts of her face were removed trying to stop the cancer and this affected her vision. But she never complained. Speaking was difficult for her but her mind was 100% active. As she grew weaker I would lie alongside her on her bed and just hold her and chat.

On the 1st of November 2009, Mum went to a better place free of pain. Her funeral was the first time I spoke in public. She had not wanted any eulogies as she never believed she was worth being honoured. I refused to let this amazing person disappear without a word.

I had finally grown up and learned the meaning of unconditional love.

Even though we had left it so late to get to know one another it is a time I will cherish forever.


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