I’ve just put my dear Mum on the train in Bournemouth, destination North Wales.
As I sat her down and made sure she was comfortable and that she knew where her coat and case were, and as I asked a fellow passenger – by chance, a lovely Liverpudlian lady – to make sure she got off at Birmingham International and made her connection, I felt a huge swell of emotion and some tears behind my eyes.
It’s been a different, wonderful, sometimes challenging week.
The highlight of Mum’s trip to my new home was last Wednesday when we both swam in the sea. I knew sea swimming would have the same effect on Mum as it does on me. I was confident she’d be filled with joy, giggle like a six-year-old and kick her legs with glee. I was sure I’d see her eyes come alive as she looked around at the vast expanse of water. And I was convinced, after the initial shock of cold, that she’d wonder what all the fuss was about and would revel at the fact she was swimming in her swimsuit while everyone else was walking along in their coats.
It all happened exactly as I’d imagined. Her eyes lit up, she giggled like a little girl and she swam around, in awe of the incredible view and incredulous at where she’d ended up one sunny November morning. She got in touch with the child inside her, that child that really wants to come out to play but all too often stops herself because she’s scared. And she was so pleased and proud of herself afterwards.
Like mother like daughter. Or like daughter like mother. We both come alive in the sea. And we both want to play and do extraordinary things, but our fear sometimes holds us back.
Mum also loved our walk to Old Harry rocks, on the same beautiful, warm November day. How fortunate we were with the weather (we said those words a few times, as you do).
And she was blown away by our walk beneath the looming cliffs at West Bay, the backdrop to the TV series Broadchurch, so much so that we bought her a framed photograph of the scene. We got blown about, we got caught in the rain and we almost got our feet wet when the tide came in, but it was worth it.
We looked after Mum. We fed her well, made sure she got some fresh air and exercise and plenty of sleep. I helped her into the shower, combed her hair and took a few inches off the bottom so it was a bit more manageable.
Combing her fine, long, white and grey hair, I couldn’t help but think I’m heading that way. We’re all heading that way. As my partner says, it’s in the post to us all – old age, that is.
My hair, beneath the dye, is already grey and white in parts and my face has its lines. And one day, I’ll struggle to work the TV remote control or I’ll go searching for my glasses I thought I’d left downstairs but that were upstairs all along. I’ll start to forget things. I’ll panic. I’ll ask the same questions a few times over and it’ll seem like I’m hearing the answer for the first time. I’ll be frightened by new things and want to keep to what I know.
I wonder who’ll look after me then, who’ll comb my white hair and give it a trim, who’ll put me on a train and make sure there’s someone to pick me up at the other end. Maybe my partner will, or maybe I’ll do the same for him. I hope we’ll have a wonderful long life together and we’ll have the strength and mental agility to look after each other when we’re old. But having Mum to stay has got me thinking about ageing without kids.
The other thing I’ve been thinking, though, is how lucky I am to have her. I’m grateful I can comb her hair and help her onto the train. I’m grateful I can love her and take care of her. I know some of your mums aren’t around anymore, perhaps they haven’t been around for years, perhaps you lost them far too long ago, before you were even remotely ready. Then there are those of you whose mums are much more able to love and care for themselves and for others, mums who are active and sharp, who are solid and steady, and who are fantastic grandmothers.
We draw different lots in life. Some things are out of our control. But what my Mum’s visit has shown me is that I want to make the most of what I have, cherish every moment, cherish the people around me, cherish those I love and live courageously and wholeheartedly.
Would Mum, at 76, have any regrets? Would she say she wished she’d lived more, risked more, done more, had bigger dreams and faced more fears. Maybe.
That’s what I want for my life: to live more, risk more, have big dreams and face more fears and to have many more precious moments like that Wednesday morning in the sea when I was out in Nature with someone I love, when my eyes filled with wonder and my spirit came alive.
I wonder, what do you want for your life? What do you dream about? And are you finding a way to make those dreams come true?
I hope so.