My father died on May 14, 1978. It was Mother's Day.
My mother was driving home from the hospital where my 32-year-old dad was recovering from a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. Mum had left me, then three, and my five-year-old sister Alison with our Aunty Betty and was anxious to get back to us. She says that halfway through the 10 minute drive home, a huge black crow swooped down on her windscreen. By the time she walked in the door the hospital had already called to say he was gone.
That was Mother's Day for a 39-year-old mother of two, seven months pregnant with my younger sister Louise and widowed. I have asked my mum so many times how she got through that time and she always says the same thing: I had a baby on the way and two little girls to feed, I didn’t have a choice. I think she did have a choice. She could have felt sorry for herself. She could have been bitter. She could have been angry. She chose to be strong and loving and grateful.
I chose to adore her. A fact that you would already know if you have met me, even for a short time. Honestly, if we have so much as shared an elevator, I have probably mentioned her. She has always been my idol. Even if she can’t remember all the reasons why anymore, I can.
My mum’s oldest sister Lorna started to show signs of dementia when mum was in her fifties and as stoic as she was, I knew she was terrified it would happen to her one day. I remember when she came home from visiting Lorna in Sydney after the diagnosis. Mum was telling me how Lorna had forgotten her own daughter who had visited earlier in the day. She recalled how Lorna kept asking when her daughter would be there. Mum put her hand on my cheek and said, "Don’t worry, I would never forget a visit from you, darling heart."