Tilly and Betsy were 9 and 7 years old when Nicky died. There’s an old saying “Give me a child until (s)he is seven and I will give you the (wo)man”. As she was dying Nicky said to me that if one of us were to die it were better that it was her. “I’ve done the stuff you couldn’t do,” she said, “I’ve done my 7 years, and done it well I think so you can do the next, just do the best you can.” She was right of course, I’d never have had the patience , wit or wisdom to give the love she gave to the mewling puking infants of the early years, nevermind the boobs to match her insouciant breastfeeding in busy bars.
Mothers. Mothers. They know. They know their place, their power, the strength of their bonds. They understand that the ties that bind them to their children are as strong as any human bond. Strong, tight and eternal; a mother’s bond to a child cannot be undone.
Whilst the girls and I were away from home we enjoyed the power of being in control of whether people knew our story. At times we’d choose not to tell travelling companions, camping neighbours or nosey parkers why it was that a man would be travelling alone across France with two young children. At other times we would respond to the half asked question and explain the purpose of our journey. The girls, cringing, would watch like hawks for the reaction.
Mothering, motherliness and motherhood, three states in the same domain. Women with children who hear our story spin like tops between all three. It’s often hard to watch. The questions appear inside their heads. How would they would cope? How their children or partners would cope? How they should be or not be with the girls? How to help? Or not help? What’s too much help? Looking at our loss through the lens of their own lives and realising perhaps more viscerally than ever before that nothing, nothing is for certain means intuition and instinct are all in question.
A mother’s intuition.
Gone from here and seemingly thrown into question for many of those around us. Death brings nought. Again and again and again. Cherish every moment.
We are getting used to being without a mother around the house. Vaida, the aupair, has started. She’s lovely. De-cluttering the chaos, my chaos, that was encroaching on every corner, surface and cupboard. It’s nice. Even though there is another woman in the house the fact that it is tidy again brings Nicky back into every room. It’s her house again. Not the house of man who was losing control of it without her. Now, freed a little from the chores of running the house, I can start to work again, but more importantly I can try at least to do more of what she’d have wanted. Be a patient and loving parent and finish the job.