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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 20 October 2021

If Mum were here today, this is what I’d say to her this Mother's Day

It’s eight years since my mother passed away, and I still can’t find the words to thank her for all she did for me, writes Claire Micks.

Claire Micks

MOTHER’S DAY WAS always a hassle in our house. One of us would inevitably forget, and there would be panicked hungover dashes to the local petrol station where the only card left would have gold embossed sunflowers all over it, together with some ridiculously grandiose poem.

There’d be secret deals struck between siblings, where the less organised would routinely get shafted by those who’d somehow managed to purchase a plausible bunch that didn’t look like they had been picked three months earlier and left in the back of the service station ever since.

Grand gestures would be made of ‘someone else making the dinner’. This would invariably result in more work for my long suffering mother as she diplomatically tried to limit the damage, and salvage whatever was left of her kitchen after the tornado of her children ‘cooking’ had been through.

Thereafter she’d religiously ‘Ooh!!!’ and ‘Ahh!!!’ at whatever paltry offerings the Shell station had pieced together for the SOS brigade that particular year, and never, ever moan that her children couldn’t manage even one day out of 365 where they put her above themselves.

Took her for granted

She was so, so grateful for any little effort we made on her behalf, and in return we took her for granted.

We were young, and clueless, and assumed we had a lifetime of Mother’s Days ahead of us when we would be more grown up, and less self obsessed. ‘Next year we’ll make more of an effort….’ we always assured ourselves. ‘Next year we’ll get our act together’.

I wasn’t fit to do the eulogy at her funeral. Couldn’t be that philosophical, or measured, or composed about the loss of the woman who had brought me into this world. I often wish I had been.

Instead, my older sister delivered it, cobbled together hurriedly the night before, in the most surreal and bizarre of circumstances, without all the due thought and consideration and time that should go into such a crucial message. Without any of us really knowing what we were doing.

So instead of speaking from the heart, I wussed out and simply read a poem. Not the Four Weddings and a Funeral one. At least I hadn’t nicked it from a Hugh Grant film. Instead I nicked it from some prayer sheet I had stumbled across in Vincent’s Hospital. It was poignant, and fitting, and allowed us all to well up at the appropriate time.

Not ready to say goodbye

But they weren’t my own words. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t enough. It spoke of only of how this was ‘a bend in the road, not the end of the road’. How fitting? In short, I simply wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

And now on a Mother’s Day eight years later, I still can’t find the words to thank her for all she did for me. Don’t all of us struggle to think of something fitting to write inside that cheesy card? How can you possibly express your gratitude for all those years where she systematically put our needs above her own?

Ours was an old school mum. Baked brown bread and knitted our clothes. Shunned the microwave as the root of all domestic ills and had a child lock fitted to the telly. Took no short cuts and gave it her all. No Hallmark ditty would ever have covered it. But I never managed anything more profound than ‘Love Claire’.

As a kid, I made a fuss. Wasn’t shy about telling her what she meant to me. Made ridiculous, soppy cards with love hearts all over them, and misspelt professions of a six year old’s unbridled love for her mum. Collected flowers from the garden and made her breakfast (of a kind) in bed. Baked a cake and spent hours decorating it with silver balls. Then insisted she finish her slice no matter how bad it tasted.

What she really deserved 

And then I got older. And distracted. And self absorbed. And it became about groannnn…an annual Sunday event for which I was always ill prepared. Became about what little effort we could get away with, rather than about the display of gratitude she actually deserved.

Until the first year after she died. When we made more of an effort at her grave for Mother’s Day that year than we had in the previous twenty. Too little, too late. But perhaps better than nothing.

Together with so many other like minded children leaving over priced bouquets in Shanganagh. The notes might as well have read ‘Sorry for being so crap while you were still alive. You deserved better’. All those offspring who didn’t realise the value of what they had until it was gone.

Now years later, as a mother myself, it is a day which feels ill fitting. She has left such big shoes to fill, I feel like an imposter, a cuckoo, claiming this day for myself.

I will never be the mother that she was. It’s simply not in me to be. I am a child of the convenience generation who seeks out shortcuts and congratulates myself on time saved. I am not, and never will be, an old school mum.

So I don’t want to take away her day. She will always be ‘Mum’. Not me. And this will always be her special day. Not mine. Because if this ever becomes my day, instead of hers, then I know that she is truly gone. And I don’t think I will ever be ready for that.

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About the author:

Claire Micks

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