Break the Chid: Chapter Thirty-Four: The Letter
I can’t put it off any longer. I’m going to have to write about my special present from Mum, but it isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard, you know. When she’s like a ghost. It’s as though all of her bones and insides have melted and she’s all see-though and not a real person. And the really sad thing is that she knows. At the start, when she was first pregnant with Andy and found out that she had dementia, she knew then what was going to happen to her.
She must have been so frightened to know that she was going to be like she is, and she must have been angry and sad. Even now she looks at me sometimes and it’s as though she knows that I’m somebody important to her, but she just can’t find me in her head. And then other times she knows exactly who I am, and she tells me something real.
Yesterday she said, ‘Katie, don’t forget to turn the iron off when you’ve finished.’
And when she found out about her illness she knew, she knew all along that it was going to be like this. My mum is the bravest lady in the world.
For my birthday she gave me her engagement ring. I didn’t even notice that she wasn’t wearing it anymore, but now that I think about it, she hasn’t had it on for months, since the start when she decided to give it to me while she still could.
The ring is beautiful, and I hold it and it feels warm in my hand, as though Mum has warmed it with her love. In my head I think that she didn’t lose all of her feelings. When she felt them sifting out of the holes in her head, she captured them and put them all in the ring so that whenever I hold it I can feel that she loves me—even when I forget, and it feels as though she hates me..
The ring is lovely, but the best thing of all is the letter that she wrote to me with it. This is what she said.
My sweet, baby girl. I shouldn’t call you that now, should I? You’re probably all grown up. But you’ll always be my baby girl. Happy Birthday, my sweet, young woman. How old are you now, sixteen, eighteen?
You see, you’re reading this letter. And that means that I’m not there for you as I’d like to be. I asked your dad to give you this on your birthday when you need it most. I hope you’re all grown up and that I managed to hang on for you for a long time. Did I make it to your wedding my darling? I hope so. I imagine your wedding day; I know you will be (were?) a beautiful bride. I could be okay for another five years or more, but I’m writing this now so that you’ll always know how much I love you. Your dad will know when the time is right to give it to you.
I’m not well sweetheart, and things are going to change, but I know that you’ll be just fine because you’re my brave, beautiful, intelligent girl and whenever you need me, just listen for my voice in your head and I’ll be there, nagging you, just the same as I always have.
Do you remember a conversation we had just after I found out that I was ill? It might mean casting your mind back a few years, for me it was just two hours ago. We were sitting at the table and you were getting all in a stew about some maths problem that you couldn’t work out. I watched you fretting and worrying, and you told me that you’d never make anything of yourself if you didn’t get good grades. I told you that you had a whole wonderful life mapped out ahead of you. You have, you know, because you can be whoever you want to be with or without good grades. And I’m so very, very proud of you.
It’s late Katie and I have to break off now, dad’s shouting at me. But I haven’t written everything that I want to tell you. I haven’t told you that a man who makes you feel less than you are isn’t good for you. I haven’t told you that people aren’t always what they seem, or that you don’t need a lot of money to be happy, or to always follow your instincts and know what’s right. And if I stop writing now, I might miss telling you something important that you’ll need one day. But I’m just going to have to trust in your dad to say all of those things to you and trust in you to do what’s right.
I don’t want to stop writing, Katie. I want to keep writing to you forever—and in my heart, I will.
I love you, now, tomorrow, and forever.
She thought she’d have five years and she didn’t even have five months. Sometimes it’s as though she’s dead and other times it’s as if she’s been replaced by a little girl. I don’t want my mum to die, ever. I want to look after her the way she’s looked after me. She could go on to be an old lady and she’s right, I do know what I want. I’m going to look after her and Andy and Dad.
My mum's wise, she’s right, grades don’t matter—people do.