My mother (Dorothy Thornton) died early in 2012 and since then I’ve begun to write (amongst other things) about my memories of her. One particular strong recollection is of a Saturday morning in July 1990.
'Don't cry, don't cry I'll mend them don't worry.'
My mum and I were on our way to the railway station in Northwich to catch a train to Chester, the day after I received and celebrated the final results of my undergraduate Sociology degree (studied for as a mature student). We were off to celebrate again; to shop.
Four months before I'd left my husband and the martial home and mum and I had been sleeping together in her single bed ever since. Years later I found out she had one foot on the floor the whole time. So when I fell, ripping my favourite brightly patterned trousers I wasn't crying simply in pain or for my torn and dirty clothes but in happy relief for my academic success and in sadness for my marriage and the losses I'd experienced within it.
Now I’m thinking back further to the day, a few years earlier, when my mum thought I meant to kill myself.
No babies for me, it seemed. A realisation I felt painfully emotionally and physically. Not just a reaction to an externally defined feminine script but also a complete challenge to all my hopes and expectations. On the day in question I ran from my mum towards the river. ‘Don’t, don’t,’ she shouted running after me. But I never intended to jump and I wasn’t running from her but from myself, from the useless body that I felt had let me down.
I have adapted. I have been fulfilled in other ways. The following nearly 30 years have been busy. I feel privileged to have been able to spend so much time researching and writing about issues such as pregnancy loss, infertility and childlessness, and grief. Issues that I and others feel are important, yet often misunderstood and/or misrepresented. I am grateful for the meaningful relationships I have with the children, and more recently, grandchildren of others. But I feel sure that I would not have survived intact, reformed as whole without my mother’s support and unconditional love. For her it was all about me, always about me and it was not until after her death that I realised she never, ever, spoke of her own loss, no babies for me, no grandbabies for her.
She was, on that day in 1990s, true to her word. I wore those trousers for several more years and I swear no one ever saw the patching. The invisible mending not only an expression of her selfless care for me but also representative of her constant and continuing presence in my life.
Gayle Letherby (nee Thornton)