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April 22, 2013 / Kate Gross

Little tousled heads, so far away

This is going to be a hard one to write. But I hope that plumbing the depths a bit further will drain some of my self-pity if not these wretched abscesses. Larkin is still in the ascendancy (incidentally, did my public service blog remind you of Lesley Knope? The old Toad says givitarest, do-gooding Pollyanna). I am rather cross with my mood for still being black. I mean REALLY, there are people who survive so much worse without self-identifying with smelly old Librarians who themselves had nothing much to complain about. Hello, victims of brutal sexual violence, disease, hunger, loss in Eastern DRC. Hello people of Syria. Hello lady in the bed by the window who hasn’t looked up in 6 days.

But anyway, back to me, me, me. I wrote in my last post about pain standing between me and mummyhood : rather a recurring theme. It was March 20th that I last acted like the parent I want to be. That is a long time ago. Now, lets be honest. I wouldn’t win any mothering prizes at the best of times. I’m slapdash, lazy, like my children best when they are having “quiet time”, swoop in for the glory and kisses and leave Billy to rule the naughty step and clean their teeth. But I take my lackadaisical mothering very seriously. I do it with energy. I love my little Barbarians messily, with fervour and a passionate commitment to exploring worlds both real and imaginary. I’m no longer the Deputy Director of Parks and Paperclips because all of my remaining fervour is required with them at home.

This last long month of hospitalisation* has been a Labyrinth which has always seemed to leave me on one side of a tall hedge and Oscar and Isaac on the other. At first the operation made the hedge impenetrably thick. And I didn’t care. I was too far gone with pain and the crazy meds to be able to communicate with anyone, even my best beloveds. But as the pain receded and the exhaustion settled in I could communicate quietly, gently, with grown ups who gave more than they took. Billy and my parents walked quietly down the path with me and I have never felt more grateful for their company or closer to them. But though I saw their little tousled heads run past me in my dreams, during the day Oscar and Isaac remained out of my reach. With every false start when I left hospital they got a bit closer. But the idea of them was easier than the reality. Barbarians and delicate invalids don’t mix. After fifteen minutes of having Transformers shoved in my face I would give up and retreat to a darkened room. And now – despite this latest incarceration – I feel my stamina growing. I feel closer to the mummy I want to be than I have for along time. But though I’m in touching distance I’m not there yet, and this is perhaps the most frustrating time of all. To want so desperately to play pirates, to tell stories, to have a proper cuddle (without hotly crying down their backs, though at least they are oblivious to my inconveniently timed tears).

I know what you wise people will say to this. I have to give myself time, and be patient. But what if time is the thing I don’t have? As always, my present frustration and sadness is rooted in a bigger fear, a sort of looming Larkin, that this is somehow How Life Will Be. That the good times will recede and recede to nothing and Oscar and Isaac will only remember poorly, labyrinth mummy, not the energetic, disorganised, loving, fun mummy I know I really am. Rather like I look at my elderly ward mates and can’t imagine them ever being young and fit and well, like Dad’s Dad was to me always poorly Grandpa despite having been a vigorous type and general business dynamo.

There is a practical side to this worry. My long month of liver-related yuck now looks to be bleeding into forthcoming chemo yuck. The feeling that the good times are squeezed. I don’t know if I will get to be the Mummy I want – much store is being set on the uber-holiday in August (before then, the Legoland birthday trip is looking shaky..). I spend a lot of time trying to think what it must be like to be nearly four and to go through all this. The boys adjust to a new normal so quickly, and can be distracted from most things by weaponising robots and ice cream. They haven’t learnt how to worry yet. So Mum’s in hospital? Does her bed go up and down REALLY high there? Maybe this is my problem, not theirs, after all – I just can’t bear for this to be their new normal. I hope it won’t be, and that we’ll look and feel more like the family I love so much soon.

* I’m back in hospital – in Cambridge, at least – once again incarcerated by abscesses, temperatures and pain.


Leave a Comment
  1. Susan Platt / Apr 22 2013 2:33 pm

    Hey Kate, what a great blog and your writing is very inspirational and touching. Have you ever heard of juicing before? I have read numerous articles where people going through similar things to you have had incredible and life changing results. Joe Cross’s “Sick, Fat and Dying” and “Hungry for Change” are both amazing documentaries on how people flooded their systems with mega doses of powerful veggies and fruit through juicing and recovered from terrible cancers and other diseases. Take care and all the best with everything.

  2. Lesley / Apr 22 2013 7:17 pm

    I dislike. I dislike that someone so lovely is in so much pain. Sending abscess draining, bacterial fighting thoughts. And who is Lesley Knope anyway? Xxx

  3. angela clist / Apr 22 2013 8:13 pm

    Dear Kate

    I can only begin the imagine – your words are so real and so touching. My biggest “remarkable” hugs to you. Your boys love YOU, all of you – ill and not ill – because you love them so fiercely and they will feel that. Great mum. xxx

  4. Yvonne / Apr 22 2013 8:43 pm

    You’re an awesome mum and everything you’ve written here is proof of that. We’re with you.

  5. Susan Boggio / Jun 12 2013 3:35 pm

    All your blogs are terrific and so well written. When you’re finally “on the other side” of this, you must envision and then begin writing a book about your experiences that could inspire others.

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