Today was supposed to be my final preview of All Change. I would’ve performed it as part of the Camden Fringe, before heading up to the Edinburgh Festival later in the week. As things have turned out, it would have been terribly hard, performing my lovely show about my mum’s survival.
I’ve agreed to do it at the re-arranged Brighton Fringe in October. So I have 12 weeks or so to rewrite, not really believing that it will happen, that I’ll actually perform in a strange room, with chairs spread across the space, nobody sitting too close. I need to plan it, though. I need to rewrite it. To change the ending.
I always knew it was going to happen. I knew she’d die. I even wanted it I wanted the journey to be over, for things to be resolved. She was so ill so often, and she kept coming through it again and again, each time a little weaker.
I mean, I thought I wanted it. I had no idea. I honestly didn’t realise it would hurt this much. Because I thought when it happened, I wouldn’t need to mourn for a small, weakened life.
And I’m not. I’m mourning for a huge, momentous, long life, that was lived to the full and with love and generosity. I’m not really grieving for the tiny (so tiny!) elderly, sweet & smiling lady. I’m grieving for my mum when she was younger: when she washed my hair, made my birthday cakes, gave me 2.5p pocket money, nagged me to tidy my room. The mum I had to reach up to cuddle. Not the one I reached down to hold.
When my dad died, she started her life anew. She ached for him for years, but she didn’t stop living. She started doing things she couldn’t do before, when she was a wife. She found her friends (not theirs), she did voluntary work (she’d always wanted to be a social worker but y’know, she became a wife instead) and became a bereavement counsellor. She saw a TV travel show about Fiji and booked a ticket the next day. She vowed never to marry again, always felt she’d never be able to replace that side of her life. But she found a different kind of happiness. She was amazing. She rewrote her ending.
And she planned that ending meticulously. She sorted the paperwork, labelled every family photo, cleared out cupboards (“you won’t want to be dealing with that when I’ve gone”) and researched every care home in the area, so we wouldn’t be burdened with looking after her.
Dementia gave us many positive things (that’s probably another blog post) – one of them was that she slowly and gradually let us do more. And when it came to it, she didn’t want a care home after all. She wanted to stay at home, to die there.
And so she did.
I need to rewrite my show. I need to plan the ending. And to find the funny. It won’t be the show about my mum’s survival any more. It’ll be about mine.