Over the weekend I got a solid reminder about the importance of telling people how you feel while you're feeling it….
I’ve been lucky enough in life to have two mums—my own fabulous mother, and a step-mother who was in our family since I was a young teen. She was glamorous and gregarious and the sole reason weekly access visits to my father were bearable.
Eighteen years ago she lost the man that she’d loved so much and her journey since has been a tough one because she really wasn’t a person built for being alone. It made things tough between us, too, because she was a living reminder of all my father’s failings. And because she fell head-long into a self-destructive period.
But…turns out she was a resilient old duck (at least on the surface) and she came through that stage and limped out the other side to form a life for herself around the limitations of her ailing body.
So I’ve had these two mother role-models; both single, both ageing, both managing that independence so very differently.
I recently had cause to write a book about families—my heroine finds out her real father is a rancher in Texas and heads off to meet her new family. That book made me reflect on the definition of family and that some bonds aren’t measured in hours spent together or the type of things you do in that time. They’re measured in the thickness of the strands that make up the bond.
And I had surprisingly thick strands with my step-mum. It’s been eighteen years since my father’s death meant she could have just slipped out of my life, but she didn’t. Between the two of us—and despite the craziness of her life and the crazy busy-ness of mine—we managed to keep that bond more or less in place. It wasn’t always easy but the strands must have been made of solid stuff to weather the bad times.
And so I dedicated my latest book to her—because family isn’t always defined by blood—and I was going to surprise her with it at Christmas. I think it would have touched her and meant a lot given the nature of the story.
Except she didn’t make it to Christmas, and so she didn’t know.
I was being dramatic, I was going for impact. What I should have done was pick-up the phone and tell her straight away and not worried about whether that would strike her as immodest or awkward. Because then she would have known and, I hope, smiled.
And I would definitely have wanted her last thoughts about me being a smile.
Safe journey home, L.