Dear Mum,

You know that dad and I are reunited. I often wonder what you would have to say about that? I can’t remember what it was like spending time with both of my parents together as a family – I have distinct memories though of what it was like to be held by you, mum, and to have you hold my hand when I had my ears pierced for the first time – you bought me gold stars, which I lost, but I loved and cherished them for many years. Once, we went out for a Chinese meal and had to sit on pillows on the floor, which was super exciting to me as a three year old. I remember you going to a toy shop with me and having you cover me with my first duvet. Then, there are those other memories too – the sadder ones – but for now, I’ll focus on the shiny memories – the ones that are shimmering like stars on the night sky.

mum and me, 1984

I can remember our moments spend together mum and I can recall what it was like to go fishing with dad and grandad, but I don’t know what it is like to have both of my parents with me at the same time. Maybe there are cells in my body that have endured all those years and that store the memory of us being a family, a whole, but I’m not conscious of it. I often look at my children, and I know that their reality of growing up is and will be so much different from my experience and sometimes, I envy them and at the same time, I’m thrilled and relieved for them too.

At times like those, my heart flies out to my little me, to the me that never really got to ask you questions, mum, and to spend quality time with you. I have always been one to ask plenty of questions, and I would have loved to discuss my ideas with you. Maybe it’s just a nice thought, thinking that we would have gotten on really well with each other. I would have loved to have at least one grown up feeling close to when coming off age, but I didn’t. Lots of teenagers and young people don’t, I know, and that fact makes me sad for so many of us. It doesn’t matter if you grow up without any parents or if you grow up with emotionally absent parents – the result is still the same: a silent suffering and loneliness that keeps you looking for fulfilment and close, honest bonds with loyal and reliable people for the rest of your life. At least that’s what it felt like for me.

brilliant and helpful literature on emotionally absent parents – eye-opening

the desire for mothering is natural; it was there when you were a child, even if you learned to turn it off as a strategy for survival. (…), the yearning itself is healthy. it is part of being human to want to be nurtured and cared for.

Connie Dawson

mum and her best friend from boarding school

There was a time, mum, when I felt embarrassed that I had to ask so many people so many questions about you, but I’m glad I did. I’m glad I mustered the courage to approach those people, your friends, that once were dear to you and to ask them what kind of person you were. I learned that you loved Janis Joplin, especially “Me and Bobby McGee”, and the Dire Straights. That you were a loyal and fun person to be around and most importantly, that you weren’t shallow. You asked the right questions and looked at life from another perspective than most people your age did. “Ahead of her time” – that’s one description that stuck to my mind. Ahead of your time – you were striving to understand those that no one else understood. Even to the point where you had to lose yourself. But that is a whole other story.

You loved eating horse steak and snails and more than anything you loved going out. While I can’t grasp the concept of eating horse steak, I do grasp the idea of going out – I would have loved to tell you mum that I love going out too, or at least I used to before I had kids. Nights are different from days. At night, people seem so much closer to each other. At night, in bars and pubs, people tell each other stories they would not during the day. I guess it’s due to a certain amount of alcohol, but the sheer fact that at some point people are willing to open up to sharing their truths also tells me that there is a need to do so. The darkness of the night lulls people in and gives them the comfort and courage to share their heart’s content, shielded from the scrutiny of the glaring sun. But not any longer mum, not any longer will I hide my story away – our story – and feel like I can only disclose it in a hushed voice in the darkness of the night.

Mum, I’m not so sure why you had to leave and why dad and I had to spend so much time apart, but mum, I will share our story one bit at a time, to encourage others to keep asking questions if they are missing a loved one. To find out about them, or to find out where the rest of their family has gone. Because roots matter. I loved finding out that on Sundays, we went on walks through the woods, you, dad, and me. That we went to visit my grandparents in Germany and my aunts and that I went on fairy rides at the weekends when there was a funfair. I was intrigued to find out that you didn’t like travelling, but that you’d rather spend your time relaxing at home with us. That you had studied Latin and Dutch – that you are an incredible artist, very talented. That you adored your grandmother – my great-grandmother. I can see why 🙂 She was an absolute star. The embodiment of patience I gather. Now that I know how close you were to her too, I’m delighted that we gave our second daughter her name as a middle name: Elisabeth. I found out that you had one finger that was shorter than all the others and that most importantly, you loved me. That’s right – I never knew before, but now I know for sure: You loved me. It took me a few of your closest friends to tell me, but it only sank in once dad told me – You loved me. Despite me not being planned, I was more than welcome, says dad and I believe him. I believe him, because I can remember your and his presence in my earliest childhood and I know it’s all true. It has always been true. And my memories had been real all those years. I was not crazy. I had just been told to take a detour into the unknown, but not any longer, mum. Not any longer. It’s now time to share our truth.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.