There once was a woman who turned out to be the mother of my husband, one of the grandmothers for my children, and for me a very precious mother-in-law. It has been difficult working out what my relationship was with her after our divorce. She told me once that she didn't blame me at all. It wasn't a matter of blame really. It was a matter of two people not knowing enough about relationships to work towards saving their own. But it was nice that she told me that. It meant that we could remain friends, and I am grateful for the way that played out in the years that followed, for the most part.
This woman and I had an unusual friendship in some ways. I was lucky enough to share a home with her when I was still quite young and reckless and over the six months we lived together in her home, we grew to be pretty good mates. Sometimes I listened too much to her and not enough to the son who would become my life partner. Such influence we older women can have over our younger charges. Sometimes her advice was not wise I see now, but I think it was given in good faith and I respect the way she shared her thoughts and wishes with me in that time. She was sad in many ways, having lost her husband at such a young age really, she was in her forties I think; it was before we met. During those early years she came to parties at my parents' home and sometimes had a drink or two and got a bit giggly. She said it was good to be having fun. She loved to play cards...and she was good at it! She loved to party! It was good to see her relaxed and having a good time. I really liked her a lot.
We shared an interest in sewing and enjoyed many shopping trips to Dimmeys in Ringwood to buy bits of fabric and odds and ends. One time we got some great bargains but when we got back to the car realised we'd parked in a free lane and had a parking ticket for $90!! It was way more than the money we'd saved and we laughed at the irony of it half the way home!
Years later when her son and I were off sailing on the yacht he'd been building when we met, she travelled north on the bus with my parents and the five of us became sailors together for a week or two. We had some grand adventures and laughed every night when we had 'mock fish' for dinner (beans, corn, rice, whatever we had in our cupboards) because we didn't seem to be able to catch any fish (embarrassing but true). Maybe we were all too chatty and noisy for the fish to chance by. We had a blast on that trip and tucked away in my big box of photos are some of her in pink bubbly bathing costume hiding from the sun under carefully positioned lilo and towels draped over the handrails, her nose covered in zinc! She always had a good sense of fun and liked an adventure. One time we were walking in Mackay...off to do some shopping...and there was an uneven block in the pavement and she must have tripped on it because she went straight down like a sack of potatoes, poor thing, and landed on that nose she'd been taking such good care of on the boat! We patched her up and she dusted herself off and we kept going. I can't remember how the shopping trip went, but I do remember that trip of hers as if it was only yesterday.
Yesterday takes on a special significance now though, because yesterday, or last night, she went to meet her maker. At 91 I think she was, she has lived a long and rich life. She has raised five children and has to my knowledge about 17 grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren out there somewhere. The last few years have been difficult. She became forgetful and there was trouble in the family as her care became an issue. There was disagreement and estrangement. In the midst of that, and because I was divorced from her son and have lived far away, I haven't seen her often or kept in touch as regularly as I could have. I feel sad about that now. I have thought today that I could have written more often, or picked up the telephone for a chat. I have the comfort of knowing that last time we did talk on the phone we did have a good old chat, and as we said goodbye, I said "I love you". And it was true. I do love her. I could have done more to show her that. But the boundaries and responsibilities became blurred. She is grandmother to my children. I could have done more. But I am glad I did the things I did. If I could say anything to her now, and perhaps I can in my own way, perhaps this is it now, I'd say "Thank you."
Thank you for the gift of your son who was my partner in life for so many years. Thank you for my children who to me are two of the greatest people on earth. Without you I wouldn't have the pleasure and joy of being their mum. Thank you for accepting me just as I was anytime I saw you. Thank you for being yourself and showing your weakness and vulnerability in friendship. Thank you for loads of really fun memories and some great photos that I'll enjoy sharing with family in times to come. Thank you for your grace towards me when I didn't really deserve it. Thank you for the many lessons I learned from knowing you and your family. Thank you for the love.
It's too late for me to say those things to her now. I hope she knows how much I cared. I have been busy living my life, putting down new roots, chasing rainbows, learning life lessons and loving myself and others along the way. It's the best any of us can do with life really. If I can leave you with anything today, can I ask you to say thank you to someone who deserves it. Think about what people have meant to you or given you...not stuff but of themselves. Stuff too if you think it's right. But say thank you. They might look at you funny but I reckon they'll be glad you took the time and I reckon you will be too.
To friends and family who may stumble on this writing...we will all remember Valda in our own unique way. She was someone special to each of us and I feel certain she would love her legacy to be that her passing was a way to bring peace and harmony to what have been troubled waters for so long. I know that she loved all of you more than you will ever know. I know this because I too am a mother. Wishing you love, hope, peace and prosperity in life.
Thank you for reading.