|Written by faye|
It was early in the morning when the phone call came. I stood and listened with disbelief and the shock of the words I was hearing made me shiver uncontrollably even though it was a very warm January night.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you that your Mother has very little time left to live. Can you come in immediately?"
I didn't even know she was in hospital. Typically Dad had decided not to worry us when she was taken in by ambulance.
We raced to the hospital just as dawn was breaking, while my other sister collected Dad. We had to arrange for our three children to be looked after before we could leave home so we were too late in arriving. My gentle sweet Mum was already dead and Dad was looking shocked and bewildered. In truth, she had probably already died before we got the phone call as a post mortem decided that she had died of an aneurism. I was two months pregnant and I fainted for the first time in my life.
My oldest sister was away on holiday and it took several hours and police help to track her down near Picton to give her the bad news. Over the following days I fainted several times and again at the funeral. Pat said it was a good thing because Dad was busy worrying about me and that helped him through the harrowing time.
Mum was only 62.
She was born on Banks Peninsula, Granddaughter of one of Canterbury's earliest pioneers. She was the eldest daughter in a family of six. Quite small really, when her grandma had given birth to 15 children.
Dad was born and bred in Rakaia, the son of the local saddler, and as a young man, got a job near Akaroa as a labourer on a sheep farm. He met Mum and began courting her. He proposed to her in the band rotunda of the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch and they married in 1926.
Dad began working as a painter and paper hanger in Christchurch and they bought their first home.
Unfortunately Dad fell from a two-storied roof and smashed his ankle so badly that the doctors wanted to amputate his foot but he wouldn't allow that so forever after he walked with a limp and had an unmovable ankle joint. Mum gave up tennis because Dad could no longer play.
My eldest sister was born a year after they married, but I didn't come along for another ten and a half years then my youngest sister 18 months later. No boys.
Dad found it hard to climb ladders so he gave up painting and purchased a small market garden and orchard with glasshouses and began growing tomatoes for a living. Mum was always there helping with the work and also keeping hens for eggs. It was a busy time and Mum worked like a Trojan, but in spite of that, she stayed round and cuddly. Her weight was her biggest bugbear and she tried diet after diet, sometimes losing immense amounts of weight but always putting it all back on again. She was a yo-yo dieter all her life. We used to say to her "Mum, just stay as you are," but no! Another diet fad came along and she would be on it, sometimes eating nothing but eggs and bananas, another time just meat and vegetables, yet again the Israeli Army diet.
Mum knew a lot of people. She was shy and gentle but everyone loved her. She never said an unkind word about anyone, or gossiped. We sold tomatoes from the garage and heaps of people came regularly to buy. Mum would leave whatever she was doing in the house and bustle out to see to them. There was always time to chat.
She's been gone now for 39 years. I'm older now than she was when she died. Yet, even after all this time I can conjure up her sweet face in my mind so easily, I can hear her voice and smell the face powder than she dabbed on her nose to cover its redness. I remember combing her hair for her. I recall the clothes she wore and her fingers busily knitting intricate patterns. Her words of wisdom stay with me and have guided me all my life. I am so grateful she was my mother.
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Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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