A guest blog from Genevieve, number 1 daughter. She thought she had upset me by commenting on my appearance in Freda, the wig, when my confidence was ... and is... at its most fragile. It really wasn't nearly as upsetting as she imagined but she is renowned for her tact - not!
A daughter in trouble with her mother usually has to endure a period of penitence; serving this with presentations of cups of tea coupled with low murmured apologies, an urgent sense of over-helpfulness - never has a family member been so enthusiastic to do the washing up and demonstrations of fake adoration to the dogs who simply look at you like you're a dolt. (Like usual).
When a daughter says something insensitive about their mother's cancer treatment, this requires a different type of penance - a repentance like never before. The tea will go cold, the dishes unacknowledged and the dogs will look - well, the same. Couple this with living in London, a mere 200 miles away - the battle for forgiveness is nigh impossible.
NOT THAT I SAID ANYTHING THAT BAD...
My friends will tell you that I am easily the most insensitive person they know; my forthrightness and outspokenness traits that strangers dread - even before they meet me. A valiant attempt to be sensitive, subtle and sympathetic receives no acknowledgement but at gatherings, friends will easily recall all inappropriate things I have ever said. Then I go home for rest and recuperation and the same thing happens at dinner. I will receive no commiseration, but unfortunately the name has stuck.
There is not a lot I can do about it. But be sorry. Very sorry.
Mum started losing her hair a few weeks ago, after enduring two chemathons with a cold cap full of anti-freeze. This was an incredibly painful experience for the first hour, which only Dad was allowed to be witness to (probably because Mum was using a lot of expletives). One of the tough things about coming home has been seeing wisps of hair around her shoulders and resisting the temptation to pick them off one by one. I remember moulting on my school jumper and sitting at the dinner table doing homework, whilst mum would pick them off and tell me I must brush my hair. (Not a sensitive thing to say to her right now, I don't think). I keep staring at Mum, wishing the hair to stay attached as it is one of the few things she has prayed for during this brutal treatment. But to no avail. But her bravado is contagious and I can only mimic it as we cheer for my little brother (me, at the wrong times) on the cricket field.
My immense sense of pride was struck at a particular moment this week when mum decided it was time to go and visit the wiggery. And in typical Barr humour, amongst the more painful moments, there were many hilarious fashions she adorned prior to picking a wig that looked most like her own hair. I can only imagine, I wasn't there. To indulge you with another Mrs Doubtfire quote:
"Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match."
Sometimes in my attempts to be overly jovial in what is a time of pain, sadness and weariness, I can strike out with outrageously inappropriate comments but the sentiment behind it is the genuine article. Like when we are quietly hurting, we can lash out at the people we care about - one knows not to take it at face value but to try and endure what is a battle of wits that runs alongside the physical pain. My dad must be an expert at this right now. Actually, this has always been an amazing gift of his.
The amazing thing about writing is, that unlike the spoken word, you can rewrite history. And so, without any grandiose gestures or cocky glances at the sky above, I will take my time and say this right:
Mum, you are beautiful. With hair, without hair, with pretend hair - regardless. Your beauty lies in many things - your incessant pride and support of your family, that tight grimace on your face when you are trying to endure pain, your ridiculous sense of ambition with regards to your children competing in the Olympics, the slow blink you have when you're tired but trying to stay awake to talk to us, your inability to resist checking that we have everything before we go anywhere, the adorable look of concentration on your face when you are trying to serve in tennis. If anything, seeing you go through this battle, has made you the more beautiful for the strength and endurance you show, in your quiet fragility, in your bad temperedness. Unfortunately, you seem stuck with it.
I may say things wrong all the time, but I like to think I make up for it saying some pretty damn sweet sappy stuff too.
Trying to serve! Cheeky!