I've been working on my memoir about my mother, Betty Jane, using my journal entries from the last year or so of her life as the basic structure of the book.
Writing about Mom brings her back so powerfully that some days I'm almost positive she's standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, pointing out my grammar and spelling mistakes, as she always did when I asked her to read my work.
Dad was Mom's primary caregiver and to give him a respite break, Mom would spend a week or so, from time to time, at a 'rest home' on the North Shore. She liked it because the place was small, had been there a long time and had a good reputation.
As much as she enjoyed the break, she was always glad to come home to her house, flowers, and view of the sea.
My mother loved her friends, old and new. She enjoyed people and her visits to the rest home provided opportunities for her to make new friends. The theme of enduring loyalties and deep bonds, whether forged in childhood or in adult life, is one of the strongest in the memoir so far. Here's an excerpt from my work in progress about Mom and friendships.
2 March 2009
Mom came back from the rest home this past week, very happy to be home again, enjoying the sea and view and her flowers on the deck. All in all it went very well in there. She made a new friend - Jenna - and when it was time to leave, Mom said to me, 'It's hard to make friends and then have to leave them.' She and Jenna said good bye as best they could, with their walking frames nose to nose, maneuvering along so as not to knock each other over.
A couple of days before Mom came home, I I had a phone call from one of her oldest friends, my Aunt Frances. She and Uncle Jim live in the USA. Mom and Frances grew up together in the town of Fernandina Beach, Florida.
Frances is not really my aunt. As is customary in the American South, my brother, sister and I have always addressed Mom's dearest girlfriends as 'Aunt' which meant I actually had several 'Aunts' in my life for quite a period of time. Aunt Frances would be our closest Auntie, almost a sister to my Mom. They have known each other since they were teenagers, hanging out on the beach at Fernandina.
Mom treasures her old friends as they do her and I know it was very hard for Mom to leave America in 1963, to move to New Zealand, leaving all her good friends and everything that was familiar, far behind.
Aunt Frances and I had a great talk on the phone. 'Tell your Mom that I love her,' she said, 'and I think of her so often and remember all the good, fun times we had together.'
I understand that friendships are great treasures in Mom's life that she values beyond measure. At 81, she still takes much enjoyment from meeting new people.
'You're never too old to make friends,' she says.