I know why the menopause robs you not only of your ability to have another baby, but also of your desire to. It’s nature’s way of freeing up your time and energy so you can look after your parents.
Roles inevitably reverse; the cared-for are destined to become the carers. And the older and more doddery your ma and pa get, the more they become like your children. It’s like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in reverse.
I’m constantly warning mum not to trip up; to take a nap when she’s clearly tired but fighting shut-eye like a toddler scared of missing something. Though she is still fiercely independent and sharp as a tack, I ‘help’ her plan her journeys; ‘remind’ her what to say when she goes to the doctor or rings the TV repair man. She usually doesn’t need me to, but I need to do it. Anyway, I’m doling out advice she can’t argue with. Every drop of it is what she gave me.
The other night, though, I was in a quandary. Mum the Little Trojan, who usually soldiers on through everything, suddenly fell ill at my house. She was in pain and crying; it was the first time I’d ever seen her like that.
I’ll admit, at first I asked her what she had once asked me when I had chicken pox aged seven and was feeling so poorly I slid down the kitchen wall into a little heap on the lino: ‘Are you sure you’re really this bad, or are you just wanting a bit of attention?’
Convinced by the tone of her groan, I then tried to decide whether or not to call a doctor out and it dawned that my usual fall-back solution was a no-goer. In every time of crisis, it’s mum a ring. Only, this time, she was the cause and therefore could not possibly provide the solution.
I told her; it made her laugh. Just a little weak one, through the tears. But then I kind of knew she’d be alright and that gave me the confidence to follow both instinct, and the excellent training I had received.
Once crisis point had waned, I insisted she stayed the night so I could keep an eye on her. I loaned her a nightie and a pair of those hotel slippers you nick along with the mini shower gel and shampoo. (She trained me in that, too).
Mum went to sleep saying she was so glad she had such a strong, capable, caring daughter whom she can now lean on. I drifted off wondering what on earth I’m going to do when I am without the woman in whose mould I am cast, and whose presence I still need to believe is eternal.