The oncologist hung up, after promising me he’d go to the ward and get Mum to turn on her mobile so I could talk to her. I was battling off tears, desperate to speak to her, but dreading the phone call. My biggest fear was her stubborn streak. Would she be in denial? Would I be jumping on a plane to watch her fight to the bitter end? I had experienced so many dramas around Mum’s illnesses over the years, I was almost in giving-fatigue, as callous as that may read.
She answered the phone. “Did they tell you? What did you say?” she asked. No pussy-footing around then. I answered truthfully. “I told the oncologist, ‘bugger’,” with tears breaking into my voice. Because it was. An absolutely sh*t, fart, poo bugger. But – and I haven’t studied yoga and meditated all these years for nothing – a small voice inside me quietly added, “it is, what it is.”
“I’ll come over straight away,” I told her. “Do you want me to bring the kids?”.
“Yes, and bring Tony,” she added.
“I love you, we’ll be there soon,” I said from the other side of the world – and ended the call. What more was there to say?
It’s only now, looking back after a year, I realise she wasn’t asking Tony to come because she wanted to see him one last time. Not really, no matter how much she loved her Aussie son-in-law.
No, she wanted him there for me. I couldn’t see it then, because I was in my role of the strong daughter who always fixed things. A role I had been in for so long, I’d forgotten she could still be a Mom, wanting to help and look out for me.
She knew what was coming. I’d forgotten she had nursed her own mother-in-law through cancer, that her mother had been sick and died of heart disease when I was small, and that she had also nursed Rene, her Father’s second wife, when she died of cancer too. I was the one untutored in this rite of passage. Now I understand she wanted to make sure I had someone with me. Unconditional love – even after hearing the worst news you could ever imagine hearing. Looking back on the phone call, she was already at peace with her lot. Now all I had to do was catch up.