Today’s post is in response to Rhonda Jean’s latest Friday ‘what’s on my mind’ and I wanted to tell you about my wonderful mum Joyce.
Mum is 85 and she lives in an aged care facility in Gordon, Sydney. She hasn’t always lived there and actually spent her 60 married years in our home, the house she built with her husband, my Dad Joe.
Last year, after spending 4 months in hospital, the family had to make the heartbreaking decision to move Mum into care. She’s been physically unwell for many many years and it had finally taken it’s toll on Dad. He could no longer look after her and shortly after we decided to move her into care, Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Mum developed a debilitating condition called polymyalgia about 15 years ago. Put simply, it’s an arthritic condition that effects not the joints but the muscular tissue particularly around the upper arms and legs. Apart from heavy duty pain relief and physiotherapy, mum relies on emotional support to get through each day. Most polymyalgia cases burn themselves out by about 15 years but Mum’s case is different: it’s persistent and chronic so it’s been a desperate time watching her suffer for years on end, deteriorating rapidly over the last 5 years or so.
But she’s incredible, never ceasing to amaze me with her stoic disposition. I’ve watched as she’s declined, being reduced to a near cripple almost entirely dependent on a wheelchair. As a long-term pain sufferer, she’s also had more than her share of depression and we’ve nearly lost her a couple of times to major infections that have seen her bed ridden for weeks on end.
Since Dad’s passing in October, I’ve once again watched Mum’s strength come to the fore. As I’ve kept a close eye on her over the last month, she has gone from strength to strength. She seems to have finally settled in to her new home, surrounded by the most incredible staff who are nothing less than totally committed and dedicated to each and every client. What amazing people they all are and so special to give their time to the elderly and frail.
Prior to this dreadful condition, Mum was always an active person. In her youth she represented NSW in netball (then called basketball), played tennis, hiked with walking clubs and sailed in Sydney Harbour.
She was musical and I remember fondly how she sang all the time as she was cooking and cleaning and it was no wonder, her father was a piano maker and tuned the great organ in the Sydney Town Hall for years. In the early days her father travelled extensively through rural NSW looking for work and her mother and her travelled alongside him in a sidecar on and off for 2 years prior to her starting school. Can you imagine that?
Mum grew up to love the outdoors and wasn’t afraid to tackle family camping trips in remote bushland areas on the south coast of NSW with Dad and the 5 of us, and as Dad was a Queen’s Scout he had a natural attraction to the bush and adventure as well. I had no hope! She continued to play tennis for another 35 years and I’d often join her bushwalking with local groups. Although Mum never drove it didn’t stop her taking us on all sorts of adventures to the city and surrounding national parks.
I fondly remember our day trips to the Blue Mountains.We’d leave home at 6am in the cool of the morning with packed lunches, backpacks and 5 kids in tow. Off we’d go on the train, waving goodbye as we dropped Dad off at Wynyard Station on the way arriving at Katoomba 2 hours later way too excited to sit still on the short bus trip down to Echo Point. After admiring the spectacular views across to the Three Sisters, we’d descend the giant staircase eventually dropping into the magical world of the Jamison Valley below. With shaky legs we’d walk along the cool valley floor dwarfed beneath the giant tree ferns, spotting a lyrebird or too darting in and out of the moist track edges. We’d listen to their chortle above the gurgling creek running just below the edge of the winding track and be amazed by spectacular waterfalls and towering sandstone cliffs along the way. After a few hours we’d reach the little platform at the base of the Scenic Railway and wait impatiently for the train to appear. We’d climb aboard, full of excitement and hold our breaths as we ascended rapidly, terrified at the thought of the worlds steepest railway coming loose from it’s cable, crashing into the deep forest below. A few minutes later we’d burst into the sunshine at the top of the escarpment relieved that we’d made it to the top in one piece but eager to get back on for another go. We’d head back to Katoomba, catching a late train back to Sydney and fall asleep, exhausted from an exhilarating day. This was just one of the many adventures I had with my Mum and siblings and when I think of all those wonderful things she did for us, I wonder why she has been burdened with this terrible condition. It seems so unfair.
Mum was a true homemaker, cooking every meal from scratch, making our clothes and knitting our jumpers. She baked, made lunches, and provided for all of us on a very tight budget. She loved craft and was a dedicated member of a knitters guild and local craft groups and she spent a lot of her spare time dedicated to community work, volunteering tirelessly with charity organisations, our schools and her local church.
When Mum moved into her new home she didn’t hesitate to join the small craft group and at times has only been able to sit and enjoy the company of it’s members, rather than participating in activities, her arms too sore to move. With a new found emotional strength she’s an active member of the group once again and I was delighted to know she was off on a bus trip to the craft Christmas party this week.
Being part of a small craft group gives Mum tremendous joy, a sense of belonging, participation and acceptance. She has always embraced the spirit of community, giving and sharing with friends and family and those less fortunate. To be so generous but to have so little yourself is a virtue that seems so misplaced in a world full of consumerism and self-indulgence and how lucky am I to have her as my Mum. She has taught me so much.
My Mum Joyce Ellen has been a giver all her life and she gave herself selflessly to all of us, to her husband and to so many others. Its now our time to be there for her. It’s the least we can do to say ‘thank you Mum’…..well….for absolutely everything really!