So my Mum…
This Mum of which I speak is my grandma, who’s raised me since I was 5…man I feel like the author of The Babysitters Club repeatedly explaining my backstory on here as I tend to do…admittedly if her series was being read by a tender but delicious few!
Anyway…I digress. Probably cos I don’t really want to write it: but here it is.
Mum’s cancer is back. It’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma again. Given the alternatives that were being investigated it is actually a positive outcome.
Still, it has rocked me. The past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’ve been seeing heaps of her though, which has been truly wonderful. I feel very lucky.
Lucky to have this time with her. Lucky that she has made it this far (she’s 89 in a few weeks and determined to make it past 90!), lucky that she has seen my wedding and met all three of my children, to the point where all of them will have memories of spending time with her. So, so lucky.
Back in 2007, deciding to move to Canada was a really tough call, given that I’ve spent most of my life worrying about her dying at any moment. It’s a hangover from experiencing grief early on. I still have to, on occasion, talk myself down from thoughts that loved ones will disappear suddenly. Then…three weeks before we were due to leave, she underwent tests for leukaemia. “Mum,” I said to her. “It’s okay, if it’s bad news, we’ll just cancel the trip and stay. It’s no big deal. Really. Canada will aways be there.” She called me a few days later: “It’s not cancer!” We all breathed sighs of relief, celebrated and off we trundled to the big beautiful red and white flag in the snow.
A few weeks later, a Skype call. Only in audio, as the computer was crap. “So they’re putting me on this new medicine for the thing.”
“What is it exactly?”
“Non, oh what is it? I wrote it down. Hold on a moment, oh non, non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” she says.
“Lymphoma?” I say. “But Mum, that’s cancer, isn’t it?”
“Well, no, not really.”
This is the Mum of which I speak. This woman.
I am astounded by her attitude. I feel so grateful to have been raised by such a strong, character-ful, positive, optimistic in defiance of life’s shittiness-at-times and truly magnificent woman.
She raised my sister (then 2, a toddler for crying out loud) and I (5) from the age of 60 (!), as a single parent AND while grieving the completely-out-of-the-blue death of her daughter.
She is something else.
She has made me who I am.
Of course, she wasn’t perfect, nobody is. But now that I’ve had my own kids, I FORGIVE EVERYTHING. I had no idea the extent of what she did for us – and I mean, everything, the feeding, the lunch boxes, the driving, the noise (dear God, the noise!), the money, the cooking, the cleaning (and she kept our home spick and span!) I understand this now a little bit more at least, and cannot even comprehend how she did it. She is almost beyond human in my mind. She’s my role model.
When somebody commented recently to her about my housekeeping abilities (or apparently infamous lack thereof), she simply smiled and said “Well, Jenny’s NOT a housekeeper! She never has been and she never will be. I used to walk by her bedroom and just shut the door.”
As she recounts this to me one afternoon, she stares me directly in the eye and smiles: “And you’re NOT a housekeeper!” Magically, she says this to me in a way that doesn’t feel like a passive aggressive jibe, but like a compliment. Hmm, I think. I’m not a housekeeper. Damn straight! “Thank you!” I say. “Thank you Mum! I’m NOT a housekeeper! Thank you!” We hug.
OTHER THINGS HAPPENING LATELY:
- have spent a stunning summer at the beach as often as we can get there. My kids have learned to boogie board, including my scrummy Cassidy. Boarding at age 3. I am so boasting about that!
- my new up-and-coming website (this blog is gonna be moving soon to http://www.jennywynter.com you see) has been hijacked and apparently is redirecting all mobile devices to some Russian porn site. If that’s your thing, then you’re welcome. For all others, my huge apologies, I am trying to sort it out shortly, comrades! Vodkas all round. The new site WILL be up and running pretty shortly!
- I live-tweeted my way through Labyrinth! It’s been on my to-do list for a while and was suitably fun. Some tweeps joined in who weren’t even watching the movie (other than in their head.) Hehe. Thinking of making it a regular tweetable movie club.
- got some new headshots done. Just plain actory-ones for my actory-aspirations.
- WE BOUGHT A TELEVISION. Inconceivable. We haven’t had one for nearly a decade (by choice) and already I’m rather horrified by the amount we’ve had it switched on at home. I blame the Australian Open.
- my head has been turned to a pile of melting mush by the umpteen logistics involved in taking the new show PLUS Betties PLUS a set (still haven’t quite worked out how the heck I’m getting my giant gum ball machine down to South Australia!) down to Adelaide Fringe. It’s coming soon. And even better…tickets are actually already selling. So yes. I’m full of anxiety and excitement. Anxietment!
So Caleb (my 8-year-old) came and saw my show for the very first time (at the Judith Wright Centre a coupla weeks back). I gave him a pretty good pep-talk in the week leading up to it, explaining that he had to show me he was mature enough to handle the fact there’d be some adult words and ideas, and that just because he heard them didn’t mean he was allowed to go ahead and use them!
Anyway, besides it being such a total rockstar joy to see both my kids’ beaming faces in the crowd (and Caleb cracked up particularly loudly, so will be forever noticeable on the resulting DVD!) one of my favourite parts of the whole experience was that they both got to feel like mini-celebs after the show. The post-show buzz was high, everybody was milling about, coming up to us, saying nice things, talking to the kids as well…Caleb beckoned me down so he could whisper in my ear: “Mum. YOU’RE FAMOUS!”
When I asked him if he liked the show, he nodded and said to me, “It was very emotional.”
So sweet. And since then, he’s been saying things to me about how the show made him laugh so much but also made him so sad, because it made him think about Diane (my mum) and how it’s so unfair that he will never get to meet her because he wants to, because she’s his grandma.
It was only a couple of days ago when I was talking to my sister about it all that I really let go and had a big cry. It’s probably been coming for a while. As we hugged each other, I blurted out “When does this ever stop hurting?”
I remember a few years back when I was in Boston doing solo improv coaching with Daena Giardella, this amazing woman. For some reason – probably a combination of jet-lag, missing my kids like crazy, having never been away from them before, plus the intensity of doing what was essentially a one-on-one masterclass in acting – I was an emotional wreck that entire week, with all this heavy grief stuff about my Mum coming up. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry at myself. Because come on, wasn’t I over this by now? It was so long ago!
But then Daena said to me: “Grief isn’t like a staircase where you work your way up and that’s it, you’re on the upper level now. It’s an elevator. You’re constantly moving up and down the levels, you might stay up at one for a long time but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you find yourself back down a few!”
I’ll always remember that.
On the plus side, I know living with grief has made me focus on making the most of life while I’m here, a huge part of which is making sure that I appreciate the time that I have with my own kids, knowing that it’s more than she had with hers.
It does have its ups.
But it never stops hurting.
This is Frankie.
(And me. In New York. AAAGGGHHH!!! I still can’t believe that happened!)
I first met Frankie six years ago, when she moved into the house next door.
The first I knew of their arrival was courtesy of their little girl Lilly, then two, came hurtling at full pace into our front yard, proceeded to jump, skip and cavort with my little Ella, then one, and then floated off as quickly as she’d arrived, calling out into the breeze: “Ella! Ella! You’re my BEST FRIEND!”
Soon after, Frankie and her very pregnant belly introduced herself to me and my very pregnant belly. We were due within two months of each other (as it would turn out, two months to the exact day) and what followed were shared meals, parties, child-wrangling, commiserating, laughing, board games, chocolate ingesting marathons, DVD nights and everything in between.
Soon, I would find myself floating off next door calling out into the breeze: “Frankie! Frankie! You’re my BEST FRIEND!”
She would then call the police.
I’ve learned so much from this truly wondrous part of my life:
- that the real, lasting, true friendships of your life aren’t ‘needy’. The connection you have will always be there, and you both know it and are secure in that, regardless of how much time has passed between drinks.
- that a true friend is one you can completely fall apart in front of, can reveal your darkest and ugliest innards, and also just laugh about something so ridiculous that it seems that nobody else on the planet Earth could even glimpse any semblance of humour in it. You can be completely fabulous and totally awful. You can let it all hang out for better and for worse. And know all the while that the other person will like you, lift you and love you.
- that at the end of my life, no matter what I’ve achieved or failed to achieve in terms of creative and career ambitions, to still have magical friendships in tact, will be amongst the greatest treasures. For I can’t imagine any Oscars holding me through my retirement and laughing with me when my catheter keeps falling out.