"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

My mum in midlife

I love this photo of my mum on her honeymoon in 1960. Such a babe!!
With Mother's Day upon us, I spent some time in the lead-up thinking about my mum, and what she was doing when she was the age that I am now. Mid 50s. I called Mum to have a chat about how she remembers her life when she was my age (she's now in her late 70s) then invited her to edit my draft (she said it was a bit like reading her own eulogy, but anyway............). Here is what we remembered together.

Single again, again
When my mum was my age, she was "single again, again", having endured the traumatic and unwanted ending of her first marriage (to my dad) at the age of 41, followed by the stressful (but necessary) ending of a brief (and ill-advised) second marriage 8 years later. Alone again - again - at the age of 49. If she then became a little disillusioned about men, relationships, marriage, I guess it's not surprising.

I remember being a little disconcerted, at about the age of 20, when my mum became single again and it dawned on me that men found her attractive. What??? Younger men even!! She had a couple of suitors in particular, who seemed oblivious to the fact that there were more than 10 or 12 years between them. I think mum enjoyed a little harmless (she says "not completely") flirtation during this time, which no doubt boosted her battered self esteem. However, I think it's fair to say she was probably a little naive about men, having married the first time at 19, so it's possible she gave some ambiguous signals along the way. I mean, look how hot she is in the photo above? She definitely aged well over the years and didn't look a lot different 30 years later!

Beloved granny
By the time Mum was my age, she was not only a mother to three adult children, but also a loving and involved grandmother to her first four grandchildren. I remember she never criticised me as a new mum, and I always felt supported and encouraged. I think she thought I was actually a pretty good mum. And her grandchildren definitely thought that she was a wonderful Granny. Warm, smiley and kind, generous with her hugs, but firm when necessary, and my boys adored her. One of my sons, a sensitive soul, once said to me that he felt sad that "Granny has nobody to love". I assured him that she loved, and was loved by, lots of people, especially him and his brother. Obviously he meant a "life partner" to be with, but he seemed quite satisfied - chuffed even - with my answer.

Tackling (and conquering) the job market
When my father left my mother, she simply had to go and find work (and was very determined to do so). Talk about stepping right out of her comfort zone, but there was no other choice. After over 20 years of full-time mothering, with only a little bit of work for my father's business from time to time, she had to pick herself up and find a full-time job. Her teaching qualifications, gained in the late 1950s, were well over 20 years old, so it would just have to be something else. When I think how hard that must have been, I do so admire her. Mother of three, all of us just at the "launch" stage of life, still coming and going from home, far from fully "flown". She just got on and did what she had to do, amid the grief and stress of everything that had just transpired.

By comparison, when my own marriage ended I'd been working part-time in my career for many years, and although it was certainly stretching to have to increase to full-time hours, at least I wasn't learning a whole new job. Just doing more of the same. For my mum, it was a whole new ballgame. But to her credit, she learned new skills (thanks to a night course), got herself a position in the medical typing pool at a large hospital, and found that she was actually very good at her job.

She eventually moved on to medical reception positions, became a research assistant in the Medical School, and then the state clinical trial coordinator for an international medical trial involving women at risk of breast cancer. Add to that some casual babysitting jobs, not to mention being a "home daycare" provider for my children one day a week when I returned to work, and she definitely had her hands full. Caring for my boys involved doing the school run, kindergarten pickup, and keeping the rugrats amused in the afternoons. One of their favourite things was to walk with Granny to her local store, where the owner would chat with them and they would buy a treat. For years they remembered with great fondness their weekly visits to "George's shop".

Buying real estate
My mum bought her first-ever house when in her early 40s. Again, she had no choice, after property settlement and the sale of what had been our family home. But her new place was lovely, with a peaceful outlook over the river, bringing her some stability and security after her world had gone into a tailspin a couple of years before. A few years later she sold that and bought a 100 year old cottage in the inner city, and then by the time she was my age, she had moved on again to a place that required less maintenance. Through it all, I started to see her own decorating style emerging, after years of being subdued by my father's stronger design and decor preferences. She has great taste, and a way of making a house look and feel like a warm and welcoming home.

Solo traveller
My mum boldly travelled overseas, alone, when she was in her early 50s, staying in youth hostels much of the time. Go mum! She flew to Denmark, travelled to England and Scotland, then across the ditch to Washington D.C. where she reconnected with an old school friend. She was away for 6 - 7 weeks in all. At the time I admired her hutzpah, but now that I've ventured overseas by myself too, I'm even more in awe. I think she would say it was a confidence-boosting and wonderful learning experience.

Health-wise
Mum's health in her 50s was pretty good mostly, but an unexpected kidney removal knocked her about a bit. Thankfully it turned out not to be cancerous, but it took some time for her to recover. Again, the challenges of coping largely on her own were not insignificant.

All things new
At the age of 45, my mum invited the Lord Jesus Christ into her heart. Since that time, she has faithfully served Him at her various places of worship, even willingly planning and leading services when she attended smaller congregations where it needed to be "all hands on deck".

In spite of always being told she couldn't sing (including by we children, who regularly implored her to "stop singing") she bravely joined a choir at the age of 50 and has continued to get great joy from singing her heart out in various choirs since that time. She sang in the chorus of the Jerusalem Passion at the age of 53 and gained so much more confidence from that experience. She says "Now I know I can sing and nobody ever tells me to stop singing!"

Mum has for many years had a passion for genealogy and documenting our family history, pursuing names, facts and numbers since about 1976. After many years of research, now at the age of 77 she's compiling this history into a book.

And now?
These days my mum is happily settled in a lifestyle village, where she enjoys both the community and the privacy offered there, and the peace of mind in having assistance should it be required. A brain haemorhage a few years ago had us all concerned for her future, but she has recovered amazingly well.

Her lovely little villa is the 6th place she's lived, since her life changed so drastically in 1982. She even had a brief (and extraordinarily brave) move to Melbourne in her early 60s, where she stayed for a few years before moving again, this time back to the familiarity of Hobart, which had been her home for so long.

She now enjoys weekly Tai Chi, Mahjong and singing groups and has an allotment in the community garden, where she grows many of her own vegetables.

Mum in her 60s, still the same smile.
Looking back to her 50s
I think Mum would say that her 50s were a season of making mistakes, learning, 'discovering' herself (or allowing God to show her who she is), finally growing up, and growing in confidence. From my perspective, Mum in her 50s was available, dependable, loving, helpful, supportive and encouraging. Someone to be admired and to emulate.

Happy Mother's Day Mum xx

2 comments

  1. A lovely post, Sue. I thought that first photo of your mum was one off the internet, I had to do a double take when I read that it wasn't! A hottie indeed :-). Our mums are so special to us aren't they, and it's always interesting to learn more about them when, as they would say, "I was your age".

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Hannah, yes our mums are definitely special. It was a nice exercise to remember what my mum was doing and going through at my age, and it strengthens our bond somehow xx

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