From 1976 to 1992 my mother kept a diary. All hand written on loose leaf Quatro paper – later on A4. Her handwriting varied from large and bold to tiny and feint. Not in a progressive way as she got older – just dependent on how she felt, I imagine.
Mostly, she felt ill. Most opening lines were about how ill she felt or how well she felt, but but she mostly felt ill.
Tonight I read the entire contents. (She died in 2009 aged 97 – I have looked at this stuff several times since then but never all of it, in one sitting, before.) It was not an every day diary. There would be patches of daily writing and then a few days or a few weeks would go astray before the next episode. There is the recounting of holidays to relatives, joy on the births of grandchildren, and all manner of emotions around family and her faith. But mostly it was about her health, her loneliness, her depression and her cost of living.
Had I not known her, I could perhaps take this book at face value and say what a self centred, stupid old woman she seemed to be. And she was, really. But I know she was more than that. I know how her life brought her to this situation, I know her so deeply that I can love and hate her for all of it, with understanding and compassion and sadness. I can see how she was misunderstood – but I also witnessed first hand the frustration of that misunderstanding. What would it have taken to make her feel loved? How could you ever get beyond the cost of a repair, the price of a taxi, the kind donation that was not accepted? She hindered when she tried to help and she begrudged everything she paid for. She had Christian faith in abundance, (and was keen to Spread The Word) but, to give without counting the cost did not come easy!
Sadly there is nothing here to save. In 1992 we celebrated her 80th birthday in her garden in her beloved bungalow, and there are no more diary entries after that. And all those years of memoirs are only there as thoughts of what she ate and why she might feel ill and what medications she took and if the Lord should take her now well that’s OK.
I know who she was. She was more than this. Much more. There is no merit in a diary kept to predict one’s demise. It prolongs the agony. Was there ever any need to record the bus fare, the waiting times, the queue at the post office, the late delivery, the unpaid bill?
The tedium of life is not where your memories lie. These are not the memories you crave to store. That is the saddest part. I can’t even find a worthy quote to add to the end of this post. Maybe this – where she was actually quoting my hubby, after she had taken on a Nannying job that was too much for her in 1983 – “better to have tried and failed than not to try”.
The choices she “tried” were not great.
The end of a chapter, verse and diary.