For a tiny woman, Mum sure packed a punch.
Whether you were a school administrator, a local politician or a teenage son, it was wise not to tangle with her.
She was always polite, of course. But beware the terrier, if she thought the wrong thing was being done.
Mum had our primary school hall built. She didn’t think it was acceptable that we had nowhere to hold proper assemblies, or musicals. So she set about changing things.
My mother was a tireless letter writer. She penned notes to scores of people over that bloody hall. If they didn’t respond, they’d get another.
Mum took to the airwaves. She decided talkback was a valuable tool, to push her barrow. She painted a sorry picture of our rundown school. Politicians who had been sitting on their hands, were starting to look bad.
Finally, they relented. We would get our hall. More than anything, I think, to shut Mum up. She was delighted.
When I got to high school, she decided it needed a new hall too. Seriously. The letters started again. This project proved easier. The powers-that-be didn’t have the energy to fight her.
After Dad died, we used to have terrible fights. I was heading off the rails. She was trying to be mother and father, and it wasn’t working.
I eventually moved out, at 19. I know that hurt her deeply. She didn’t say a thing. Just went about supporting me any way she could. From pots and pans to cleaning cloths. Not that any of them were used in those early years.
When we were no longer living under the same roof, the fights stopped. I finally appreciated the incredible struggle she’d had, to keep my brother and I safe and well. She finally understood the difficulties a teenager had, after losing his much-loved Dad.
When I started work, she was so incredibly proud. I was employed by the same radio station she featured on, a few years earlier. She continued to call them, whenever something took her fancy. Always with a reminder about who her son was.
I moved interstate eventually, into a different part of the media. She demanded I send home tapes of stories I’d done. I’m pretty sure they were shown at morning teas, with her friends. Poor ladies.
Mum would visit whenever she could. We were lucky enough to live in some of Queensland’s most amazing parts. She was constantly amazed at the beauty of those places.
Towards the end of her life, she struggled. Her sight was all but gone. So cruel. This woman who loved her crossword puzzles, now had to use books with only the largest print. And even then, she could barely make out details.
On one of her final visits, I took her to a seafood shop, to get lunch. I asked if she wanted prawns. Yes, she said, that would be lovely. How about those ones there in the window? They look big and juicy.
They were indeed. Sadly, she was pointing at the lobsters. We had a laugh about that. She kept her sense of humour till the end.
In her final hours in hospital, I held Mum’s tiny, frail hand. She told me that the giant Indian was calling her. I actually looked about the hospital room that night, so sure was she that the big guy was there with us. I couldn’t see him. But she could. I still picture what he must have looked like.
She gave me so many valuable lessons. Near the top of her list, was to fight for what you believe in. And that if something will make your heart happy, then it’s worth chasing. Nothing is more important.
I miss Mum every day, but especially on Mother’s Day. Give yours a hug for me on the weekend. And if you’re having seafood for lunch this Sunday, make sure you check those prawns.