I went out to dinner last night with a friend I have known for over 20 years. She was sharing a house with me when I was 20/21 with three other girls as well. A huge house right in the heart of St Kilda, right near theatre works on Acland Street. I have great memories of the house, I am still very close friends with two of the girls.
The are also very painful memories for me of this time as well. My mum had a massive stroke in April 1992 - two months before I turned 21. They (the doctors) thought she was going to die and were at the point of discussing organ donation with my dad. She was in a coma like state for about three days and then “woke up” – completely paralysed down the left side.
It was a difficult time for my family and I. Mum was in care for a while before coming home in a wheelchair with partial paralysis and a condition known as left neglect. She had lost most of her ability to communicate although her speech was okay there wasn't a huge amount coming out, she had also lost her ability to walk at this stage. My Dad had recently semi retired to working from home was able to spend a lot of time with her. I went home every weekend for months but resented it. I resented giving up my social life. Before Mum had the stroke things had been very strained. I hadn’t been getting along with either of my parents for years.
The typical pattern for me at this time would be to go back to my parents place on the Friday after work. I would spend the whole weekend with Dad, this usually involved a lot of cleaning as Dad hadn’t figured out what services were available to him as a carer yet. While Mum was in care we would spend time with her in the Old people's home. Dad and I would usually end up fighting as well. If not him then my sister and I would have a fight. I would be cranky and bored and then I would be to get back to Melbourne at around 8.30 pm on the Sunday, go out til 5 or 6 am and struggle into work on the Monday morning with 2 hours sleep still very drunk. After around 4 months of this the visits gradually diminished.
I was also going through a relatively promiscuous time of my life (for me). Around this time, around my 21st birthday I was seeing 4 men. I’d been a late bloomer with boyfriends and sex and I think a combination of the emotional trauma in my family life and my need to make up for lost time resulted in some interesting behaviour. I was very angry at my mum for intruding on my personal life. I was also very sad at losing her. For although she didn’t die she was not the same and for a long time was not my mother. In many ways I felt like I became her's.
Anna brought up my mum’s stroke last night. She mentioned how when I had found out it had happened I’d come into the living room and told my four housemates and they barely turned around from the tv. I don’t remember resenting this at all or thinking that was odd but I do remember being very scared and feeling very alone and having no clue what to do. I watched tv with the others til everybody else went to bed and then I went to my bedroom and cried for hours – too upset and too scared to sleep. I went to work the next day because it was a Thursday and the pays needed to be done. Then I caught the train back to the country and went straight to the hospital.
I don’t think Anna was apologising for not being able to say anything, I really don’t expect her to apologise either. She said “you were the first to have that sort of thing happen. You were the first.” The other girls were a bit older than me but still at that age most people don't have the skills to deal with tragedy and death or major sickness in other people's lives. I do find it weird that she brought it up after 17 years though. I haven’t thought about that time in my life for a while. I'd forgotten the girls reaction or lack of reaction.
I now have a really good relationship with my Mum and my Dad. My Mum will never be fully recovered but she has pretty good quality of life and she is now my friend. Sometimes I think we are better friends for her having the stroke. I think maybe I wouldn’t have worked so hard to become her friend if it hadn’t of happened. I think maybe I would have kept on being selfish for a lot longer.