perlmonger: (skydancer)
[personal profile] perlmonger
Born 14th September 1921
Died 25th June 2010

A rare post, for a singular event.

My sister, Helena, has just let us know that our mother died this morning. She'd been in a nursing home for years, since her Alzheimer's reached the stage where, despite her desires and intentions, she could no longer live safely in the home she'd lived in just a few months longer than I'd been alive: I was conceived in Helsinki and reached these shores in her womb the summer before I was born.

She was a fiercely independent woman who, I think, never fully reconciled herself to moving from her teaching career (and working for Yleisradio in the Helsinki Olympics) in Finland to 50's housewifeness in England, a move engineered by my father's parents, with his acquiescence, to have their "little Billy" living in a newbuild suburban bungalow next door to their newbuild suburban bungalow (and not swanning off around the world on FO business). Still, she survived the transition, survived that first dreadful English winter in an uninsulated English house, and even survived my father (both him living, which to say the least wasn't easy, and his death in 1988).

She, more than anyone else, crafted who I grew up as, and the core of me that shapes who I am today. This was by no means unambiguously good, of course, and we came into much conflict once I started creating a sense of independence from her, an identity of my own, but still, even that conflict and pain was predicated on (yes, her desire to live vicariously through me) her love for me.

Good memories: Helping her make Christmas pulla, tortut, gingerbread; her teaching me to ride a bicycle; going on long walks together; her taking me to nestle by the kitchen fire in the night when I had a cough and giving me sugar cubes soaked in brandy to suck; New Year ritual of melting tin (kept safe round the year) on the fire, pouring ladlefuls into cold water, and trying to predict the future from the shapes formed and their shadows cast; singing Hoosianna, Daavidin poika and Hei! Tonttu-ukot hyppikää on Pikku Joulu, Little Christmas, on the first day of Advent; long political and social discussions in the kitchen; many, many more.

Go well, Äitini. Given a choice, you would have gone years ago, when you lost your autonomy; given a choice you would be buried at sea, an option not easily open to us. Still, we will say goodbye, and say thank you, and will remember you until we too end.
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