by Amanda Jones
a can of Lilt
A natural charm oozed from her and a radiant smile of genuine love attracted people. Through her life there had been characterful men. As a young twenty-something she nearly married an Arabian on holiday and spoke fondly of his harem. Together with her best friend that had been an experience as they travelled to Tunisia and Yugoslavia in the days before conflict tore the countries apart.
There was always something to laugh about, a distraction from pain and illness. When you looked at Mum you were drawn into a warmth of cheekiness. She was the epiphany of invisible disability. Without her dark glasses, cane or mobility problems she looked well.
So, let’s show something.
You are in severe pain, perhaps you’ve put your back out or caught your finger in the car door. Ouch! But there is no sign of anything hurting, just your voice to demonstrate. ‘You look well,’ greets a friend. How do you feel when they say this considering you are screaming inside? Now think of this every day for the rest of your life and you have met the chronic pain of invisible illness. ‘Well’ can mean more to someone who is unwell, having grieved for their previous abilities and health. Why not say lovely, beautiful or compliment clothes etc instead?
But, Mum chose to hide it, like most of us do, for the sake of a break from dwelling on it.
On her dog walks she met her male friends. She stopped for a chat, flirt and giggle. Sometimes I would find them in the street when I got off the school bus. Then the fish-man asked her to run away with her! She sought my permission, we wanted to stay together, he didn’t. So that was that.
One day my friend, I and Mum returned from a dog walk and she found a piece of sponge in the driveway. She prodded it with her stick. As she lifted it the sponge soared through the air, over the hedge and wall and into next door’s garden as the dog followed it with her eyes, her head moving comically. We were in fits of laughter and still giggle about it thirty years later.
Then one day I sat on the bathroom stool and air flowed into a rubber glove as I did so raising it like a dead hand. Did I scream and laugh with Mum and my friend!
So, behind the tears, pain and sorrow there was always laughter and love.
That’s life. It’s called an attitude with gratitude.
It is possible to be happy and be in pain. But, there needs to be a balance of empathy, pain-relief, distraction techniques and love to be able to live and laugh.
About the author