I write a lot about how I feel, about who I am and my story with grief…but what about my Mum?
My Mum was my best friend. I can’t really encapsulate the essence of my mother into a legible series of words, as I’m sure is true of any attempt to summarise the complexities of a whole person. However, I’ll give it a bloody good go.
She was friendly, silly, and approachable, with a warming presence and an ever so slightly inappropriate sense of humour. She loved music, introducing my brother and me into a lifelong infatuation with reggae, ska, rhythm and blues, disco, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, and Motown. She loved Elvis, The Beatles, Madness, Chaka Khan, and Janet Kay. Mum loved a party, being able to socialise, and spending time with loved ones – especially if there was free food! Her skin was always warm, and she wore Chanel Chance. Mum loved jewellery and wore mostly gold. She also loved a novelty earring, some of her favourites included pink Barbie doll shoes, teddy bears holding presents, and Christmas baubles bearing the inscription “I ❤️ XMAS”.
Susan Janet Geary – Sue to everyone, hence the exquisite pun for my website name – was born on 2nd August 1963 in London. Second and youngest child of my Nan and Grandfather (his name was Mike Geary, he passed away in 1966) little brother to Michael junior. Mum was really switched on when it came to maths, being offered a job by Barclays Bank as soon as she left school aged only 15. She passed her driving test on April Fool’s Day 1981, thus becoming the designated driver for the rest of her life as she never drank a drop of alcohol (except for that one time she had a piña colada whilst we were on holiday in Turkey one year, vomited, and then had a hangover – that was a F U N day). Around Mum’s teenage years, my Nan met my “Grandad” and married him. He would become a father figure to my Mum and uncle, and later lovingly known as Deda by all four grandchildren.
My Mum met my Dad in 1984 when they both worked for the Post Office. They married in 1988 – Mum became Susan Szumowski – and they had their first child, Krystyna, in January 1990. Krystyna passed away on Wednesday 9th May (my Dad specifically told me it was a Wednesday), at five months old. Mum and Dad went on to raise thousands of pounds for cot death research. They had my brother, James, in September 1991, and I followed in July 1994. We lived in London, and would holiday in Highcliffe each summer, which is on the south coast in Dorset. My Dad had an affair and my parents split up in 1997. My Dad left our family home and left my Mum with two kids, grieving both the loss of their first child (which I’m sure one would never recover from) and the end of a marriage.
Shortly after this happened, my grandparents retired and moved to Dorset as they knew it was a nice area. My Mum soon followed, as she couldn’t be a single parent financially supporting a family in London. Mum moved my brother and I down to Dorset into my Nan’s house, got us settled into school, but stayed in London herself whilst she sold the house and lived out her notice period at work. She would travel to Dorset to spend time with us every weekend, and eventually found a house to buy for the three of us to live in. Lots of journeys between London and Dorset in the back of my Mum’s little red Citroën Saxo or Deda’s black cab – once we got a few roads away from home he’d let my brother and I take our seat belts off and sit on the flip down seats that face backwards so we would flop around the back of the cab in fits of laughter.
My Mum lived an extremely difficult lifestyle. We were poor, there’s no debate about it. She worked full time, paid the mortgage, bills, and general costs of life completely by herself, and only just managed to scrape by. I didn’t know this until I was about 18/19 years old. She would borrow money from my grandparents, at one point she had three jobs, and she would go without to ensure that my brother and I were able to have and access everything we needed. She always, always encouraged us to pursue our interests and wanted us to experience anything that we could (realistically within our means of course).
Mum was a “Mum” in every sense of the word. Loving, generous, welcoming, selfless, and a damn good cook. She taught me how to read, how to swim, helped with homework, made me things from scratch, soothed me when I was unwell, took me places to learn, and became my friend. Although my Mum and Dad had a tumultuous relationship once they’d broken up, Mum never allowed her negative view of Dad taint my view of him. She never spoke badly of him, and allowed my brother and I to create our own relationship and image of him.
In my later teenage years, my brother moved out of the house, pursuing fancy writing courses at a college in London, then studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (he’s very clever, is a published author, and the amount of words he’s written in his life probably isn’t even a real number?). When my brother moved out, Mum and I had the opportunity to become super close and spend loads of time together. We were together constantly.
We listened to each other’s moans and groans about work, colleagues, friendships, other family members, and how some tights always seemed to have a hole in at the toe? She taught me how to cook, how to apply lipstick, she was always the first on the dance floor, she helped me apply for jobs and learn how to drive, she always came to the pub for mine or my brother’s birthday with us and our pissed friends, we bought each other presents, recommended books to each other, went to vintage fairs, out for lunches and afternoon teas, spa days, cinema trips, and one time we went clubbing together.
I could always count on her to be on my side, to give me a cuddle, to listen to me moaning about my issues. I sometimes reflect on times that I feel I was so selfish and unaware of what Mum was going through and I feel guilty about these moments. I know that as my Mum, she would have forgiven and forgotten almost immediately, but I wish I could tell her I’m sorry for being an absolute stroppy cow sometimes.
What made it hard to lose her was that she was all of these wonderful things and more. She was an incredible woman and an amazing role model. To not have her unconditional love, warmth, and guidance anymore is heartbreaking. How I wish I could tell her all the new exciting things that have happened, hug her, or even just get a text from her about what she had for lunch. I will never again experience the love that my Mum had for me, and I have nowhere to “put” the love that I have for her.
And I have so much.