“Jill. No … Aryn, er … Kelly, Michaela … what’s your name again? I mean Lia … ”
It was a line I would hear in my house on a weekly basis. Mum would run through all the names until she got the right one.
It was hard juggling names of five girls let alone birthdays, lunches, school outfits, sports schedules and all the other chaos that comes with raising children. But she did it so easily time and time again. I never saw a written roster or notes in a diary.
She somehow just had everything locked away in her brain. I never gave two thoughts to the amount of energy she had to muster up to make sure we were fed, educated and entertained but she also had her own work schedule to maintain.
She didn’t do it alone – of course she had my dad by her side and together they were the A team (or since our surname is Bichel – the B team, perhaps). But I am not sure I truly appreciated their efforts, and all their patience, until I was a lot older.
Shortly before my 13th birthday our world was torn apart when my oldest sisters – twins- were killed in a car accident. It was a day that will haunt me forever.
I had seen my parents hold it together in front of us when dealing with other tragedies in their lives, but we were in this one together. We were at our lowest, together.
Though with all the relentless pain they felt, my parents still had our well-being at the forefront of their minds. While dealing with every parent’s nightmare, their love and attention for me and my sisters never faltered and they did everything to ensure we were coping. They taught us how to embrace our memories and how to smile again.
We soldiered on – because we had no other choice -and life continued, as it does. We went through the ups and downs most families faced during the teenager years. They tolerated the boys, pushed us though exams and worried when we partied. Eventually we graduated. We moved out of home. We went to university and we got jobs. They granted my wish to travel to Australia, and, when I met a boy and fell in love, they supported my permanent move. They wanted me to forge my own path in life.
Though we are a world apart, and I get extremely homesick several times a year, I never feel alone. They continue to be my ‘go-to’ people when I need advice on everything from parenting to cooking (I once called my mum at midnight to see how long I should keep the turkey in the oven – sorry mum). We skype almost every morning and I try to fly back once a year for a good visit. In that time I put mum to work sewing hems on my jeans, cooking my favourite meals, and on my more recent trip – babysitting duties.
If it wasn’t for their unwavering support, I wouldn’t be married to the one person who makes me laugh every single day and wouldn’t have the beautiful little girl who has taught me more in two years than I have learned in a lifetime. Maybe I won’t truly understand the sacrifice they made until my daughter makes her own decision to fly the coop or travel the world. But I do know it took a tremendous amount of courage to let me go.
Their outlook on life, strength and determination to fight any challenge that comes their way is beyond admirable. They’ve set a precedent. They’ve set the bar high. I want to give my daughter the life my parents have given me – full of love, a little discipline, enormous encouragement and continued applause. I will be her biggest fan like they are mine. I will try to teach her what I have learnt – the good and the bad – and give her strength when she feels like the world is against her. I will try to be the mum to her that my mum is to me.
Thanks for teaching me, picking me up when I am down, and showing me the meaning of unconditional love, mum. Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the amazing mothers out there.
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