Another 100 words blog Lucie is travelling with a British group to Egypt

EgyptDavid was handsome.

One evening, he wanted to pay for my drink, but not my meal. Complicated paying arrangements he would never dare to request in England. The waiter did not understand. “Thick as a brick”, David said.

Tom claimed the British were racist. “Americans are, too, but at least they are aware of it. “

I don’t have Tom’s sarcastic wit. I tried.

“Egyptians don’t grasp half generosity, the gentleman paying just half of the lady’s bill. “

Rude rather than witty. He paid his bill and mine. I tried to stop him. “Don’t you dare!”, he said.

Advertisements

Letter to my dead mother

Stethoscope-3

I am writing this letter to my dead mother in English. I find English easier to write. We used to speak Czech most of the time, but she always used to ask me to switch to English so that she could learn. Even at 89, she was a very determined pupil. My mother liked to learn. I lacked the patience for those English conversations, her English was not good enough, and she was a bit hard of hearing, and that is always more prominent in a foreign language. Guessing is harder. But occasionally, I spoke to her in English to please her.

But now she is dead, she is never going to read this letter, I do not believe in afterlife. So I will write it in the language that is easier for me.

The relationship with my mother was always complicated, ambiguous. They say you grieve more in those circumstances. Do I grieve more?

Maybe, I grieve for a relationship we never had. I regret certain things.

Friends and relatives tell me that I treated my mother much better than she treated me.  They are probably right. Doesn’t help.

There is one regret that keeps coming back to me.

I never thanked my mother for making me go to medical school.

I blogged about the story before.

https://luciemuses.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/how-skiing-was-one-of-the-reasons-why-i-became-a-doctor/

You really need to read that blog to understand why I am writing this letter.

Letter to my mother who made me study medicine, and enabled me to become a family doctor, the best job I can imagine. I loved my work. And yet, I never thanked her. I did not want to give her the satisfaction.

And now she is dead. And really, I am writing the letter for myself.

Dear mother,

This is a thank you letter that is coming too late. When you forced me to go to medical school, I resented that. The only reason I did not drop out of medical school were my new friends, and being a member of the University skiing team. I was not interested in the course, and only did well because of my good memory. Memory that I inherited from you. I suppose I should thank you for that, too.

After graduation, in hospital jobs, nothing changed, I worked for the money, and because I needed a job, but I found it boring.

But then, I became a GP, and everything changed. I loved my work, the puzzles, mysteries, every patient was a problem to solve. I loved the variety, the personal relationships with my patients and their families. It was fun. All those stories. I am a curious woman, and people told me things. It was the best job I could imagine.

When we emigrated, it was hard, but it was much easier for me to find a job because doctors are needed everywhere.  You often talked about it, how it was good that I was a doctor, I have a safe job, enough money, and you irritatingly never forgot to mention how you cleverly manipulated me into going to medical school with a promise that I might do something like history of medicine, and not work as a doctor at all.

You told that story so many times…I heard it, and either changed the subject or said that I can imagine better jobs than being a doctor.

I was lying, but I did not want to give you the satisfaction.

So the years went by, and I never told you that I loved my job, and that you were right. I never told you “Going to medical school was a good idea Thanks for making me go.”

 Did you know that was what I was thinking? Not sure. You repeatedly asked for my recognition of the benefits of being a doctor, I repeatedly denied it.

We were in a loop.  And now the loop is broken. You died.

So at least I am going to say it now. Mother, I have been grateful for years for you forcing me to become a doctor. I loved my job, and would not have been happy if you let me do what I wanted.

I never thanked you, because I was not magnanimous enough to admit you were right.

Thank you, mother, for making my life misery for two months by constant manipulation, scenes and threats until I relented and not only applied for medical school, but also prepared for the entrance exams. Those two months were painful, probably for you, too.

Thank you for not paying any attention to what I wanted to do instead. It was a manifestation of what I did not like about you, but this time, though I hate to admit it, you were right.

Of course, you would have been right even if I didn’t admit it.

My love of the job, and all those grateful patients are a proof that forcing me was a good thing to do.

I wish I told you when you were still alive. But I didn’t.” Better late than never”, they say.

And while I am writing this letter, another thing. I loved you, mother, and I know you loved me.

I am grieving for you although I was convinced I will be relieved when you die.

Well, maybe I am a bit relieved, too. Relieved that you did not have to suffer a slow undignified deterioration and death. That you, quite literally went with a bang.

Sudden death exactly before you were forced to move from your apartment, the move you detested so much. You did not want to do it, and you did not have to.

No, I KNOW you did not kill yourself, the fall on the stairs that caused your head injury and death was accidental.

But deep in my mind, I feel you died when you wanted to. Don’t we all wish that to happen to us?

Rest in Peace, they say.

Apart from the fact that I REALLY don’t believe in afterlife.

Your daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epitaph of two very different women and how I now know I loved them both.

It is Wimbledon. This year, watching those tennis matches makes me cry.

I used to watch it every year with my mother. This was the time when she used to come on her bi-annual visits to London. We both loved tennis. I once took my mother to the final at Queen’s, she loved every minute of it.

Wimbledon

Tennis was something we could talk about, in our otherwise often tricky conversations.

Conversations with my mother often reminded me of the lyrics of my favourite “Mountain Goats”

“Our conversations are like minefields, / No one’s found a safe way through one yet.”

But tennis was safe.

The only time when tennis was a reason for arguments was when I used to call her on the phone from London. I used to record matches and watch them after work, but despite begging my mother not to tell me the results, she always did. Or at least hinted. And no, I do not think she did it on purpose. Just couldn’t help it.

” But I did not tell you who won, I just said Federer played brilliantly.” 

We used to argue amicably who is better, Nadal-my favourite – or Federer. On the phone, my mother used to describe various points in matches, even if I repeatedly told her I have seen the match, too.

My relationship with my mother was never easy.

She often told me vitriolic, nasty things with the intention to hurt me. I remember her telling me once that I am ugly, wear glasses and nobody will ever marry me… Later, when we spoke about those occasions, she had one excuse: “You annoyed me by doing ….so I wanted to pay you back”. Now I think about it, it was a bit childish. Children do that. Screaming at their parents ” I hate you, I hate you!”  They don’t.

I always knew my mother was reversing the roles. She wanted me to be her support and adviser, ever since I was a child. I tried. I let her win at games, I helped her pick her clothes, gave her advice. Later, when I found out that I then often got blamed when things did not go well, I became more careful with giving advice, and my mother did not like that. I tried to be independent, mature. It never occurred to me to go to my mother when I was upset by something, bullying at school, or something else. On the rare occasions when I did, it ended badly.

What I never realised, and I should have, was that she was damaged by her experiences in the war.

She was 12 when the Nazis invaded. A Jewish child in German occupied Prague, she had her childhood taken away. It started with all those things she was not allowed to do. Travel on public transport, go to school, ride a bicycle. Then a concentration camp and death of a lot of people she loved, her father, brother, grandmother. She watched her beloved grandmother being loaded to a packed cattle wagon to disappear, probably somewhere in a gas chamber. My mother was 18 when the war ended. She was robbed of 6 years of growing up. Emotionally, she never did grow up.

Yet, she was also quite amazing.

Her determination made her do incredible things. She was the only person I know to come from a concentration camp and skip 6 years of school, passing exams in all the subjects of the 8 year’s curriculum (10 of them) and graduating with her class in 1946.

After my father left her for another woman, she went to evening medical school, and became a doctor at the age of 40.

She told a friend that she is not going to become a doctor having my father’s surname. So she put an advert in the paper, met many men, and married one of them, just in time to have a different surname for the graduation from medical school.

Age 86, she learnt how to walk again after severe medical problems when she was left very disabled. Moving from walking only with a Zimmer frame and helpers to walking without a stick and going to the gym. It took her a year of daily exercising at home for 3 hours a day.

The last photo of my mother was taken by somebody from her gym. I phoned them to tell them she died. The man on the phone told me they all loved her. The average age of those gym members was 30, she was 89.

She still did a lot of work at her weekend house, growing potatoes, mowing the lawn with a heavy petrol lawnmower.

She had the determination of a small child to do everything on her own, she did not like people helping her to get on and off the public transport and carrying things for her.

She never gave up. “Everything is possible if you try”.

For her, this was true.

We had a difficult relationship. Did I like my mother? No, I didn’t. I always joked about the shame of not being able to divorce her.

But did I love her? Yes, I did probably. I admired a lot about her. She was a survivor.

She had the knack of achieving the impossible.

My mother died last month.

Head injury, falling down the stairs. She was just going to have to move to another apartment because of the house where she lived was undergoing reconstruction.

She did not want to move. In the end, she did not have to. She died three days before the moving.

Maybe she did what we all probably want to do. She died when she wanted to.

Regrets? Yes, many.

I regret not having been close to her. I regret disappointing her in lots of things. I regret never being able to make her stop hurting me and pushing me away, and learning how to love her. I feel as if I in some way  failed as a daughter.

But she failed as a mother. We both failed.

And now she is dead.

But did we fail?

 Now, a month after her death, I started remembering the nice things. Watching tennis with her, taking her shopping, buying her clothes she liked, but she found too expensive. I remember how proud she was of my career. I remember those rare moments when we got on, the laughs.I remember how despite being very difficult to live this, she was always there for me in a crisis. I remember her generosity.

 

 I should have been more understanding once I was an adult.

 

But there was a reason behind this.

I had an example of my grandmother, my mother’s mum Hana.

She was an amazing woman. The worst what could have happened had happened to her already. Death of her husband, son, mother, many other relatives. 2 years in a concentration camp.

The experience made her laid back, optimistic, calm in crisis. ” We have seen worse things!”, she said.

She was a complete contrast to my mother, never histrionic, no scenes, kind and level headed. She was supportive and loving to my mother, she run our household, she looked after my mum as if she was a child. Maybe that was also the reason why my mother never grew up.

My grandma was from a very wealthy family, and had a privileged life till the war. But after the war, she once told me how she is enjoying not having servants and being able to shop and cook, not having to behave like a lady. This was the early sixties, long queues in shops…she looked at everything from the bright side.

My mother loved her, and claimed she only survived the camp because she was with her mother. I think it was true.

So I had the example of my grandmother, and wanted to be like her. I did not realise she was unusual.

I compared my selfless stoical grandmother to my mother, and found my mother immature, histrionic, self-centred. But my grandmother did not get robbed of her childhood by the Nazis.

I knew I loved my grandmother.

I did not know if I loved my mother and if she loved me.

But clearing her apartment, I found she kept all my letters, from the time I was a child. Despite my horrible handwriting.

If she did not love me, why did she keep those letters?

And if I did not love her, why watching Wimbledon makes me cry, because I regret not being able to discuss the matches with her?

I should have been more forgiving, because she was damaged, and it was not her fault.

And I do not want to be damaged, so I will work on it.

I want to be a good mother, and friend, and maybe grandmother one day. I do not want to transfer the damage to the next generation like my mum did.

I will always admire and love my grandmother Hana, but maybe that by being so strong, she made other people around her weaker. She looked after them.

And I also admire my mother Eva, who never quite grew up, but who never gave up, and often achieved the impossible.

I loved them both, I just didn’t know it.

They are both buried in the New Jewish cemetery in Prague. It is a melancholy beautiful place.

Prague-New-Jewish-Cemetery

 

And I am kind of writing this in a blog for all those among you who are not sure if you love your parents.

You probably do, you just don’t realise it. And they love you.

 

Even if your mother “Fucked you up”, Philip Larkin’s way, will you wish her a Happy Mother’s Day? I will.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the UK.

No,  I won’t celebrate it,  I never do. My children, lovely and attentive all year round, have always boycotted Mother’s Day. They claim it is stupid. I really don’t mind, I am not a romantic.  I have those two lovely adults who like my company and respect and love me. Not just on Mother’s Day.

But I am thinking about my mum, and how until recently, I didn’t think I loved her or even liked her.

I always admired her toughness, the determination. Her deep belief that “Everything is possible if you try hard enough”.

But of course, there is another side to everything.  My mother is also manipulative and persistent in trying to make people do what she wants. “Everything is possible if you try hard enough!” Remember? For years, she used to upset me. Trying to shame me into submission. When I was 50,I decided that crying about things your mother says at this age is pathetic.  I changed the dance.  Remember Harriet Lerner and her book “Dance of Anger”?

It took a while for my mother to get it. But she got it eventually.  I still did not think I loved her, but I started to like her better . My mother always claimed that she loved me I never believe her. But she probably always did.

Over the last year when I was waiting for those cutting remarks in our conversations, but they did not arrive, something wonderful happened.

I suddenly started to love this tough Holocaust survivor, the 88 year old woman who had to teach herself walking again after spinal surgery when nobody believed she would. The woman who learned English when she was 70. A person who has the childlike attitude of “I want to do this on my own”. She tries and tries, and when she fails, she tries harder.

When she hasn’t told me anything demeaning or cutting for a year,I joked that my mother was kidnapped and replaced by a friendly alien. Gradually, I learnt to love that friendly alien very much.

Sometines miracles happen.

We can’t all love our parents. Some of then don’t even deserve our love.

But perhaps we should try. Perhaps my mother is right.

Everything is possible if you try hard enough.

Happy Mother’s Day, maminko (Czech for mummy). I love you. Maybe I always did.

Amicable divorce- an oxymoron? Maybe not.

­I spent most of afternoon and evening with my friendly ex husband. He was very nice. We met for a drink at two and I thought that was because he was not free in the evening. But after about three hours, he said: ” Where would you like to have dinner?”. I was free, and it was a nice afternoon;so we moved to our favourite Bulgarian restaurant and carried on talking.

My husband and I somehow managed that oxymoron, an amicable divorce. We remained friends.

It was him, who after being faithful to me for 9 years when we lived in two different countries, stopped being faithful and found someone else. That was perhaps not surprising. Neither was the fact that I let him do it for so long, pretending it was not really happening.  He was nice when we were together and I was hoping he might change his mind.What WAS surprising was the fact that he could not understand why eventually, after he has been living with another woman for ten years, I wanted a divorce. Somehow, he liked being married to me.

We have been divorced for 4 years now. One day, I flew over to Prague, we signed the papers, he bought me a nice lunch and a glass of wine and I flew back to England. Very civilised.

But although he has now been living with someone else for many years, he kept blaming me for the divorce. Last spring,when he kept mentioning how traumatised he felt because of the end of our marriage, I was starting to wonder if we can really stay friends. ” It was you, not me, who was fucking someone else for 11 years,I was faithful!” I felt like saying. I never did.  I never make scenes, not even when some of my friends claim I should. I let him change the subject. But I started to avoid him on my frequent visits to Prague.

My ex husband is a smart man. He got it.

So today, we had a very good time. We talked about our family, friends,travel, politics, books. “Not to have anything to talk about” was never a problem in my marriage. He asked if he could come to London for couple of weeks in the summer. I said ” Of course”.

He asked about my book, but I was evasive. I never told him my pen name. He might know more than I think. At one point this afternoon, he was suggesting to me a story to write about, about some friends with rather complicated marriages and love life. My ex husband surprisingly always believed in my ability to write. Not sure why, we never used to write letters.  ” It could be a great book, better than a pornographic novel”. he said. I did not rise to that ( I told him once that he should not read my book because it is rather sexually explicit. It is not pornographic, it is not even Erotica).

My ex husband would not like my book.But I am thinking about that quote I liked on Goodreads:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Anne Lamott

I changed the subject, I asked him what he thought of my new amber earrings.“You have a bit of a Byzantine tendency to large jewellery “, he said. I always used to take my husband seriously as a fashion adviser, so he made me doubt my looks a bit.

However,I like the way I look in dangle earrings. I also remembered how one of my friends told me about her now ex husband telling her once that he did not like her dress because it looked ” too sexy on her.” So I wrote a note to my workaholic American partner and asked him to be brutally honest.Because although my ex husband has a good fashion taste, I wonder if the way I look now shows too much of those personality traits that I was always trying to suppress when I was still married to him.

I love my American partner and I want him to like and approve of the way I dress. And of course, I am with him so rarely because of the ocean between us and his work, that I can always wear my Byzantine jewellery and bright colours when he cannot see me. Win win.

My facial bruises from skiing are slowly fading. Make up helps,too.Prague is fun, almost as much fun as skiing and it is safer. Seeing many different friends and family, shopping, going to galleries.

I will be going skiing again in March,but I will try not to kill myself. I want to enjoy life, my retirement and my writing. I have that half finished sequel to my novel to work on!

My life is happy, I am in love,and I did not completely lose the man I was married to for over 30 years. Whatever you might think,I think that is a very good thing. Amicable divorce- an oxymoron? Nope. A special friendship.