‘Make sure you go and travel the world while you’re young.’
My Mum imparted this advice to me when I was lanky 13-year-old pouring over maps with her to find out what the capital of Zambia was. She had seen my eyes light up as I greedily took in all the mapped countries with my probing eyes. It’s Lusaka by the way.
By then, I couldn’t even comprehend even travelling to another country if I thought walking a few streets was far enough to warrant a lift from my Mum. But little did I know her words of wisdom would have an enormous effect and completely influence into the man I am today. It was a big thing for her to say. It would only be to nurture my independence compared to my situation only just a decade earlier.
Mum must have felt her life was complete when I came into the world, albeit a month premature, only to become devastated when four years later, I was diagnosed deaf after a long uncertain period when I was unable to string a sentence or be involved in social situations despite repeated passed hearing tests. She would wonder, is my son going to be ok? Will he be independent? Will he gain a good education? And of course, will he be able to see the world?
She fought tooth and nail along with my dad to gain me the best education possible; Spend hours ensuring as a family we followed the Natural Aural Approach to encourage me to speak and listen; Spend many a delightful evening in the library reading books with me; and with great gusto sing with me much to her pride the maths timetables on the bus on the way to town. She was always there high on the balcony gesticulating to me wildly with no embarrassment while she conveyed what the swimming teacher said. She always made fun of me as I sang ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on the toilet as I practiced for a play but at the same time encouraging little shy me to sing in front of other family members. She could always read my moods as I either skipped or slouched back home on the garden path ready what to say. She was there to make me consider all sides if I was feeling down. She patiently told what each character said in the movies long before we had subtitled screenings whilst at the same time encourage me to listen harder. She waved me off in tears as I went on my first trip away without her on a cub scouts trip only to visit me as I missed her terribly one day in. Picking me and brushing me down, she would tell me I would have to look after myself sometimes and be older than I should sometimes. She took me on many trips around England often pointing out the famous landmarks in the distance. She would always be ready with a camera ready to capture an embarrassing moment at the beach. She would push my confidence in meeting people however big or small the situation. She would see the beginnings of my inflated ego that would become ominously present in my later life and tease me while we all laugh with each other.
When she was told, before I moved into secondary school, that I may be better off in a deaf school, her stubbornness knew no bounds as she proved to everyone that I could easily thrive in a mainstream school. Slowly, but surely I became more and more independent. Soon, we shared a love of exploring new places as she took me to different places, if only she could get my nose of the book I was reading, dreaming of far-flung places. She smiled bemused as I entered into my bossy teens as I reached top classes at school only to further continue my education in sixth form college. Even as I grew taller by the plenty higher than her, I would still crack under her glare if I was being too cheeky. She still took me on holiday to experience cultural life in Malta, Spanish Islands, Scotland and more. As I grew older, we become more and more firm friends as we laughed over the same things and yet she would be there for me to ask her lots of advice. She watched me fly away to university, still correcting my pronunciations of certain words on her ongoing quest to make sure I still speak and listen properly.
She would regale me stories of her time travelling throughout Europe, enough to further my inspiration to travel and in return I would tease her about the European men who fell in love with her. She watched with quiet satisfaction as I hitch-hiked across the channel to Europe; see me travel to Uganda to build schools; meanwhile still wiping the chocolate off my face with her thumb. She told me to shave off my scraggly beard, moan about getting size 14 shoes for me and become slightly annoyed as my calming solution to a situation is to say ‘it’ll be fine.’ She still protests to this day that she didn’t have a hangover for my Master’s degree graduation but still happily pose for a photo will her son despite being very camera-shy. More and more, she pushed me to go travelling as my twenties rolled by as I travelled in Germany and Ireland only to convince me to keep a travelling diary.
She was scared for me as I went through my Cochlear Implant operation, only leaving the decision in my hands and pleased to see the benefits it brought to my already established job. She was so thrilled for me as I told her I was going to be travelling around the world for eight months, wishing she could join me. She’s my number one reader of my website and still awaits at the phone to talk about my adventure even in greater detail. She was always there for me when I missed home and readily offer quirky tales of life back in Hull. She offered to ‘biff’ the guy chasing me on a nudist resort whilst wanting to kill me as I jumped off a ledge 134m high in a bungee jump. She was there ready with a Yorkshire Tea as I returned home whilst kicking me out to do even more travelling.
Now, as I write this at the other side of the country from her, working in my new job on Mother’s Day, I miss my Mum immensely. She is my friend, my confidante, my rock, my unwilling victim for my bad jokes. But most of all, she’s my Mum. My wonderful Mum.
I hope she knows that without her sheer determination, lively spirit and her constant stubbornness, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. She has made her son to be a happy, successful, independent, loving and a well-travelled man.
All I can say to her, ‘Thanks Mum, you’re a star. Happy Mother’s Day.’
‘P.S. Any chance you could come down to do my washing?’