Another day, another drive, another visit with my mother.
I arrive with a paltry cache today: no cookies for the staff no cake for my mother, no new clothes, no taking her out to lunch, no manicure, no courtyard nap in the sun.
Just myself, briefly, too briefly, but all that is possible today, and a wide toothed shower comb (two for three dollars at K-mart, the one I had bought for myself, as mom's had been pinched by her klepto roommate).
As ever she is surprised and relieved to see me, no idea of how long it's been since my last visit. It could have been just an hour earlier this same morning but that would be too long ago for her to recall, making it too long, so lonely long since my last visit; to her.
The tears stream down her face when I arrive, and when I leave, as always.
She has no memory of this week's visits, of last week's visit when I took her out for a drive, and to lunch in town at a Japanese restaurant.
I show her picture proof and she is astonished: "Is that me?' she asks, barely recognizing her own image, the thinner, paler, diminished ghost version of any self she knew.
We have taken over the north-west lounge, my mother removed from the wheelchair, relieved to be ensconced on a vaguely comfortable sofa.
She wants to see more pictures and I oblige, scrounging around the iPad's spotty collection of photos I'd uploaded intermixed with images from the videos Jake watches incessantly on the thing. A thousand educational apps and all he wants is YouTubed basketball games from the 1980s. Knicks and Celtics, preferably.
Its always risky showing Mom pictures of Dad, of the two of them, together, looking so happy, robust and young, even if they are only from three years ago. The change is startling, terrifying. and she gets so wistful, so sad: "He wasn't just my husband," she tells me, who knows this better than anyone else in the world would, for perhaps the hundredth time, "He was my best friend."
|Me, Mom & Dad, September, 2009|
"Oh, Varda, I miss him so much!" and the floodgates open again. (But how much worse would it be if she started to forget him?)
Lunch arrives and I am once again facing off against a recalcitrant toddler. "I'm just not hungry" says my former food-loving mother, as she pushes the broccoli florets around on the plate.
But the mere act of my sitting with her pushes her appetite forward, if just a little bit. And I resort to blatant bribery and outright bullying. Just like with my kids. "Come on, Mom, one more bite of chicken and you can eat your (rapidly melting) ice cream."
After a quick stuffing I take my leave. There are children to be picked up and dropped off, ferried about, and homework supervised and checked.
I know I'll be back on Sunday and Monday, but to her, just like my boys the first time I left them in someone else's care, it's the end of the world, abandonment forever.
I hope on Sunday I'll have at least one boy in tow. I pray that the phone calls I get from the home continue to begin with "Your mother is fine, I just called to discuss..." and never get darker.
Pop music floods my brain as I drop into the driver's seat, pushing out my tears, my sorrow, making the drive home possible, as Shakira serenades me and my car, like an old horse, seems to know the way home.