Today’s the day I placed my mother into care. Into the hands of strangers. Professionals to trust with a precious burden, but those who follow their education and training, not their hearts. Wonderful people because they do what we can’t, or won’t. Wonderful because they absolve us of our guilt, provide us with a crutch to shore up our crumbling souls. “It’s by far the best place for her,” of course, like a luxury hotel is better than a home… for a while. ‘A while.’ No-one knows how long, or is not telling. I know, I know. Not long enough. People see the aching slowness, the trembling, the hesitation. I see the spark, the memories. People see the skeletal form, the fingers ravaged from the inside, the stooped curved back & the sunken eyes, I see the graceful lady that danced and swirled and laughed & held me in her arms. Pattern, habit & repetition are the stalwarts of the day. Variations cast doubt, deviations sow confusion. Sloth is a friend, an ally. Appearances show determination, but daily life is more akin to railtracks. A new route, a different approach, a spoke in the wheels, a derailment. Holding fast to established routines is the anchor to the rock of life, preventing a descent into the cauldron of chaos and madness. The struggle to haul in memories of distant lives, of events that pass in and out of the mists of time, of places, faces, names, dates… The toll is evident in every crease, every frown, every dipping of the head, every raising of hand to forehead. And the depth of darkness in the eyes when the realisation that the connecting strands to the past are broken, never to be repaired. Disappearing into another time inside your head, I pray it is a happy place. Pray? No, not that. I urge my body, my soul, my being to believe it is a peaceful place. I want to, I have to think there is respite inside, such as is not afforded your physical being. Not yet. I babble, desperately trying to find that moment, that trigger, to ignite a feeling that will tilt the corner of your mouth & crinkle the edges of your eyes. No broad smile or loud laugh of old, but I can tell when amusement strikes, and it is best when it is unexpected. Pausing while shuffling between rooms, gripping almost maniacally to the steel bar, I can’t tell if the past has struck or the lungs are short of oxygen. A small raising of the head & then the slow dance resumes. Life is reduced to a slow motion movie. Everything drags to stay in pace with the slowest movement, and the plans for the day compress to survival. Moving out of the family home of decades is almost unbearable, but like the film, ‘the lightness of being’, it brings peace after the pain. A palpable silence hangs over the last breakfast, and attempting to break it with a question about family photos brings an instant rebuff about “too many decisions”. For ‘many’, read ‘hard’… The resignation that stares back at me burrows deep, questioning the decision, the process, the reality. The niceties of coffee and cereal lost in the pool of new experience. The compliance with the nurses borne of 20 years of volunteer work, understanding their struggle from the other side. No desire to be a burden, no wish to become one of those that you gently chided. So aware, but so fixed in past life. Times have changed & patient wish is all, but you don’t realise, can’t realise. Can’t relax, demand, speak your mind. Never have been able to. A lifetime of servitude to parents then husband no preparation for stating your will. Your mother’s service to the same community a forerunner to yours, laying the foundation to prepared behaviour. Compliance. Submission. Peace. Quiet. Large wood pigeons a diversion from reality and a trigger to the past. Counting 28 when feeding them bread. The badgers that pawed the cat flap. The magnificent red squirrels, that used to be.The baby deer with soft juvenile horns and large eyes that bounced away when startled; and the one that drowned in next-door’s pool. The birds of prey, foxes… Do not resuscitate orders, funeral arrangements. Hard life banishes dreamy. Real life imposes as death approaches. Today’s the day I placed my mother into care. I love you mum. I can say that. Why can’t I say the million other things I have in my head, my heart? Too late. Time has run its course & words spoken now are just flotsam on the surface of a life. Speak them now; don’t hesitate. Don’t believe the time will come. It will, but not for that.
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