Thursday 25 June 2009

wishful thinking

Sometimes, as I drive over to see Mum, an idea comes into my head: a poignant fantasy that stops my heart for a moment and I have to shake my head and try and ignore it.

In this fantasy there is nothing actually wrong with Mum and she's actually just pretending.

As the movie violins kick in, I dream of a Mother who saw that her Son was holding back on his dreams because he was worried about leaving her behind when he went off on his travels. She cleverly faked her slide into Dementia in order to fool him into placing her in Care.

I know it's solipsistic and stupid, worthy of a daytime soap-opera plot, but the emotion behind it is strong for me, and I invariably get quite teary-eyed and short of breath thinking about it.

And I know why. It's the idea that Mum could be selflessly maternal. I realise that I've spent my life testing her maternal instincts and she's never passed that test. It seems there's still a child within me who still needs his Mummy.

I spend a few minutes with Mum and the fantasy evaporates. She really isn't pretending. I feel sadness for her, of course, but some also for myself.

Sunday 21 June 2009

the power of now

I made another trip to visit Mum today, taking along six more picture frames.

I had spent a lot of time during the week choosing the photographs to include, getting them professionally printed and then arranging and re-arranging them in the frames [I have serious issues to deal with at home just now and I find that spending all my time doing something for Mum is a great way of ignoring my other responsibilities. You can't feel guilty when you've been side-tracked doing something nice for someone who is helpless.]

Apart from one set of 3 recent portraits, all the pictures were taken from our time spent living in Japan and India. Here I was, nailing our past to the walls, trying to cling on to a family's memories. Mum, meanwhile, was attempting to swallow an entire Toblerone in one go with the minimum of chewing.
Once we'd both finished our tasks, I reclined on the edge of the bed whilst Mum sat in her chair by the window.

Mum asked me how my job was going. I told her that I hadn't worked since December.
What was I doing for money? I was living off savings for now.
Did I still want to go travelling? I couldn't do that until I'd seen her apartment sold and the funds invested for her.
Had I heard from my Sister recently? No, not for a few years now.

These questions always come, and we chant through the same call and response every time, as though at a Church service. I'm no longer frustrated or alarmed by this; there's something comforting in the familiarity of the routine nowadays.

We sat and listened to the birdsong coming in through the open window. Mum sighed and said how much she liked sitting in the window alcove and looking out through the trees and across the field.

I had been listening to an Eckhart Tolle audio-book on the drive over, and I was struck by how Mum's condition means that she follows his precept of living only in the present moment. For Mum the past is equally as unknowable as the future, so she is neither troubled by bad memories nor concerned over what's to come. She doesn't go crazy from boredom or terror because she exists only on the cusp of now, seeing only her present circumstances. Meanwhile, I stew and fret and spend most of my time daydreaming about a future I could most likely never afford. I could learn a lot from this woman.

On my way out, Mum introduced me to everyone as her Husband.