My mother as she is

I went to a zoom meeting recently, organised by my eldest sister, and conducted at my mother’s house, on my mobile phone: Mum has neither a camera, nor a microphone, nor the will to organise such things herself, so we sat companionably side by side at the dining table – a large, reassuring object harkening back to the days of large family dinners – and warbled happily on the phone. It was good.

I noticed that at times my mother has difficulty speaking, but otherwise, she seems to me to have been much more like her usual self. My elder sister, seeing my mother under the overhead lights, expressed concern to me – when Mum was elsewhere phoning my other sister – and I said, “Oh, yes, I suppose Mum does not look very well… But she’s fine…” All the usual things one says to reassure, when one needs reassurance too.

My mother is indeed tired, so tired, that at times, her skin looks translucent. I am used to being a witness to her decline and her constant struggle to recalibrate for the things she can no longer do – for her, a heartbreaking realisation, that I have at least had time to accustom myself to, rather more than my siblings have. To them, a sudden realisation is alarming.

My mother cannot help harking back to the way she was; I too feel hamstrung, so, while I get used to that feeling, meanwhile I do my best to help, smile and hope. It’s just about all I can do. That, and make phonecalls to organise deliveries, extra help; all that kind of thing. I have to stay cheerful, and even when fatigued, I accept there is no better alternative.

My elder sister would like to phone me to talk about it. She will do that when she has time. And I will reassure her as best I can. I know Mum is lucky. She is still able to live at home and has the freedom to live unfettered by the well-meaning “supervision” of others, a word I noted in a recent advert for a care-home, which reminds me of my kindergarten days and makes me shudder.

I try not to supervise, or worry, but I do grieve, a gradual process like the tipping of a sand-timer to the inevitable empty glass.

Thanks for listening.

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