It's hard to think of my mam as a widow. It's hard to think that one of her sons - my brother - no longer exists. It's hard to even contemplate how she feels: the agony, the distress of both of them no longer with us. And yet... life goes on - for all of us.
Visiting the elderly in a residential home - the 'forever' home for most, is facing life on the brink of death. I don't say this morbidly - but rather - matter of factly. It doesn't mean it is necessarily a miserable place to be. I have witnessed such kindness, consideration, devotion, patience, sweet vulnerability, wisdom and good humour. I often wonder if what I 'think' my mam would need or how my mam would feel, may not always be the reality of the situation.
Maybe (probably) I am totally off the mark.
Today, at lunch, in the dining room, I had the good fortune of a top of the table seat. Prime real estate.
John: "What did your mom say? I'm sorry - my wife died not long ago, and I'm just not coping..."
Fred: "I want to go back to my room. I don't fancy lunch. Please take me back. Oh, wait... is that ice cream?"
John: " she never had hardly any sick days. She was gone so quickly..."
Fred: "ICE CREAM PLEASE"
John: "Will you keep QUIET!!"
Robert: "Yes, that's from me, too, Fred. You're so noisy"
Mam: "It's a mad-house"
John: "It's like a circus. Everyone's performing 'cos you're here"
Mable: "Could I have some lunch, please?"
Mam: "What if I need something while you are in Sydney next week?"
Me: "Sarah will be seeing you on Monday, Mam. She will bring you whatever you need"
John: "Don't worry. Your mother won't ever go without here. Oh no. She is a Rock. She is a rock to us all...."
Mam: "Hmmm... the Rock of Ages, more likely"
Fred: "Room please. NOW"
Nurse Aid: "Would you like some tea? Sugar and milk?"
Mam: "No, not milk - tea. Do you have any? Can you get my daughter some?"
Tom - with his hands in his mother's mouth, trying to adjust her cliff-hanging dentures amidst partially chewed silverside "...It's ok, mom, I've nearly got them. Do you want them in or out?"
Mam - pointing over to a couple of ladies in mobile recliner chairs: "Sylvia is 96. Ninety six! Oh, and Phillipa is 94. Awwww....."
Robert to me: "Where's your little girls? They were here the other day. When will they be back?"
Rosie, standing, crippled over with arthritis, fists clenched and wrapped around her walker's handles, staring at me, searching my being while waiting for eye contact:
Mam: "Rosie, this is my daughter. I was telling her about that cushion on your walker. It looks much more comfortable than mine. Helen - look at Rosie's cushion"
Rosie: "Well, goodbye then...."