this morning over breakfast Mom said, “I used to get up at 7, get breakfast for your Dad and me, shower, do my hair and walk to work to be there in time to start the breakfast program at eight.” she sighed and looked down at her “ode to oatmeal” and said, “now it takes me that long just to shower, never mind any of the rest of it.”
I’ve been home for a few days now, and the sky is magnificent and varied. We drove from Calgary toward and beside and under a gloomy stormy sky–but the storm was somewehre else–looked like rain a few miles to the west for most of the way. it’s been hot hot humid–”sultry” my mom calls it. At night the thunder rumbles in and lightening rents the sky and the rain falls in big fat drops. Not like the constant mist of the West Coast winters i’m used to now.
yesterday i went for a run along the river, and there were fallen leaves on the path. they were lying like upturned bowls filled with last night’s rain water. there were traces of water slipping into the dry cracks of the clay baked trails by the river. The smell of the cottonwoods was sweet and dry. I heard the songs of many birds. usually now in the city there are only crows and jays. Corvids. But in my hometown, there are still songbirds trilling here and there. i remember their songs from my childhood, but I don’t remember the names of the birds.
As Mom and I were driving along 67th this morning, we passed by a dead deer. She was young, looked like. lying on the side of the road against the grassy hillside, her head grazing the gutter. sudden tears stung my eyes, but I swallowed and they stayed back. Mom didn’t see, i told her about it. she said, “oh, that’s sad”, and started telling another story about another road trip she and i had taken. I was driving then, as I was today. It was late at night and we were returning from visiting Grandma in Swift Current. as we left the highway to go into town toward home, we came upon another slain deer–this one on the highway, this one newly killed, and the police and animal control people already there, i think. I don’t remember. Mom remembered. She said it was good i was driving, I reacted fast enough to slow and change lanes. the police had not yet set up traffic controls to redirect the traffic coming from the highway.
it’s like this. mom tells stories about small things that happened; gossip about the neighbours; the daily little miracles of kindness that people perform for her; scattered between reminisceses of her youth. I ask for some details, “what year was that? Were you and [her brother] Jim close then? When did you first make potato salad?”
I want to keep all of it, remember all of these things. The way she used to knead bread dough; the timbre of her voice; the shape of her hands; the way she laughs. i find myself impatient with her continual small stories, like a stream of consciousness running through the still summer air. I know I won’t have her for long, and i want to be patient and loving. Even when i am impatient because she forgets things now, or tells the same story day after day sometimes; or because she moves so slow now. it’s not really impatience, I think–i think it’s fear– a kind of prelude to grieving. She gave me life and saved it over and over again, and there is nothing I can do to save her, or releive her present suffering.
Last week, my brother said, “you’ve come a long way since spending summers in an oxygen tent”. he was proud of me for running those obstacle races and triathlons. Mom said, when i told her that, she said, “Oh, he was alwasy so worried about you when you’d go into the hospital.”
I didn’t know before now about his worry. I didn’t think of his reaction at all. My little brother, sensitive and tender, of course he would worry–even if I was often mean to him–I was his sister. I wish I’d been a better sister to him. I have another chance now–to be good to our mom, to be proud of my brother and loving with him and my sister-in-law. we’re all grown-ups now, and responsible.
Home is always kind of bittersweet for the nostalgic. there’s no way to go back. Every time i come thre are new roads over my memories. another building down, and i can’t remember what was there before. I am a ghost now, haunting this present place.
Mom will be waiting for me, she’s done her physiotherapy appointment now. So i’ll go pick her up, then i’ll go to the gym for a couple of hours. .