As I drive back home I am disheartened. Again I have been visiting you, and again you have been complaining incessantly during the whole time I was there. For several times I tried to change subjects, talk to you about things that used to interest you, about life out here, about funny happenings, some stories about my friends, others about our past, my work, the boys…but nothing seemed interesting enough to distract you from the innumerable list of misfortunes your life has become.
It began with the weather. As I arrived you asked me if it was very cold. No, not too cold Mom, I replied. Rainy and windy and a little sun at times. But we must be happy it’s raining, after the severe drought we have been through. No, you say. It’s a nuisance, because while it rains I cannot go out to see my doctor and I need to reschedule my eye operation. Why not, I say? After all you’ll go there by car and there will only be a few metres until the doctor’s office door. No way, you say, I hate the rain and I may get a cold, I’ll have to wait until it stops.
No use arguing with you and I shut up. But by now you are showing me how angry you are at the whole world and on top of it are the people who daily care for you: one who was not attentive enough when you called during the night, another who did not rub you with cream the way she should have…and on and on you went.
I suppose I let my thoughts drift to another place and I look at you but I don’t see the elderly, frail, angry lady you have become, but the young woman full of life and dreams and ambitions and courage to face life’s challenges – and you faced quite a few. The woman who was brave enough to make difficult choices, and even if I would not agree with some of them they were your choices; you stood up to the world – and our family – in order to follow your dreams. It was not easy, but you were unafraid and you always did it, for better or for worse, bearing the consequences with your head high. An independent woman ahead of her time if ever there was one, and even if you played at being mother from a distance there was a time when I worshipped you and my only dream was that one day we would be together…
“Are you daydreaming?” – I am startled and I have to say “No, Mom, I’m listening”, as you go on with your bitter complaints.
I become a little impatient but then I look at you again. I front of me I no longer have that vibrant woman of long ago, the mother of my memories, but the sad shadow you have become. I see your wrinkled face and hollow eyes; your skeletal shaking hands; your thin, frail body, your painfully slow walk; I hear your tremulous voice and I understand your pain, your regret, your anger, all your fears and disillusion, all your lost hopes and dreams. And I feel so sad that I cannot help you, that I can do little to relieve you from your heartache, because these past few years life has been cruel to you and you have simply given up.
I make a last effort to cheer you up but by now it’s too late. For both of us. I come out of your room with tears in my eyes as it has been happening more and more often. I know old age and sickness must be awful, terrifying even, but then I know some elderly people who still seem to enjoy life, accepting their shortcomings and ups and downs. Is this a question of attitude? If only you accepted your life as it is maybe you would find it in your heart to smile again and see that life still has good things too. Little things that might light up your days. And how I would love to come and see you as before and laugh together at the adventures we lived together when I was young and you were more like an elder sister than a mother to me…what times we had!
I drive back home with sadness in my heart. But I still hope – maybe next time I come it will be a sunny day outside and inside your heart too, and maybe, only maybe, I’ll bring back some memories of the past and your eyes will lit up and I’ll see in them, for a flicker of a second, that bright, intelligent, indomitable woman you used to be. That woman still lives, deep down in my heart, for she was unforgettable.