24.1.09 | Kitchens and Other Sorrows
She's only a tiny woman. No more than 5 feet high at the most on a good day. And today, watching her slicing peppers for the evening meal, one shoulder hanging lower than the other and her face creased in wrinkles from pain and depression, i know that my mother is a long way from having a good day.
Arthiritis and a badly failing hip are just two of the signs that my mother is getting old. Other things i see creeping up on her. The terraced home that she took pride in keeping spotless for over 60 years, has little by little, been getting slowly just a little more unkempt... things that i lazily took for granted would magically clean themselves while i slept, are slowly revealing my mothers failings both to her and me.
In the other room, either glued to his armchair, or the commode beside it, my stroke-cursed father can only watch the world go by with frustration and despair. The box, with it's cheesy afternoon detective programmes and light entertainment offers the only distractons to his paralysis. At the slightest emotion on the actors faces, his own face melts into tears.
"You big soft sod" we say to him, embarrassed for him. And my mother laughs. If you turn and look at her, though, she's crying softly too. This is her man still, you see. They neither of them thought that their lives would come to this. A constant erosion of all their self-respect and dignity. Quicker than a tidal cliff, but not slow enough to keep one blissfully untroubled at night.
"We've all got to go in the end" my mum says quietly, determinedly cutting the veg with the bluntest knife in the kitchen. I gave up years ago trying to point out the useful practicalities of sharper utensils, amongst many other things. You just can't tell people what to do. Never could. We are set in our ways like granite. Only more permeable, like sandstone. Sometimes it needs a tectonic shift to open our eyes and ears.
I know though. I know, even though they don't say it. My mum and dad are afraid. Afraid of death, and afraid of all the things left undone in their lives. Most of all afraid of how we, the living will manage without them, once they're gone. I know they worry about me a lot. but there is diamond in these bones and eyes of mine and diamond is an enduring mineral, y'know.
I'll manage. I might cry. But i'll manage to get by somehow.
"When i get a quiet moment to myself, i often think about my mum and dad. Sometimes i talk to them like they are in the room with me, waiting. It's been such a long time since i saw them now, especially my mum. I miss them.... will be good to see them again".
And from my memory, comes words from a young woman, written on the back of a seaside postcard over 50 years ago to her man, away so long overseas fighting in a forgotten war. Giving him hope and keeping some for herself.
"It won't be long now, my love, before we are together again"
I think I'll manage. I might cry. But i'll manage to get by somehow.