I always feel like you didn’t realise I was there. And I would stand behind you, while you were busy… Hanging up the washing, talking on the phone… whatever you happened to be doing. I would feel like I needed to stay there, behind you, until you realised I was there. My fantasy was that you would turn around, and apologise in your sweet voice, for forgetting about my presence.
It was like I was testing you. Testing to see how much I was or wasn’t on your mind. Sometimes I would feel like giving you a tiny clue, by moving just that little bit closer, so that any movement backwards by you would alert you to my presence. But I didn’t, because then nothing would be proven. The outcome of the test had to be conclusive and clear, with no interference on my part.
Now I am sitting nearly opposite you. You are sitting in a chair, directly in the sunlight coming through the high window. I am sitting in such a way that you might not be able to see who I am. Still as an adult, I find myself putting you through little tests. In this case I have seated myself in such a way that your tired sensitive eyes will be blinded when trying to look in my direction. Are you going to ask me to move so you may better see me? Even though the nurse has said that you no longer have much of a clear awareness of what is happening around you, part of me still wants to test you. What part do I play in your life and do I add to your joy or pain? Do you feel indifferent to me?
I am like a forever puppy, sitting by your side, tethered to your side by an old secondhand leash. My life has been sidelined; waiting, waiting to be noticed and valued.
I can’t help myself… I lean forward and touch your hand, test contaminated, and you look up not seeing anything in particular and smile an automatic smile, which with the effort it takes is more like a grimace.
When you die, and I know that already now you are no longer wholly here, who will see me?
As I stand up to go, the change in the light alerts you to my departure. Your mouth gapes open and you call for your mother; Ma-ma-ma… And a tear slides from your eye. Your weathered hand shoots out with astonishing speed and grabs my sleeve. At your strong touch I feel my heart jump out of my chest as I realise in this moment exactly where I stand and where you, my mother has stood for her whole life.
A picture presents itself in my mind of myself standing behind my mother, who stands behind her mother, who stands behind her mother, who stands behind her mother….. An infinite row of dominoes. In the picture I see myself stretch out my hand and stumble against my mother, who stumbles into her mother, who stumbles into her mother… The dominoes keep falling. I fall into my mother’s skirts and feel them wrap around me as I fall. The smell of her clothes enters my nostrils and I feel her hands around me to steady me. When I look up at her, I see hands around her as well steadying her in turn.
As the image fades, I find myself kneeling down in front of the floral chair my mother is sitting in and I hug her around the waist, pressing my face against her bony chest, where through the smell of old clothes, I can still detect the essence of her; the essence that is imprinted in my senses, in my mind and in my cells.
I feel my mother coming apart, I feel her warm tears seep through my hair and run down my cheeks where they become one with mine. We sit like this for hours, as the sun fades from the window. I can’t bear to be out of her presence, so I ask the nurse to help me pack her bags and I take her home.