Monday, May 17, 2010

Mum Part 18

Carolyn drives in to see mum in the afternoon; Rockhampton is having a dozing afternoon of sport and apathy. Mum is asleep; her mouth is open again. It's almost too tempting to whip out her dentures and give them a good scrub, but she won't have a bar of it. The nurse rolls her eyes and tells us how hard she has tried to get mum to agree to have her teeth cleaned. Her dentures soaked.

I’m quite capable of doing my own teeth, she snorts. She and Carolyn would clean them together, sis turning her back with sudden interest in the towel rack, to give mum privacy.  Neither of us have ever seen mum with her teeth out. So she cleans them in the bathroom; they soak as she showers; in the old bathroom of my teenage years where I learnt to shave my legs and not nick myself, in my father’s bathroom he designed. Dad put in a huge mirror which nearly covered the entire wall.

It was the first thing mum removed when dad passed away. She removed his mirror. It wasn’t that dad was a vain man, indeed, he was a very humble man, but it was a new house, our first ever new house, and he wanted it right. It was the style of the day.


So mum is asleep, lying on top of her bed, as has become her way. It’s for old women to lie under the doona. Not for mum. She lies on top of her bed. Carolyn sits quietly in the way that Carers do, waiting. Waiting for something to happen, good or bad. She sends me a dit Don’t ring, mum asleep. She sends it to mum instead, by habit.


Mum’s phone sounds like a fire engine in the folded shadows of her room. Carolyn spends the next 2 minutes between beating herself up and trying not to laugh out loud.


Brisbane -Monday 5.53pm. Trying to recreate my brother’s Mediterranean Chicken dish. Mostly unsuccessfully, as I bought chicken thighs instead of chicken thighs with the bones in them. The meat won’t be as tender, grr. Never mind, live and learn, eh?

Carolyn sends me a dit. Ring mum now sis. Mum answers straight away. I’m on loudspeaker.

Is that my darling? I tease. She replies: It is! It is! It’s me mum! It’s me mum! and we both chortle at our old standard greeting to each other.

Just like old times - nearly 6pm - she’d usually be watching Eddie McGuire and enjoying her first scotch. Except she’s still in Rehab.

How’s your cough mum?

Nearly gone, I haven’t coughed much at all today!

Oh? That’s marvellous.

And, she continues, I walked the parallel bars today.

Fantastic mum, remembering the last time 5 days ago when she managed a heroic 2 full lengths, unsteadily turning around at the end, to complete the other length. Her mouth was set in a grim determination. Don’t mess with me. I don’t like, but I have to do it. I will, I will, I will.

How many laps did you do today mum?


I start a coughing fit; I am so pleased for her. It’s her triumph, her Jessica Watson crossing-the-line-moment, and I let her crow with pride.

Carolyn tells me in the background that she intends to walk to the Dining Room tonight too. I can almost feel mum beaming away, her paper thin cheeks flushed with pink.

I have used mum being in hospital as an example to my own sons. When life slaps you down, you get back up again. When it slaps you down again, you get straight back up. Good girl mum.


To be continued…

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