Mum’s face seems flush. Are you ok sweetheart we ask, concerned. Yes, she says shyly, one of the carers, one of Mathew’s friends recognised me today.
Are you Mathew‘s grandmother, he says? I recognise you from your photo on the fridge when I get beers. We chortle at the thought of this young 19 year old man putting two and two together and knowing our 90 year old mother. From the fridge!
Don’t worry Mrs Warby, he assures, I’ll take very good care of you, and he will, because Mathew told him to. He will, because he is a caring young man, and a professional. He will, because it’s our mum. His refrigerator grandmother.
A few days later, she is flushed again. What happened mum?
Mathew’s friend had to shower me today. I nearly died of embarrassment. After he helped me dress, we both noticed my bra hanging on the back of the bathroom door. He said, “I seem to have forgotten that,” but I told him that I was burning my bra today, and could do without it.
We laugh again and cringe on her behalf. It can’t be easy. She is a proud woman, my mother, but it happened, and she made it through, and managed to laugh at the end at her own shyness and humility. Good girl mum. Things are different now, not better, or worse, just different.
It’s Mother’s Day. My sisters and I have booked breakfast at a local licensed café. Make sure It’s licensed I warned, I want my champers! It is Mother’s day after all.
Naturally the restaurant is fully booked, and we are quickly shown our table and a limited menu of selections. We all choose eggs on toast. They have actually gone to a bit of trouble with Mother’s Day, and it’s noted. We each receive a small wrapped bag of chocolates, some hearts, some stars, with a label attached: Happy Mother’s Day - with compliments.
We put one aside to take to mum, later. Some of Carolyn’s neighbour’s paintings are on the wall, for sale. Andrea is a fine artist and June soon falls in love with one of her images. She makes a note to come back later, when she can see the painting closer, without disturbing the couple sitting in front of the frame. This doesn’t happen.
We tiptoe into mum’s room for Mother’s Day, flowers, cards, chocolates. She isn’t there. She isn’t there? I poke my head around the corner of the bathroom, and sure enough, she’s sitting on the toilet waiting for the nurse to help her up. We both burst out laughing. Being here is a bit like having a baby: leave your dignity at the front door and pick it up on the way out. Happy Mother's Day mum.
I wear a face mask, so when I cough I don’t spread the joy of my head cold. I write on it: I love me mum, and dutifully place it over my face. It’s the right thing to do. I sit in the far corner of the room, and twinkle my fingers to mum.
I love you, I mouth, but she doesn’t see it.
Scratching through the drawers looking for Carolyn’s new DVD warranty. Old photographs of mum and dad emerge. The original small brown photo of their wedding day, when mum had to prop dad up as he was weak from malaria. Dad’s handwriting on the back. They are holding hands. Dad has a bandage on his left hand, probably from hospital. They are both in uniform.
His beautiful script with it’s generous fat curves and loops. I had his signature down pat as I ‘signed’ my maths tests in high school.
A beach photograph. Dad’s body is hard and young, I swear he has a 6-pack everywhere. Lean, muscular, strong. Mum in a bathing suit, legs to her neck, a beautiful waist, a waist!
Have you ever seen this? I’ve never seen these before?
We put them aside, in a safe place. We don’t find them again when we leave.
Where are they? Have you seen them? What did we do with them? I gave them to you!
Driving to Yeppoon to have my sister’s DSVD repaired. New road. Afternoon sunshine. Gorgeous jump-up mountains, similar to the Glass House Mountains. Kilometres of a strange road, searching for hidden driveways and numbers. I overdrive the property, eventually finding it in the shadows of coastal scrub and trees. On the way home, the sun is setting. I glance to my peripheral vision - to my right – and immediately have to photograph this wonderful scene. Leave it I rouse to myself. Just drive. Concentrate.
But how can I when the sun is setting? I must photograph it, I must! Pulling over to the side of the road, a cattle property. I raise my camera with shaking hands. Such beauty.
Later, I am slowed down by a traffic accident, as a motorcyclist dies in a flashing tangle of police lights and tow trucks. Ambulance. Fire engines. What a mess.
To be continued...