Most people think it only takes 2 minutes to cook salmon steaks, but they are wrong.
I’m standing at the bbq, hand on my left hip, turning the pork chipolatas, cooking with care, the salmon; Vicks vapour rub on my feet, enclosed in pink bedsocks. My top lip beads sweat.
I’m doing the man’s job, again. We have no men, in Rockhampton, none that can turn the snags anyway. Not now, at this minute.
My sisters re-thread mum’s bedroom curtains, all three sets of them.
Are we doing double loops or triples? asks June. They sit quietly; doing women’s work; re-looping, until Carolyn covers her face in both hands, both shaking, trembling hands. It’s too much, making mum’s room ‘nice again’ when we all know she may not be home.
None of us feel like lunch but we know we have to eat, we must eat. Everyone is out of routine. When I serve the avocado and red tomato salsa, we fall upon it like a pack of dogs, we shove the food and wash it down with Lindeman’s Sav Blanc. Life is good, for now.
Candles are lit for mum; it’s Mother’s Day. Gently Carolyn circles the room, tea lights and purple candles and soft pinks, are all lit with care and love. We chat amongst ourselves, and busy our hands with glasses of red wine. The room smells of cut onions (don't ask!) and Vicks.
My sisters always talk like they have met each other for the first time, each conversation fresh with new discoveries and enthusiastic swapping of chat and titter.
I listen passively, lost in my own thoughts. I have conversations with my sons – in my head.
Later we head back to hospital, the cars know their way now and we lead them in like wranglers, parking outside. June has brought her laptop, so family can video Skype mum, and soon the room is full of laughter and blowing kisses and mum bravely waving her broken left wrist to much loved grandchildren. My two sons call in too, both looking serious and handsome, but hey! look at the mother, haha.
My niece holds her two year old son upside down over her pregnant tummy, his golden hair tossers down. I resist the urge to ruffle it.
Then it’s time for me to go; my cold is freshening up and I am a reluctant departure.
Bye mum! Take care darling. Love you heaps.
My sisters stay a while longer, to chat to the nurses and to oversee her care.
They are mother hens to our mother hen.
Dinner is leftover pizza and we gulp it down with red wine.
Later we sit in the evenings cool, me with my Vicks Vapour rub feet enclosed in bed socks, and a huge blanket around me, Carolyn and June sitting quietly as the candle burns down the hours till sleep comes to take us gently to bed.
Another restless sleep, my nose is so blocked that when I blow it I trumpet like an elephant with an orange stuck in it’s trunk – woo Weee!
A bush turkey thumps onto the roof in the early dawn and performs a percussion solo above me.
I drift in and out of sleep, half listening to my sisters soft voices.
The wall clock ticks in exact time to a blinking green light for mum’s emergency phone. In case she falls.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock, the light blinks in perfect harmony.
Legs curled like a bronze age burial, I snuggle in and dream some more, waking to the horror that won’t go away – mum’s agonising broken hip and impending operation.
In the morning, I shit bitumen.
To be continued…