Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - sunglasses included.

The three women leaned over the table and peered at me through their black sunglasses.  I could see my startled reflection and adjusted my own sunnies over my nose.
“Would you describe this as fine, medium or thick?” The women exchanged glances, chewed their lips politely and blurted “Medium.  Definitely medium.”
I mentally punched the air, I was winning. I thought they’d say thick, for sure.

Yesterday I read on Facebook, that my local beauty parlour was looking for test dummies…er… models, for IPL Hair Reduction training. I quickly suggested that they could use me, goodness knows there’s enough unwanted hair to around.  
A quick phone call to me: “How about we do a half-leg’ the girl suggests.  “What do I do the other half a leg?” I pondered. “We already have an underarm. Perhaps….” (she pauses for quite a long time) “perhaps we could do a bikini leg?” I have to stop and think about this, for about 2 seconds.  Yes please, I find myself yelling.  After all, don’t my two sisters constantly barrage me with suggestions for whipper-snippers, waxing and everything else that involves pain and excess hair in my nether regions?

When I arrived at the Salon, I was given a small parcel. “Just pop this on please.” I hold the small white package up to my face; I have no idea what I am looking at. “Once you have on your disposable g-string, I’ll be back” and she closes the door leaving me still holding onto my mystery object.  
Now this is embarrassing!
After working out the front and back and which goes where, I lay on the narrow table. 
“I’m ready,” I lie.

And so my life has come to this, being peered at by three strangers, wearing sunglasses and discussing my fluffy bits. I go to a happy place, and close my eyes.
“Just move your leg to a right angle” and I die of shame. Soon the first laser treatment begins.

“How would you rate that on a scale of ten?”  Is she kidding me? 
“About a one” I say, but then again, I’ve had two natural childbirths, so anything you throw at me is always measured against that standard. This is nothing!
“Turn it up ladies” she commands, and the trainee dutifully turns the dial. 

“How about now?” she asks in what I swear was an Austin Power’s Mini Me voice.  Mentally I do the finger quotes  – “L A S E R S

 “About a 1 and a half.”  I feel strong and powerful!  The girls exchange glances and then the words: “Turn it right up!”  I am worried now; perhaps I shouldn’t have been so strong, so stoic.  I imagine the laser setting fire to my nether regions and burly firemen breaking into the chandeliered beauty parlour.

“What’s happening?  Where’s the fire?” 

The three young women would all point to my exploding pubes, as the firemen douse the flames.
I return to my happy place and leave them to work on my bikini line.

In her enthusiasm, the new trainee rushes the job just a bit: Flash! Flash! Flash! It feels like cracker night in my undies.
“Just slow down, make sure you don’t leave any lines, you must get it all.” she commands, and I imagine my bikini line looking like a zebra, complete with black lines in a natty pattern.
I sigh.
One way or the other I’ll be the talk of the beach, but I doubt anyone will even look me in the eye; they’ll all be staring at my you-know-what! 
After 15 minutes I’m done, and after dressing, I stroll out into the sunlight, to the other world of normality, and begin to skip.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

What's the Story, Morning Glory - Drawing

This was first published here.


Tony had no idea why he was there.

Really, it shouldn’t be like this.

What started out as a simple idea to consult a professional relationship counsellor on his impending marriage with her had somehow ended up with him in this field, with two other people he could only describe as nutters.

At the very least, they were mixed up. Emotionally unstable. More so than him. He just wanted a simple answer to his simple question.

“How do you know?”

How do you know when she’s the one? Should he settle down with her and learn to love her laugh? The way she wipes his mouth between courses? Could he truly be happy and sleep well every night for the rest of his life? With her laying stiffly beside him? He doesn’t even like redheads; normally.

The morning sun glared in his eyes. Turning his head slightly, he stared at the other blokes, who were busy sketching. Like that would help. He squirmed uncomfortably on his chair; it was digging into his back. Stupid camping chair!

He felt embarrassed to be there, and had no idea that the early morning bus trip from his new home would end up with him clutching a stick of charcoal and a notepad.

He drew a stick figure. Named it after her. Drew a big sun with arrows shooting out of it.

Nearby a conga line of cows were walking up the paddock; the soft dull bell, the sharp farmers whistle.

He slapped the back of his neck. Insects. A trickle of sweat rolled down his chest. The arms of his leather jacket creaked with each movement, it had always annoyed him. The other men said nothing, just bobbed their heads up and down as they took in each curve of the hill, each rise of the tree line.

He drew a square house, even though he could see none. Their happy home, together. The kind you drew as a kid, without lifting your pencil; with a big cross in the middle. A big, black cross.
The charcoal snapped.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Life, death, and bubbles in between

Yesterday I chatted about death, dying, and funeral photography. I celebrated end of life traditions and cultures that shape our memories with Golie, a stunning, intelligent PhD student who shares my curiosity of preserving moments of time, fragments of grief, and the beauty of the human spirit.
Calling into the bottle shop to buy a bottle of champagne to toast to our future King, the third in line, a baby in arms: “A bottle to wet the baby’s head” I exclaim, to the confusion of the young attendant and his mate.

‘What is it today with saying that?” he demands. “Everyone’s been saying that all day long, I don’t get it,” and clearly, he doesn’t. “It’s beautiful that so many of the community want to share this special day” I explain, “You don’t really wet the baby’s head, it’s just a saying,”  and I leave him clearly muddled.
It’s hard to pass on a generation of tradition if the kids are plugged into Ipods and earplugs. They aren’t interested and it’s a worrying trend. How can you ignore the past?
Once home I send my friend a dit. Come and share champers, wet the baby’s head!

Within five minutes she tramps up my stairs, flashing her trademark smile. “Thought we should wet the baby’s head” she says, explaining that her message bank service wasn’t working but she had a hunch I’d open champagne. How well she knows me.
A good day is when you celebrate life each day. A great day is when you can reflect equally on death, and the continuation of life and royalty, with bubbles.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On royal Births, and death bombing

With the world waiting for the birth of William and Kate’s baby, I wonder if the young prince will stay overnight in the maternity hospital with their new baby, once born. It reminds me of my own birth experience at Boothville Mother’s Hospital, Windsor. Since closed, it was run by the Salvation Army as not only a “home for single mothers” but also as a natural Birth Centre for low-risk mums-to-be.

In the late 1980’s – long before social media existed, Boothville was welcoming new dads into the labour room and encouraging them to stay the night.  It was the only way dads could become involved in the care of their child, and help as added support to the new mother.
When my own husband would visit me at 6am and then reluctantly return to our empty house, I said to my doctor: "Help! He’s exhausting me."
The hospital was under constant threat of closure due to low patient levels, and Dr Charles Elliott suggested I push for a family room to be added to the hospital, as a way of attracting families.

As hospital closure loomed over our heads, we passionate supporters began a five-year marketing campaign and a relentless promotion to engage the public and tell the story of “Brisbane’s Best Kept Secret”.

On the Private Hospital Board with me were two young women and now lifetime friends; Christine Jackson and Fiona Guthrie.  Together we well-intentioned birth consumers began what is now taken for granted in some hospitals: the father stays overnight, bonding with his new family. Two special family rooms were created, and many young couples made memories and a healthy, loving start to their family life.

Recently a young friend delivered her second child at the Royal Women’s Hospital, and her partner stayed overnight. I wondered if she knew the story of my own husband, and what an ongoing  effect it had on her own relationship, 27 years later!  If the London Paddington Hospital has no family room perhaps Kate might just Skype Wills from her bed?

I understand that a special reclining chair has been requested so that William may rest, no doubt exhausted from his own shouting of Push Latey Katie, push!  Giving birth has evolved to become a social gathering of friends and family with Twitter updates and the obligatory selfies for Facebook.

With television shows such as Call the Midwife, or reality show, The Midwives, it’s easy to see how birthing has evolved from an isolated young mother and her doula, to a more social occasion, shared with birth photographers, support people, and friends.

At the other end of the spectrum of birth, is death. Will we see a rise in death- support people as we age?  The days of dying alone or with only close family may be limited.

I heard author Jesse Blackadder  telling of a ‘third person involved with assisting and supporting my mother’s passing’. 

It seems this friend became involved and helped family to bury personal grievances before they buried their mother, so to speak.  She gently allowed each person to spend special time with their mum, before she passed. Sometimes families need that extra person.

As ageing Baby Boomers are used to creating their own traditions, death might become a passive spectacle, viewed with bored family texting Facebook updates: “No change yet, breathing still regular”.

A new tradition may emerge: Death-bombing. Just like Photo-bombing, described as: “An otherwise normal photo that has been ruined or spoiled by someone who was not supposed to be in the photograph.”

Death-bombing might be the art of overstaying your death-watch welcome, witnessing your loved ones passing, all in the name of being social.  Added family members might have good intentions, but their very presence disallows others to have quality one-on-one time to whisper messages and make memories with their immediate family.

Sometimes death demands privacy, not an audience, with many oldies refusing to go until the family leave the room.

It’s a time that can never be re visited, so perhaps a neutral Death Warden; aiding and directing death-bed traffic, to ease family congestions and smoothing the path towards the Light, might be the birth of a whole new industry.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Forever Winter

I have a confession to make. I am glad its winter and my swimmers can go back into the drawer until next summer.  Not that it was much of a summer, mind you; and not that I am much to look at in my togs, either.

But it’s not my choice of swimwear that‘s the problem, or how I look in it.

It’s my lack of ability to tame my…well… my more personal and yet oh so public areas of my body. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried bleaching, waxing, creams and razors (I may have lied about the waxing, I’m simply not that brave!) and still it persists, like a scene from George of the Jungle. And like George, my husband emits a similar howling cry when he sees me. My sisters have threatened to whipper-snipper me one day, but as I have patiently pointed out to them over the years, if it offends you, don’t look.

As a teenager I plucked my eyebrows, and they have never grown back. How does that work? I have also been shaving my legs since Adam was a boy and my regrowth grows stronger and more virulent each passing year. How does that work? 

Let’s not mention menopause when my chin suddenly sprouted enough hair to rival any adolescent boy in long pants, and my morning routine consisting of standing in front of my mirror until the foliage subsided, and the sink became blocked. Tweezers became my closest confidante.

You think I exaggerate?  Women of a certain age have all sorts of mysteries to them.  Once, a friend of mine wore a dress to a shopping centre, feeling very girly and fresh. She even rang me with excitement, as it was unheard of for her not to be in her beloved jeans or trousers. She told me that as she walked along, she  noticed a slight discomfort. What’s this?  After a mere 5 minutes of window shopping, her pain increased “down there” and she hurriedly made her way to the shopping centre toilets.

Once inside, she peered down with dismay, to see her hairy-bits had actually formed a knot, yes, I‘m serious. Tangled beyond help, she had to sit there and unravel, and trust me, you don’t want to know the rest, suffice to say, she’s never worn another dress since.

But I digress. It’s not just the taming of the wild things; it’s the cellulite legs and general lumps and tummy rolls that I won’t miss seeing. Winter becomes a time of snug trackies and long shirts covering all unnecessary flesh; with dinner parties and stews and casseroles, duck fat potatoes and hearty roasts and chocolate cake. Hang on! Isn’t that how I got my lumpy legs and rolls in the first place?

Still doesn’t explain the excessive hairy bits though. 


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Lightness of Being.

“Cheers mum” and we adult children raise our flutes high and toast our dear mother. After a passionate rendition of singing Happy Birthday, complete with hip-hoorays, her casket is wheeled to the waiting hearse; we watch as mum is taken for private cremation.

She wanted to make 93 and so she did, in her own way. After a horrific fall that saw her hospitalised since January - the third fall in as many years - we gave her a very pretty, symbolic, old ladies funeral: can’t ask for better. In fact, it was perfect.

Crystal bowls of her favourite chocolates for everyone to share, stunning posies of native flowers, old friends, familiar faces, a gentle priest and enough great-grandchildren to almost fill the small wooden church. Genuine tears to be sad at our loss, plenty more laughter to remind us that life does indeed go on, at a cracking pace too. Even champagne!

So how are we all coping?  Somehow I have changed. There is lightness now in my life. For the first time I have had to rely on myself.

Although dad has been gone for 9 years, I still miss his booming hello at the end of the phone line; and now there is no smiling mum asking me what my latest project involved. It’s just me now and I like it.  

I now sleep at night, not worrying about her latest injury. What did the doctor say?  Does she need to be moved to a Nursing Home? When was the last time her back was rubbed?   What needs to be done?  Her needs.   Gently caring for our elderly mother has been a loving blessing which was in danger of becoming a chore. And yet it never did. But still, now I can relax, and enjoy my life a little more. I was a good daughter; in fact we were all dutiful, obedient, caring children to our parents, returning the unconditional love shown to us. We not only did our best, but far and beyond that. And we happily exhausted ourselves.
Now, newly orphaned, there isn’t the distress I thought I would feel, only a calmness.

A lightness of being in my own skin, for the first time.

Like a modern day Gulliver, the family ties that gently wrapped loving arms around me, and gave me a stable, solid grounding; from tropical Cairns and Rockhampton, to Toowoomba and beyond to far flung Wollongong, have unravelled; as old age and death claimed the matriarchs, aunties and godmothers in my life. Three old girls dead in four weeks.  I drift through the days and nights, float through sleepless weeks, unweighted. The lightness both disturbs and comforts me, as I put into place life lessons learned from years of conversations and hands-on experience. I have to trust that I know enough. I need to believe that I can do this Living, without their voices on the end of the phone. Without loving arms surrounding me with joy. Without approval or judgement.

It has to be enough.

Now I am making my own decisions. Missing their opinions and helpful advice, yes, but gladly standing on my own two feet and looking forward to my own life, with confidence.

They say funerals are for the living, and it’s true. We created a memorable Service, which incorporated everything she wanted: The Lord’s Prayer. Traditional of course. Forever and ever, Amen.

The Magnificat. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.

We gave mum what she wanted, and more. Now it’s our turn to live our lives with the same grace and integrity shown to us.

Living with such lightness, demands my feet be grounded. If I am ever in danger of floating away, my memories will form a rock steady base, and with both feet planted safely, my eyes look to my own horizon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mum's Passing - Thoughts.

March 19 2013
Thanks everyone else who has taken the time and care to comment, it's beautiful to be cared for by my Facebook family, hugely appreciated. Home now for a glass of red, my sister is showering, then back to hosptial, but not for me. I don't want to do it, I photograph too many dead people to want to see my mum like this. Over it. It was enough to hold dad in my arms as he went, I don't want to do that with mum.
I've said my goodbyes to her, and I am at peace with that. Candles are lit. x

At noon today we thought she would be gone by 1pm. Instead, her breathing regulated, her hands warmed up (!!) and here we are all those hours later. Death is a meanie, taking it's time, teasing and haunting us, every, single, fecking, day. We could still be having this conversation tomorrow! *faints.

Mum says in her halting, stuttering, breathy voice:"I must firmly tell my daughters; Family first". The irony made me weep. *sighs

Only 8 weeks ago today, my *almost 93yo mother, had sparking blue eyes, full of cheek and wit, rasing her wine glass and hugging her many grandchildren. Tonight, we keep virgil over her bed, as she sleeps peacefully snoring. Yoh Wah (*goodbye) Bunty, thanks for everything. I will miss you every day, and will never look at a telephone again without wanting to ring you at 5pm.

Worth sharing: "Go to sleep and rest your eyes. A clear conscience and no regret is what helps you sleep the sleep of babes. You have done what can be done. Believe me do not be afraid of death or the things left unsaid. Instead be able to celebrate life joy and happiness for these are what lives are for."

March 20 2013
The wind howls around the house, and cries through the trees: Where is our mother? Where is our mother?

RIP Pearl Warby, our Mother of 3 girls and 3 boys. Reader, gardener, opera lover, wife of a soldier, daughter, sister and mother to us all. Bless you and keep you in His loving arms. Toujours gai - and always a Lady. Yow Wah *goodbye

My 2 sisters are back home, red eyed, happy with grief. Phone calls are made...softly...gently.. We fresh ophans sit and raise our glasses of champagne, toasting our mum.

Playing The Lark Ascending for mum. (*And the lark just rises, going up, and up, and finally, it's out of sight) Having a quiet weep. She always wanted this for her funeral. Today we carefully ironed her beautiful purple blouse we all love, bought fresh white pretty knickers for her, and took her clothes to the funeral arranger. This afternoon we met with the always amazing Fr Cameron and planned her Service. Have to say, it’s going to be beautiful.

Flowers have started to arrive. Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughtfulness, with your loving Facebook posts, your beautiful Twitter messages of support, your phone calls, Sms’s and so on. Please know they are all read, noted, and enjoyed. Bless. X

Mum and I loved Archy and Mehitabel: we would often quote bits to each other. Please enjoy.

Happy Birthday Eve my darling mum, tomorrow we send you off with Grace and dignity, style and love. If you could see the waxing moon over Mt Archer, if you could feel the gentle night wind on your cheek once more, and know that your life was charmed, difficult, original and amazing. If you could only know, once more, the feel of my arms around you. I wish! Sleep now my darling girl, sleep now, brave girl. I love you. X

Please bear with me if I indulge in a little 1am quiet sob for my mum, whom I will never know. A private, reserved woman. The stranger in our midst. Yah wah mum. *goodbye


My aunty has my mother’s ears, and her own, twisted, paralyzed hands. She moans softly, Mum, mum. I am here.

Like a modern day Gulliver, the family ties that gently wrapped loving arms around me, and gave me a stable, solid grounding; from tropical Cairns and Rockhampton, to Toowoomba and beyond to far flung Wollongong; have unravelled, as old age and death claimed the matriarchs, aunties and godmothers in my life.

I drift through the days and nights, float through sleepless weeks, unweighted. The lightness both disturbs and comforts me, as I put into place life lessons learned from years of conversations and hands-on experience. I have to trust that I know enough. I need to believe that I can do this living, without her voice on the end of the phone.

Without aunty laughs and arms surrounding me with joy. Without female approval or judgement.

It has be enough.


She actually said: i love you, i love you, the naughty one. Sigh. X

Glad i am here, although i DID say no more death bed scenes. Still, who are we to write the script?

All a part of life & living, this dying business. Sitting cross legged in hall with a cuppa trying 2 get internet

Chatting to nurse Wendy. 'What was your husband like?' to mum. He was a beautiful man, she says. I cried, hearing that.

Mum glances to her right. 'Who's that?' she asks, nodding to the corner of the room. I nudge Carolyn. 'Is it a man or a woman mum?' I ask

She can't tell me. She looks around her room. 'There's 1,2,3 of them' she says. I stare and smile at nothing but curtains and the sink.

Carolyn suggests it might be mums angels, but mum isn't convinced. Yet she still counts them loud. One. Two. Three.

Mum is snoring. So sweet x

Sitting in the hallway playing solitaire, missing my pillow. Glad i am here though. Might make a nest in mums big chair. Goodnight x

Gawd i am freezing! Thin white hospital blanket, brrr. Mum still snoring.

Good morning Groovers. Sis and i at hospital with mum, starving for Maccas breakfast, lol. Long night. Long day ahead. the morphine is making her confused.

Think she "saw" 3 people in the room last night. Kept asking the time since 4am, witching hr

We will go soon, once witching hour has passed, come back later and do it all again.

Sending warm thoughts to you today..."thanks, i will wrap them around my shoulders like an old friend x

"I'm just a patient, who doesn't know: what's it all about?" says mum.

Remember family, says mum, then drifts off with a smile on her face. I wonder what that memory was?

It’s a restless wind in Rocky tonight, yachts jerk, trembling on their anchors, trees shake their manes with impatience, doors rattle.

It's a restless night tonight, the wind slaps the blinds and spanks unseeing windows.

Be able to celebrate life joy and happiness for these are what lives are for.

I am at home, listening to the wind shiver around the house. Sisters at hospital. Tired, bedtime xx

Back to sleep 4 me, mums candle went out, big wind here, think she is gone, dunno

RIP my darling mother with the laughing blue eyes, I shall always be grateful to you.

she was always a lady with a wicked sense of intelligence & humour. At peace now. Bless.

I am an ophan, the person who supported me & believed in me, listened to me, is gone. So non-judgmental & loving...

With life, comes death. My mother is teaching me gently, still.

she was our matriarch, much loved we won the jackpot with our parents. Marvellous lives x

I think what I'll miss most is her unconditional support, always interested in whatever funeral I'd film, supportive x

Mum's funeral notice in paper, looks good.

Magpies & crows having animated conversations #Rocky

Such a perfect circle.

Thanks Twitter buddies, give me strength to read the Eulogy (my part) & send her off with dignity.

We want happy funeral, she had a great life. Warby-time is over. Bless

So it is done. We orphans gave mum a dignified, memorable, creative Service. Yoh Wah mum. *goodbye #funerals

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tonight's the Night!

It was all he had hoped for here and now.  As he watched her dance en pointe, his breathing slowed until he heard his own heartbeat; keeping time to Swan Lake, Act Three. The audience shuffled quietly, expectantly.
White noise filled his head, a gentle roar that grew in depth. The world held its breath, waiting for his cue.

This was it!
It had taken him his whole life to reach this moment, and he savoured every sweet note, every heart thump, every smile, rehearsed or not.

She was beautiful!
Tonight, after they danced, he would ask her. A thrill surged through him as the violins shivered in tempo.

This was it!
A final deep breath, the roaring in his ears now replaced with the familiar strains of chords and notes, his cue; his moment; his spotlight.

This was it!
Arms up – soft – and away; a spring step, lightly, lightly; feet extended, and a springbok leap.

The rest of the ballet passed in a blur; a delightful, happy blur, as he danced like the man possessed he had become.  Obsessed with movement and allowing his body to change and reach out, dance had become his whole life, ever since he saw her, at school , gasping with the beauty and delight at the retired ballerina’s graceful performance.
If only the U13 rugby kids could see me now, he mused, waiting for his final lift with her. That would silence the critics, his father in particular, and those bullies who waited for him behind corners, around trees, in the boys loos. If they could only see his body now; strong, sinewy, complete muscle definition. A man. A dancing man, yes, but this costume leaves nothing to the imagination. He was perfection. Perfection in lycra and tights.

He stiffened for the final lift, smile bright. Tonight is the night. His night. Music swelling, she leapt towards him, took flight; arms extended.
She was so beautiful!

He shivered in anticipation of her answer. Smiling, her perfect body taut with energy, sweat beaded her brow. 
Now was the time!  His career highlight, the audience, her, his spotlight, their triumph.

Reaching out, he carefully placed one hand on her left thigh.

The other hand under her waist and ribs, careful not to bruise or hurt her.  She was safe in his capable arms, his strong hands, his gentle touch.

Already the audience began to applaud.

His heart thumped in time to the final chorus. Soon they would walk on stage Pas Marche and bow together. He closed his eyes, filled with passion and joy.  He dipped her head towards the stage, as they had rehearsed for the past three months. He could do this movement with his eyes closed.

She never saw it coming, the blood leaving a small trickle, as he stood, in the spotlight, frozen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Washing Day

“Lift your boob mum, there you go.” My sisters and I take turns in showering her; it’s a loving chore we grow to love and dread.  We wash her with great care and tenderness –and at times great dollops of humour - to get the job done.

Mum is 93 years old; a widow for nine years, a soldier’s bride, and the mother of us four rowdy adult kids and enough great-grand children that we gave up counting them.  She reminds us, “I started all this mess!”

Old age ain’t for sissies. Undressing her is an art in itself; gently removing her trousers and shoes, unbuttoning her floral blouse, being careful with her arthritic bones.  “Here mummy darling, just move your arm a bit.” We speak to her like a toddler, our own living doll to play with.

She prepares to stand, and then walk to the bathroom across the hallway, using her walker.  Osteoporosis has left her weak and vulnerable.  Our mother is a very intelligent, but physically frail woman; small confusions are beginning to cloud her memory.

Crosswords keep her mind busy. Use it or lose it. Her extensive classical music collection seems to annoy her now. She brushes the suggestion of which CD to play, with an impatient wave of her hand. “I’ve heard them all!”

We dutiful daughters have taken over the task of showering her after she became agitated with the daily rotation of the different home visit Nurses.  No matter how cheerily they would arrive to care for her, it became too much. “So many new faces” she would say, and blush with shame. She’s a proud, private woman. This has added another hour to my live-in sister’s daily care of mum, and my siblings and I visit them both when we can, travelling the 700kms to help with home duties. Respite for my sister, new challenges for mum.

We adult children do this because she is our mother, and that’s how it is. We have become her personal hand servants, but it’s our choice and we are up to the task.  The years of her love are returned, with gratitude and respect.

I know every inch of my mother’s soft body. Every curve of her dowagers hump, every unidentified lump, every wrinkle and fold where once smooth skin lay pale, unseen.  We inspect her for bruises.  Her delicate, paper-thin skin demands our full attention. I hold the shower curtain half closed for modesty so she can wash herself. Gripping the handles we have installed with trembling hands, the fear of slipping and falling frightens us the most. It’s constantly on our mind, the elephant in the room we cannot avoid. Already, she’s broken her wrist, and once slid off a chair when her dressing gown proved to be slippery on the leather seat.   We have special wash cloths for her face, another one for her legs, yet another one for her curved, broad back. We tenderly check for signs of heat rash. For a small woman who is physically shrinking each month, mum needs at least three towels to dry herself. One to sit on, to protect her from sliding off the shower seat, one around her naked shoulders for warmth and one to actually dry as I raise each leg, being careful to pat between her toes.  I powder her chest, easing on fresh clothes, and walk her gently to her bedroom. Now fully dressed, she lays on top her bed, exhausted. “I’ll just rest a while” she say, her eyes closed. 

Bathing mum gives me opportunity and wisdom to see hands-on old age and dignity. It teaches me patience and respect, returning my mother’s love and care.

I sit on her bed and discuss the day’s events; recalling memories, quietly chatting as our roles are reversed. My mother is my child, my delicate doll with the blue eyes.

 My mother is teaching me gently, still.