I have been away for over a month, walking first and then volunteering and then visiting family and friends. Quite why I should think that home would not change while I was away is a mystery. Nothing has stayed the same. Life (and the garden) has blossomed in my absence and rather than be missed I have missed much.
My mother who is ninety two has changed too, rather in the way that a baby will show great changes in just a month. Perhaps life is relative as time and accelerates at both extremes – the beginning and the end.
She is herself and not herself, a cold is laying her low and attacking her chest. I keep her company while we wait for the doctor to call. (An unheard of event). I made the appointment without her say so, also unheard of and she takes the decision stoically even when it gets to be a two hour trip to hospital. This is North Wales and beds are in short supply. The journey is taxing and uncomfortable. The two paramedics who man the ambulance, one to drive and one to care for my mother, are unbelievably young and unbelievably, though thankfully, competent.
It must be twenty years since either of us has been an inmate. Recent news of early deaths and gross incompetence punctuates our silences. There is no evidence of this in the ward, but it is an alien place. The first dose of drugs plus oxygen kicks in and breathing is easier. Sunny Boy arrives and we make tepid tea from a machine on the ward.
‘ What would you like for your birthday?’ My mother asks him. It will be on Friday. He reckons he has got to the age where there is nothing that he needs or wants, and my mother suggests an ice cream from the neon pink parlour in the harbour near home. This is a favourite haunt of hers and we make a date for when she is out.
On the way home, nearing midnight, I suggest a MacDonalds, the only place open. It must be twenty years since Sunny Boy has been in one. He is still mystified by the ‘speak’, ‘ Dyuwonfries? Dyuwonamele?’ , and that MacDonalds exists at all. Some things don’t change.