The world faded to black and white, driving past Cadair Idris. A believer in portent and omen for no other reason than life is made up of so many coincidences and near misses that just maybe omens exist too, I think today just might have been the real thing.
December 12th was, as some may know, the day of the official online launch of a self published book that has been waiting in the wing folds of my life for too long. I duly prepared for the uncomfortable zone of maximum internet coverage, even scheduling posts, but in the early hours the photograph of the front cover, the beautiful moon wave by Lateefa Spiker, corrupted every time I tried to add it. By then I had adopted a Doris Day cavalier attitude to this mechanical failure: que sera, sera, and decided to sleep off the niggle of worry.
The first phone call of the day, usually a mechanical voice offering a new boiler in exchange for the old when we don’t even have a boiler, turned out to be my sister. I was forewarned. My mother was ill. In a split we decided the day could be spent no other way.
This is a long winded way of saying a big thank you to all who encouraged, tweeted and liked all those posts and that coming here to be with my sister and my mother today was the right decision.
This day will never come again, hung over as it is with grey clouded, midge-filled sky in a garden full of bumble bees. The Boxer is in bed. The effort of getting out of it valiant but futile.
“Can’t I just be bedridden?”
I point out that this is not an easy option and brings many disadvantages. “Besides, you’re not.” The ‘not quite’ is perhaps understood between us.
Anyway. We decide on lunch in bed, why not? But in the making of it she has gone back to sleep and I haven’t the heart to wake her…not yet, soon.
For five days I have been surrogate for my sister, now her prime carer (sole carer, to be more accurate.) Hard to be a fish out of your own water. All the times the positions were reversed and my sister moved in to my house in order to facilitate our holidays, I gave it the briefest of thought.
The district nurse called in ‘on the off chance.’ I should have solicited her help. Another pair of hands to effect the monumental effort of getting from the bed would have proved without doubt that a king’s fund bed would make life easier. Usually only for the bed-bound, I’m told. The buck is passed and she has recommended a visit from occupational therapy.
I coveted a chair, an iconic Eames chair, with leather cushion and steamed wood made to look like rosewood and wings. A chair that would ‘fit like an old baseball glove.’ I liked the sound of that but could not fully imagine it, never having worn one. A retired person’s chair that epitomised comfort, grace and ease, the kind that would include lots of reading.
I deliberated, waited, hankered and finally succumbed, choosing a purveyor of fine furniture with a solid and dependable name. On line reviews of their reliability were staunch, besides they advertised in the Observer.
I parted with the money from my dwindling resource, a major purchase for one now un waged and sadly without a pension either (see WASPI for that sorry story). Disappointed but only mildly concerned to discover a wait of twelve weeks for delivery. Oh I counted down the weeks, like an expectant grandmother awaiting a first grandchild. I lasted ten weeks before I checked up on them.
Serves me right I suppose for entertaining ideas way above and beyond. Shortly after my purchase, well after the company would have known my precious £££s would serve only to fleece me and line their pockets, THEY WENT BUST. Never mind baseball gloves and Mom’s good old apple pie. It seems there is nothing to be done since they are in receivership and I parted willingly with my money.
But wait! Just as I prepare to compose a stinging sentence to do with the little man and the unfair system, my bank has refunded me in full. The idea of chair as investment had begun to pall anyway.
I see myself in my final hours, about to face my last judgement, clutching favoured treasures in the palm of my hand.
A perfume bottle – a caprice with daffodil-yellow puffer, not much taller than my thumb, pretty with a sensual shape and feel, or a red bracelet made with nibs of bright coral with a tiny silver pendant of a scallop shell – emblem of the Camino de Santiago which will always sit high in my heart.
This no doubt betrays a shallowness. A crucifix, a rosary, or photos of my nearest and dearest would perhaps be more appropriate, but it is objects I will chose for the memories the engender.
The life and loves of photographer, Amory Clay, spanning decades of the last century effortlessly recording momentous events such as the rise of fascism, the Second World War, the war in Vietnam and finally California in the late sixties.
It could be age but whenever I close the final page of a book these days I’m blowed if I can remember what and who it was about. Even the cover, as in this case, brought dim recollection. A flick through a few pages and the prose was indeed a sweet caress. The story came flooding back.
I can’t remember your name, the Boxer said. I laughed, it doesn’t matter.
No go on tell me, she insisted, struggling into the adapted shower that is now woefully inadequate for her, letting the water run till it was hot. Neither of us were distressed by this first major lapse. That’s right she said repeating it when I told her.
I should have lied and claimed to be either of my sisters, I realised too late. A cruel experiment perhaps to see if she truly had misplaced me.
From there it was business as usual and she was indulgent of bungled attempts to make the process easy. Ah well.
The old beam of pleasure at the arrival of my beautiful daughter, youth personified: charm, grace and ease, to say goodbye before her long journey home and a moment of realisation when they kissed, all right Grandma?
Not only might this be their last, but this scenario would repeat as it had for aeons generation after generation.
An autumnal chill this bank holiday Monday as we breakfast outdoors. Birds, the rush of the stream and a stream of traffic tune up like an orchestra. Traditionally a day off, a bank holiday and lazing on the beach would be good. I have primed The Boxer. She accepts with good and easy grace, as she accepts most things. Old age becomes her philosophy.
Labour in the garden, not of love but necessity, will be the order of the day, and probably, if the sun eventually shines, I will relent and The Boxer will have her due. The beach will be for another day.
A swarm of wild bees has taken up residence in the roof over our bedroom. They hum uncontrollably, their energy is frenetic. Nothing can be done, unless we want to kill them which we don’t and even if we did it might effect our own more sedate bees located at the bottom of the garden. Casting about for a reason why they’ve chosen our roof, apart from a gap in the tiles, I decide they are an omen.
Their arrival coincides with the Boxer’s bad day, the day she did not get up. ‘I’m not getting up,’ she was adamant when I offered to wash her hair. She slept. Every time I looked in she would open her eyes and we would chat a little, though I’m not sure she was awake even then. I did odd jobs, read the paper, ate ice cream from the freezer but still she slept, so eventually about nine in the evening I left her.
Not so fortunate in the sleep department sadly, all night long I fretted. I wasn’t worried but I thought surely at 95, one day this will be it. If the Boxer just went to sleep and did not wake up, wouldn’t that be a blessing? Anyone’s old age is not for the faint hearted. I made escape plans that danced so vibrantly under my sleepless lids with an enormouse sense of relief- to walk the Via Francigena to Rome (and back) to buy the camper van and use it, life was exciting.
The Boxer is better. The grandiose dreams of freedom have faded like fairy gifts – but not the guilt.
The bees will be with us a while yet, till they decide to go. I think they could be guardians of my conscience.
How much is it? We asked the bus driver. His first answer, A dollar seventy five, left us none the wiser.
You need a couple of sailing boats, a couple of beavers, maybe a bear and a couple of mooses should do it.
Wonderful Canadian coins. Lovely sense of humour. A random act of kindness for two old duffers (seniors) on the bus.