Monday, December 22, 2014

I Want To Fly

“Sometimes you just have to smile.”

A look of contentment brightens my Mother’s face as she says this.  Outside the grey winter sky wraps around the town and offers up no particular encouragement for this unexpected remark.  Little about her life, virtually trapped in this small room on the second floor of the hospital in Goderich for more than 2 weeks and counting has been uplifting or hopeful. 

The inspiration that fueled this comment is unknown, its source mysterious and untraceable.  Perhaps to be found down one of the long dim corridors of her mind. One that has seen much of its brightness and clarity vanish.   But whatever its source the feeling of contentment is welcome here. An experience that has been all but absent from her life for such a long time.  It is a small victory considering all that she has endured of late. To be lifted up by even a fleeting moment of happiness is no small thing. 

She then follows this first utterance with one of the expressions that she has used so often in her life. 

“I think I can I think I can.  Do you remember the little train engine trying to climb the hill?”  It is a line taken from a classic children’s story.  One that she has recited to me so many times, particularly when I was a small boy and thought something I needed to do was just impossible.  

I reply by making the toot toot sound of a train whistle and answer back with the concluding line of the story, “I thought I could I thought I could.”  That is what the little engine exclaims when it at lasts reaches the summit after pulling the heavy train up the long steep hill.  All things considered she really has climbed a long hard hill over the past few weeks.  One, that none of her children, or even medical staff thought possible.  

Over the past 2 weeks some small sweet portions of her life have been gifted back to her.  Like a capricious tide some measure of strength has drifted back to her limbs.  Each morning now, if you place it in her hand, she can bite down on small bits of buttered toast.  Though she cannot open her eyes much or even really see.  Just days ago an IV dripped into her arm and she barely had strength enough to suck water up a straw. 

But more importantly her mind now seems able to gather up at least some small grasp of her current reality.  One that does not compare with the independence that she had just a few months earlier.  But definitely this version of her life is much superior to those anxious days just a few weeks off, when her life seemed on the verge of drifting out past the far flung frontiers of this world.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Feeding Me

“You never thought you would be feeding me.”

My Mother says this.  Her eyes closed, sitting wrapped in a frayed white wooly blanket.  She is perched, just a little bent to one side in an upright chair.  The dull grey winter light touching the side of her face.  I have just tilted half a spoon’s worth of vegetable broth between her lips. 

She is right. 

Nothing about this scene would I have ever imagined in this well ordered life of mine spent for many years so far away from here.  But in this moment now there is no distance.  

Time has changed us both so much, and in so many ways.  I am no longer an anxious little boy clutching at her hand and crying out for her all comforting embrace. 

She is 96 and the flame of her life flickers dimly now.  The intimate connection between Mother and son transformed into a manner now new and unexplored to us both.

Yesterday her slender young Doctor, with dignified streaks of grey that swept across the temples of his dark brown hair said, “Mary, you are slowing down.”  

She nodded to this, even though she may not have heard it all or even seen his face.  Her eyes closed so often now.  Her scattered thoughts drifting across the deep sea of her precious memories.

Even a young Doctor has seen lots of little frail old ladies sitting awkwardly in hospital chairs and grasping at their fading lives.  Coming to terms with this new reality as great portions of their world start fraying and dissolving around and about them.

I dip the spoon into the bowl, navigate a circuitous course around soft lumps of carrot and potato.  Delivering then a clear warm spoon of broth to my mother’s lips is after all such a simple thing to do.

What is much more difficult is digesting the immensity of what this moment means.   To measure this small act against all that she has done and sacrificed for me is impossible. 

Her love for me cannot be contained.  Maybe all children catch a glimpse of this when they serve their mothers is some small way.

Winter has come

Yet the flower still grows

Waiting, patient

To scatter its seeds up into the wind