Stories begin somewhere in the bowels of truth. Do these things happen or do they not? Who is to know what is true? I only know my truth. And so I tell my story.
It is two days ago, and an April morning the likes of which we had been waiting for. I am sitting in a sun beam, leisurely eating a corn muffin, sipping a cup of green tea, and waiting for my mom to wake up. I am supposed to be in Albany, attending my friend’s quilt show and then getting together for mine and my women friends’ combined annual birthday celebration. But my mother is catching a cold and is feeling more miserable than usual.
He walks in, waving two different socks of hers, angrily accusing me of losing their mates in the wash. Later, I find the mates to those socks stuffed into the pocket of one of her jackets, along with balls of Kleenex and a comb. It doesn’t matter. As far as he’s concerned, anything that’s “missing” or “broken” is my fault. He will not let go of needing to blame me.
The newly hired live-in aide arrives the next day. She is a perfect “Mary Poppins” to my mom’s now childlike persona. She speaks Polish. She is kind and gentle and understanding. I wonder if he will wind up letting her go. Or, perhaps, like me, she will finally do the going.
My mother is more upset and upsetting than usual. Her nose is running. We think she has a fever. I catch her trying to bite into a paper plate and later find a wad of Kleenex in her mouth. She goes through boxes and boxes of the stuff — folding, shredding, tearing, and, apparently, trying to eat. She lashes out in frustration, smacking her hand against the wall, causing a wash of blue skin — just one more place on her body that will now hurt. Sometimes, when she’s quiet, when the air around her is quiet and we sit side by side on the edge of her bed, rocking and humming, she asks “What is happening to me?” “You just got old, mom,” I say, and start singing “Pack up all your cares and woes, here we go, singing low. Bye, bye Blackbird.”
And so I finally go, tired of the blaming, realizing that now he will have to find a way to coexist with the aide. She and I have similar approaches to caring for a frail, usually demented old woman, although she has a lot more practical experience than I. How will she deal with his enforcefullness (yes, I made that word up, but it says it all)? Will he let her do what she is there to do? He will need to let go of his need to control. I wonder if that is even possible.
My grandson’s cat Cuddles has not come home. It’s been two weeks since he escaped out the back door. They know he shows up in their yard at night because they have set up outdoor cameras. They leave food out for him. They bait traps with his food and their smelly clothes. So far they’ve caught a possum, a raccoon, and two tabby cats. But no Cuddles. My daughter goes out in the middle of the night and sits in the shadows, waiting to see if he might venture near. She said today that she just might have to let go of the idea of catching him. He will either come home or he won’t.
And my mother will either let go or she won’t.
And all I can do is tell my story.