An unexpected intrusion of responsibility.
|When we moved into this house the snow was over a foot thick.
The view out of almost every window was perfect. The huge beech trees planted by the monks hundreds of years ago were all frosted perfectly, each branch glittered. All the fields around the house were perfectly white, not scarred by human feet, in big clumpy boots. Just the odd sheep, plodding about, wondering where all the grass had gone.
I try not to look out the window that looks over the seafood factory. From that window I can see the road, the muddy, gritty slush being sprayed in the air by passing cars, and the big blue building in the distance from which clouds of chilled air and chemicals puff out.
The snow took forever to go away, but here we are, nearly April, and it's all finally gone, and the rains which followed it have finally stopped. Today I took my six year old daughter, Florence, for the first every walk in our garden, and to her delight, we found a small collection of bones. It appears that a fox or hawk uses the quiet of our garden to eat it's prey. She was over the moon to find the remains of several crows, all with their beaked skulls intact. We were collecting sticks for the fire in our basket, and she put as many intact bones as she could find in there. Then we climbed over the wall towards the ancient burial cairns, the big mounds of earth and stones that poke out of fields and farmers by law have to plough around. Over there Florence found her motherload, a whole sheep's skeleton. I tried to discourage her from filling her basket with all of it, and we agreed on just the skull and a few vertebrae.
She then wanted to go straight home and clean the bones. I soaked them in bleach and then let her arrange them on the bedroom shelf, alongside Polly Pocket and her stupidly small rubber shoes that just beg to be vacuumed up, and a photo of her grandmother.
Mum's gonna freak when she gets here.
I refuse to squish my child into a 'right' sized box of behaviour just for her.
Her disappointment is going to cloud every room and every word she says, but then, we were never going to be good enough, never. If only she hadn't left us when we were so small, I know my heart would be softer towards her. I mustn't forget that she did come back. It may have been a while, but it happened eventually. And it's not like she's herself anymore, that woman is gone.
I keep thinking of all those elderly ladies and gents at the care home, whose hands I've held as they've heeded deaths call.
In her mind, I'm sure she's already died, buried herself, and place a notice in the newspaper.
Death was a such a regular visitor to the home, far more reliable then grown up children.
He was also one of the most welcomed.
Some cling to their existence with their arthritic, bony fingers, but most take death's hand when he offers it, as if he were the perfect suitor, and allow themselves to be gently led away.
I really have loved some of them, felt bad for leaving them in their cheap, personality-less room at the end of my shift. Some were so little trouble, I couldn't see why their families wouldn't have them at home.
Sometimes I wish there was a relative exchange program. Maybe someone somewhere could cope quite happily with my mother, and I could take their elderly burden in return?
Except mum's not elderly, she just ill, and broken. For as long as I can remember she's been suffering from something, been to the doctors on a weekly basis, informed ever bus queue she's ever stood in about her pains.
This time she's just quietly lost her marbles. We all knew dad's liver couldn't hold out against the regular alcoholic beating he subjected it to, and two days after this fifty eighth birthday he felt the pains that translated to his liver waving a white flag.
He was dead a month later, and to see and hear them bickering, you'd think mum would be glad to see the back of him, but it turns out she really did love him.
Now she keeps burning her dinner and forgetting to lock the doors. Her limited conversation is based on other people and their faults, so I'm guessing she's pretending she doesn't exist. She really is lost, and it's up to me, the only daughter, to find her.
Oliver went a funny colour when I told him, as I'm sure many husbands would when faced with the prospect of their mother in law moving in.
'We need to check out treatment options, get her back on my feet.' he said, and although I know it's because he wants her gone as soon as possible, I don't blame him. I agree.
Either that of she may go so far downhill that we can't cope with her, and although I always swore I'd never put a loved one in a home, it may come to that. Though, this is a woman who put her own mother in a home, and I remember my grandmother vividly, and apart form a continence problem and a tendency to gravitate towards sherry bottles, she was no trouble. Maybe me following my mother's example is what she deserves. Then again, that way I'll have no one to blame but myself when my Florence puts me away in a home.
I really though I had another 20 years before I'd have to think of these things.
Oliver came back from work early bearing a DVD and a take away, our last special night before she gets here, and our carefully chosen, purchased and arranged calm is broken. To his credit, he managed to smile through his disgust when Florence presented him with the day's bone harvest.
You hear of people dying of broken hearts all the time. They lose their soul mate and cannot stand the existence of the solitary swan.
I don't want to hope she lowers her head into the water and lets the tide carry her away, but is she's going to live out her remaining years in misery and grief, then maybe I do. For her sake as well as ours.