As the unvaried days go by for my mother she has become like a child whose children have become her mothers. It could be perceived as a nuisance inflicted on us and in fact, sometimes in the early days of her being here I would get furious with her and very impatient with her constant demands for someone’s presence. Happily that all wore off as she gradually became used to our apartment and we learnt not to answer temper with temper but to try and get what she was feeling instead.
Sometimes I do need to hear her say the simple repetitive things she says or the questions she hasn’t forgotten to ask. Sometimes faced with the duplicity of people who offer you their more ‘honest’ side when all they want to do is be rude, she becomes the only comfort in this world to me. What she says and what she does have become so authentic to me that often I need her voice above everyone else’s.
Mummy’s all round health has improved lately and she is more talkative but with such artlessness. She will call out in Hindi – listen, listen – during the time of morning when only Uday and I are in the house, pottering about and she is there alone. It is the time when there is a long break between shifts for Sharada or Lakshmi and she may not be getting why they are not around. Or she will call me – Deborah – (somehow she can’t remember my name – sometimes I remind her of it and sometimes I just answer to my sister’s name). Uday goes in and will chat a bit and then I may go in and ask if she wants water since it is hot and I’m never sure if she really knows that she is thirsty or not. She never refuses a cool glass of water though.
She usually answers yes to most questions but if she says no if I ask her whether she is alright, it means that she wants company around her and voices to make her feel content. For months she may be uninterested in speaking but then she’ll find her voice and an insistent calling out means she is in a bright frame of mind and feeling more sociable. It is a very gentle form of what she was in younger times, sometimes withdrawn and sometimes needing people in a more intense way.
A few days ago she caught my hand while I was standing near her wheelchair. I asked if she wanted to hold onto my hand and she said yes, holding it tighter in a very possessive way. I used the opportunity to get her to finish her lunch which as ever she had lost interest in. I find it difficult to be emotionally engaged with my mother though I may need her comforting presence occasionally, and maybe because that’s how she was – never very demonstrative. But I have a very tender hearted life partner in my husband and have learnt more demonstrative ways from him. I do feel mournful about the fact that I don’t talk enough to her but cannot explain to myself a better way of conducting communication with her – that is, give her more time.
However, I value her, I value her intelligence and the memory of what she was in her younger days, not very sure of herself and quite intimidated by her in laws who were talented and had more ‘classy’ standards of life altogether. She read and learnt and read and learnt, practicing all the while and it did make her a well informed woman. I value that she is alive and in good health. That she is still an anchor to what I remember of our unique and interesting family. Since her time of leaving this earth to us is unknown, I’m happy that she got to see her great grand daughters and that they got to see her (more about this anon).
Her door is always open and she can hear the sounds that go on in the household but she does need to see more faces. Everyday I promise myself that I will remedy this. Uday always encourages me and I do it like a duty sometimes but obviously it is not enough. This mother who was a fierce person and could unleash a harsh temper is so childlike, so trusting that I will do well by her, so needy in the way she fixes her eye on me when she sees me and all I do is automatic, robot-like things for her.
Well I guess doing them in itself is not so bad. I don’t want to beat myself too much on this. Also, I have no knowledge of when I will slip into this state some years hence (many, many, I hope). I try to do plenty of different things so that I feel sharp and focused. I try to keep learning so that means in some ways I am like her. I plan to keep my brain agile and live blamelessly and uncomplicatedly. But, well, really, who knows.