~ ‘A Soul Carried to Heaven’, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 19th cent., cropped.
Farewell, for a while!
(Plus some thoughts on old mums, and old parents, generally.)
I will be gone away from July 1 until July 12. It’s time for my annual summer visit to see my dear old mum (and my brother and his wife, who live in her area).
My brother plans to take us all on his new boat to watch the fireworks from the Potomac River. Hopefully it won’t be rained out. That part of the country has been pretty sodden lately, and the forecast isn’t that hopeful.
My husband and daughter will return home on the 6th, but I’ll be staying on to take my mother to some of her favourite jaunts (the grocery store, out to lunch, the library, little stores, doctor appointments), one little outing a day, which is all she can handle comfortably.
My mother was widowed 13 years ago, and lives alone. She still is able to drive, but the traffic there, which became intense decades ago, is really too much for her. So, she is relatively house-bound. She manages better than one would expect at nearly 83, especially after her small stroke last year, but the result of her getting out so little is that she has become very lonely. She had had a cat, a lovely and devoted pet-friend, but it died of cancer (at a youngish age) two years ago. My mother won’t get another, because she doesn’t want to die and leave it not properly looked after. Besides, she knows she would no longer be able to manage a litter box or take it to the vet’s.
My brother comes to see her every week, makes sure her house is kept up, and sees to most of her paper work. An angel of a next-door neighbour comes over every afternoon that he is there, to have a drink with her for half an hour; she talks his ear off, he makes her laugh and feel like a woman again; her combination son, servant, and gentleman caller. He brings her morning paper to the door, takes her trash cans to the curb and shovels her walks when it snows. He and his wife have taken her to the emergency room several times, and come over to sit with her when she's had a bad night. But most of her friends and neighbours have died or moved away. The last remaining members of her own family are two sisters-in-law who live in England (she was a WWII war bride). My mother is the last sibling of six.
Since 2000, my husband and I have been asking her to come and live with us, but she won’t come. She hates cold weather and being stuck in the house, and this is Bad-Weather and Stuck-in-the-House central. I think the thought of dissolving her possessions and selling the house is terribly daunting, too (although we children could see to most of it for her). It’s a three-bedroom, two-story house, in which she has lived for forty years. It's neat and clean, but every closet, every bureau is filled with stuff. Much of it is new purchases: clothes and shoes with the price tags on them, gift items “just in case” for weddings or showers that she no longer is invited to, since she always declines. Table cloths and sheets still in the packaging. Her cabinets are filled with food goods she will probably never open, much less eat. A Depression-era child, she lived through rationing during the war (she’s from England’s Midlands), and never seems to have got over the feeling that she wouldn't have enough. It would be a severe trial for her to see all of this given or thrown away, or sold for next to nothing.
Well, eventually she will not be able to live there by herself, and she will be forced to come to us. It would be that or the nursing home. She would rather be euthanized than go into a nursing home, as she tearfully reminds me when we speak of the time when she will have to move. (Unlike the nursing homes up here, the ones down there are mostly residences of mutual strangers, staffed by people who often speak little or unintelligible English -- unintelligible to my mother, that is -- her hearing, even assisted, is quite bad).) Her fervent wish is that she’ll just drop dead or not wake up one day, at home.
I know from your LJ’s that many of you are seeing aging parents through their old age and dying. Some of you are coping with their deaths and finding it difficult, whether your relationships were loving and amicable or shadowed by bad feelings. You know the sorrows and burdens – and sweetness of it.
How quickly it has gone, especially when I think how tiresome the passing of time seemed when I was young. My mother always said, “One day you will turn around and wonder, Where have all the years gone? She was right. I often think of these sayings of hers as I see the children growing up and going off to live their own adult lives.
I think of it when I realise I am as old as she was when I first moved to New York City, after college. In two more years, I’ll be as old as my first mentor/pastor and his wife, when I met them at my first church. His example inspired me to go to seminary and study theology seriously. He was a Lutheran bishop, and a theological leader for the World Council of Churches (an international ecumenical organization at that time). That was 22 years ago. He seemed so “grown-up” to me; so impressive! And he was. But, maybe he was as silly as I am, underneath, in spite of his authoritative, no-nonsense exterior and forbidding clerical dress. And, maybe, as prone to swoony passions and erotic thoughts as I am. I definitely shouldn’t have worn those tight tops to our counselling sessions, now that I know that libidos don't die at thirty. That was rather insensitive of me. ;)
Well, I suppose I should wash the clothes and do some packing.
I shall miss you all, and I shall miss writing. My mother has no internet and her computer has no printer. It is too old to be fitted for a flash thingy for memory. I can use the internet at the library, but just for half an hour a day, when it’s open. In that way, I hope to “stop by” your LJ’s, and answer any comments, but I won’t be much.
My mother does have a great big brand new flat-screened TV, though. I am bringing the LotR EE’s, of course! (And Brokeback Mountain, which I have been saving for the occasion.)
Note: Constitutes possible SPOILERS.
P.S. Our daughter dragged me to see Superman Returns last night. It was really very good.
During the romantic scenes (very well-played; subtle, and sometimes beautiful), which involved some dreamy, visually lovely flying sequences, I was reminded of come of igraine’s beautiful Frodo fic. In several of her stories, magical and sensual, she uses imagery that links sexual pleasure and ecstasy with flying and winged lovers, like Cupid. Watching these Superman scenes, I kept thinking, “What do you know? They are doing the sex-as-flying thing, but without the sex. They bypassed the sex and went straight to the flying.”
And it worked for me. Perhaps, “flying together” is what is at the heart of sexual intimacy, the thing so many of us seem to yearn for. It doesn’t really matter how it is achieved. I loved a moment in the film when Superman appeared to Lois one night, sneaking a forbidden cigarette on the terrace of her family's penthouse. He just hovered there, in the air, reminding me as much of Peter Pan appearing to Wendy as of Eros. It sounds silly, but I thought it was charming and lovely.
But the flying scenes were the best, including the ones when Superman would be flying by himself -- just "chilling", I guess. And, yes, hopeless fan that I am, I kept picturing Frodo flying about the night sky in those shots, gliding and dipping through the stars, or, in the sun above the clouds, rolling like a dolphin under its rays, luxuriating in a sea of light, as he soared between the Circles of the World; beautiful, wild, and utterly ecstatic.
I blame igraine for that. :D
Bye, for now.
Below: me and my mum in 1953, in Williamstown, Massachussetts. I was 2; she would have been 30 – twenty-five years younger than I am now. Shees!