I sit beside you and hold your hand Brandy, more for me than for you. “Sweet girl,” you say but I am both no-one and anyone to you Mom.
You taught me how to bake cookies and restrain myself from licking the spoon, to lie in the dappled sunlight with my legs closed instead of akimbo and put on a good show when out in the world – perfectly turned out, smile painted on, a credit to the family.
Do you think, Mom, that when your folks called you Brandy, they realised how ludicrous it would sound on an elderly woman? It’s a good fit for the child you have reverted to but it’s hard to take when you sometimes call me “Mom”.
I get an occasional glorious flash of the old you – a smile, a chastisement, a stroke of my hair but it’s ephemeral and quickly replaced by your need to watch familiarly favorite shows at full volume. You laugh and clap your hands every time Three’s Company or The Golden Girls comes on, you answer the occasional quiz show question and grin from ear to ear. We have a stack of recordings we replay interminably in your room but to be fair, even if we just played one tape over and over it would all be shiny and new to you.
I long to lie on the couch with my head in your lap while I explain my life. I could tell you about my miscarriage and being told this year that that finite motherhood window has probably shut for good without some very costly interventions and we just can’t afford it, not with the care home fees.
“Your mom’s strong, physically,” they reassure me, “she’s got years left.” and they mean it kindly, really they do.
And, you’re very happy Mom – you’re very easy to please food-and-entertainment wise. When I visit we sometimes play cards. Cards meant Bridge in the past but now Snap can be a challenge. As long as I remember to slow down you still get to win.
You’re still teaching me Mom, patience is most definitely a virtue, even if Patience is no longer practised. You’re the child I take care of, who gave birth to me.
Author Bio: Ellie Ness has lived and taught in both America and the Middle East but returned to Scotland to work with pupils with additional support needs. She writes short stories for fun while also trying to complete a novel set in Scotland. You can find her on Twitter at @EleanorNess.