I visited my mother last night as I do most weekend nights to a terrible stink. She had used the toilet after dinner and something must have got inside her and died, for the smell in the room was acrid.
I held my breath to speak for the first fifteen minutes and then the smell faded and we were able to chat free of the stench.
My brother had been by a few days earlier and left photos of his new granddaughter with my mother. They were large photos, which I had needed to ferret out from underneath a pile of books.
My mother had remembered when I asked her about the new baby but she could not find the photos without my help. I thought I might help further by spreading the photos around her room in front of her on the pot plant stand so that she might be able to admire them.
But it seems she has lost interest in the births of grand children or should I say great grandchildren except as a number and a sign of her vast progeny and even then she cannot remember the numbers.
'I don't like the photos there,' she said. 'Put them away.'
My mother took off her cardigan and unbuttoned the brooch that held the top button fast. ‘Who gave that to you?’ I asked.
'Your brother and his wife, your brother the one whose daughter just had a baby.' My mother thought this was so but she could not be sure.
The brooch reminded me then of my mother’s bracelet, the one I have long coveted and I drew courage when I dared to ask her if I might have that bracelet, ‘when you are gone’.
My mother looked puzzled. She too loves this bracelet. It was a gift to her after her mother had died. It once belonged to a great aunt. A gold bracelet with a golden guilder attached and dated 1912, with the image of Queen Beatrix, the then Dutch queen on one side.
‘Perhaps I can give it to you before I die,’ my mother said.
Yes, I wanted to say. Why not now? But my mother hesitated and something in her hesitation left me saying, ‘Perhaps it would cause trouble with the others.’
Then I saw in my mother’s eyes some irritation.
‘My stomach is not feeling right,’ she said. ‘Just a bit uncomfortable.’
She needed to revisit the toilet.
We speculated later whether my mother might have the beginnings of gastro and if so I needed to tell the staff as a precaution. My mother might need to be quarantined.
She’d like that I thought. No need to make the trip to the dining room which she resists these days.
Walking tires her out. She prefers to stay in her room on her own reading her beloved books, watching TV or day dreaming.
My mother grew sleepy and I left her to her thoughts. As I closed the door I heard her switch on her television. Perhaps my mother resented me for reminding her of her death, of the idea that she soon might not be here.
And I resented her, too. Even after I had asked her directly, she could not bear to give in to me. Perhaps she had another in mind.