There I was crouched under the weight of the summer sun with a head cold. My nose ran, my sinuses blocked up and nowhere could I find sympathy from any of the people who occupy my life. They too were caught up in the heat.
So I took myself away. I locked myself inside my study and turned on the fan. It whirred its way into the day. No more activity for me.
‘You can’t stop,’ my daughter said. ‘I need your help. Besides, mothers don’t get sick. Mothers stay well.’ She stomped out of the room.
My mother plans to live till she’s one hundred.
‘That’s six more years,’ I told her on my last visit. ‘That’s a long time.’
‘But it’s something special to live to one hundred. There’s no big deal in being ninety-five. And time goes so fast these days.’ My mother wiped her nose on a tissue and threw it into the wastepaper basket by her chair. My mother goes through tissues like they are breaths of air. ‘I don’t do a thing these days,’ she went on, ‘but that’s okay. I should be allowed to go slow. I’m ninety four. I deserve a rest.’
I do not repeat the mantra, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. Why not stop still in her chair and do nothing?
Why not sit each day surrounded by books, the trashy Mills and Boon type of novels my mother reads, all are readily available from the library in her retirement village; all she can read these days for the large print?
My mother reads these books the way she eats chocolate. I never bother to ask her what each book is about. I suspect she could not tell me. She reads books like people read the trashy magazines in doctors' surgeries – eye candy, fodder for the mind.
‘Why should I worry? My mother asks me yet again. A rhetorical question. She does not expect an answer and I’m not inclined to offer one.
‘Why should I worry about my children? There’s nothing I can do about them. They have their lives. They make their own decisions. I have nothing to worry about.’
When I sit with my mother as I do at least once a week and she tells me yet again how much she fails to worry, does she see the skepticism in my eyes?
Probably not. She refuses to wear her glasses, except to read. Glasses do not suit her sense of the fashionable. Glasses make her look old. And so she can barely see. She will not see.
Those three wise monkeys come to mind.