Friday, October 18, 2013

Who gets the bracelet?

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.  


Andrew said...

You planted the seed of who really wants the bracelet. Reading, watching tv, daydreaming and perhaps adding playing with a tablet computer sounds like an ideal. Book me in.

PhilipH said...

My mother owned nothing of any value whatsoever. She had a hard and stressful life, raising five boys during the war years and scrimping and saving all her short life.

Even if she HAD something that I wanted I would never, never have mentioned it, let alone ask her to give it to me.

Your mother prefers her own company, much like so many other older folk. Dying quietly, watching her soaps ... sounds a good thing.

Jim Murdoch said...

Carrie has had to go to the States a month early. Her mother’s had to be hospitalised—a blockage in the bowel. They got that sorted but as this has been the first time she’s spent any real time with health care staff she’s been unable to hide her dementia as effectively as she’s apparently been able to do with her doctor so it’s been a good thing because the problem can now be addressed. Carrie phoned last night and dumped on me—this was not to be a conversation, I simply had to listen while she cleared her head (various scatological metaphors come to mind)—but one thing her mother said jumped out: “I want to live.” The context is lost to me but it struck me as a moment of clarity; she does get them occasionally. Perhaps I’m poeticising things. Hard to tell.

I’ve a feeling it’s a ring that Carrie has her eye on once her mum goes, an ugly-looking turquoise thing as I recall and not her style at all (I’m sure I was shown it the one and only time I visited her family to reassure them I was a) real and b) not a lunatic) but other than that and half her dad’s tools—I have never known a woman salivate over tools like my wife—I don’t think there’s anything she especially covets especially since her mum returned to smoking and now everything stinks of tobacco. Of course the tools will have to stay where they are. There’s no point in even thinking about shipping them as we have nowhere to keep them and she’d never use them. I have no idea what happened to any of my dad’s tools. Maybe my brother took them. He’d use them. I did end up with a tool box my brother made which Carrie suggested we give to my daughter when she got her first flat, which we did. Always amazes me that I have a brother who could make a toolbox. I still have a little wooden box with a sliding lid that I made at school and although functional it’s a sorry-looking piece of woodwork.

When it came to clearing my parents’ house I left that to professionals. We only got a fraction of its worth but it was expedient. My brother, sister and I took what each of us valued—not that there was a great deal to choose from as Mum had gradually been emptying in the house in preparation for her own death (she had cancer but died of pneumonia which was a blessing) but there were a few things. My dad’s bible was the only thing two of us wanted. I got that and’ve felt guilty about it ever since. It’s in a cardboard box full of bibles under my desk. I should pack it up and send it to my brother. The daft thing is it would probably end up in a cardboard box in the loft in his house. Assuming he has a loft. I’ve no idea what his house is like.

Death is in the air at the moment. Everyone’s dying—gross exaggeration—or talking about people dying or waiting with bated breath on people dying. I knew this phase of my life would come eventually but I did honestly expect it to be a while off; I forgot about all the parents that would start keeling over. I hope Carrie’s mum lives as long as she can live and not merely exist. Carrie’s said to me—half-joking, half-serious—that, “Once I stop being me you can just put me out with the trash.” I’m probably putting words into her mouth but I have the gist right. I feel the same and I do hope more sensible laws come into force so that I can leave this world with some semblance of dignity. Once I’ve stopped being me what’s the point for others to pretend that I still am?

R.H. said...

I'm fortunate in having only one child who'll inherit everything. If I had more than one I'd make clear who gets what well before I cark it. You did the wrong thing asking about the inheritance ("Fair go, I'm not dead yet!") but everyone thinks that way, every beneficiary. I'd have given her a big preamble first: "Mum I know we're all going to die one day, ect, ect..." then put out a little hint about the bracelet.
Really, it's funny to cry at the funeral, realising the benefits; everyone does it. I call it "strip the corpse".

ellen abbott said...

Perhaps she just wasn't ready to give the bracelet away.

Anonymous said...

Am enjoying your blog. Very honest.