I’m at the start of my 3rd week visiting Mum in England, and realized today what’s happening: she’s imprinting on me like ducklings or cygnets do. When I ask her if she’s ready for breakfast, she looks at me to ask if I’m having some? Same with a cuppa, having a shower, or going for a walk.
It wasn’t like that for the first week. Or perhaps I was too jetlagged/overwhelmed/finding my way to notice? Now we’ve settled into a routine though, as I’ve learnt the rhythm of her days and nights, including the multiple daily carer visits.
So it suddenly stood out to me this afternoon, as I left for a walk on my own, that she really was becoming my shadow.
This isn’t good. I return home to Australia in 10 days, and yes, I’m definitely counting down. What’s going to happen once I’ve gone? Who will repeat for the fifth time what we’re having to eat? Who will cook her such fine, healthy lunches, and supply long-favoured treats like crumpets or Crunchie chocolate bars?
She will cheep and fret like a fluffy yellow duckling on the cold river’s edge.
So much is being lost here. So much past, but the future too. I’m losing my Mum, and my son ‘18’ his Grandma. The whole family is losing another matriarch, with all those memories and connections like a shawl around our shoulders.
And on some deep level, beyond articulation, Mum knows this. That’s why she’s instinctively imprinting; seeking a familiar anchor in an increasingly confusing world. I honestly have no idea how she’s managed to get this far and still be at home alone. It’s very confronting. I obviously want to reassure her, smoothing the many wrinkles in her day as much as possible, yet does that really serve her? I’m a band-aid for 3 weeks, not a solution.
Plus I have a sinking feeling that she’s going to be even more lost after I’ve gone home.
For now though, we’re taking our pleasures where we can. Last night we walked down to the local theatre company, and watched a film they were screening- she was transfixed. The previous Saturday, we dressed up (including her many rings), and went to the closing night of the same company’s play- we sat in the front row, and laughed out loud at the clever antics onstage. We’ve eaten more naughty snacks than the local bakery can provide, and I’ve cooked yummy vegetarian meals to counteract the frozen food she usually lives on.
I’ve felt the comfort for both of us at being her Mama duck, but it’s scaring me as well now.