Memories Of My Mother – 9
October 16, 2012 in Memories Of My Mother
I’m picking out clothes for a woman who normally wore nightdresses and a dressing-gown. My sister got married a while back, and what she wore that day is what I’m packing. I’m putting it all in a nice Marks and Spencer’s bag, which would please her inordinately, as Marks and Spencer could do no wrong in her eyes. I think for the last five years of her life she usually only wore a nightdress and a dressing-gown, only changing into non-bed-clothes when going out.
She had two hoodies and a red jacket and interchanged between the three of them depending upon the weather. The hoodies were gray and navy blue. When it was cold she also used to wear my black woolly hat. She had her own – an off-white old woman-y sort of hat – but she preferred borrowing mine. I can see her now in it, her wee face red with the cold, sitting in the kitchen after coming back from the local shop, catching her breath, me making her a cup of tea, cats milling around. It’s very vivid. She would usually bring back a can of food for Henry and I’d open it and let him eat straight from it – his wee treat. I still do that for him as she would enjoy it. I’m finding myself just doing stuff now to please her memory. I’m not really whole enough at the moment to truly do things only for myself. She’d want the place to be as clean as always – I’m cleaning like a dervish. She’d want the hall decorating completed – I’ve already started it again. I had to stop in her final weeks to look after her even more. I want the house to look beautiful.
What I won’t be changing is her room. Not any time soon. When I came back from the hospital with her belongings, I spilled them out onto her bed. They are still there where they fell. I have her bedroom door wide open all the time, and the objects on the bed catch my eye when I pass.
She was prone to rashes. A cat claw stretching out, marking her skin, could set off yet another rash. Even wearing a bra was usually fatal, so she rarely wore one. I think she’s got about five, and they all look near-to-brand-new. I’m picking out a bra for a woman who rarely wore one. And underwear, too. I’m too in a haze for this to mock my own masculinity. I don’t give a fuck. These objects are the heaviest I’ll ever lift.
It’s a beige jacket, lighter beige trousers, a nice crisp white blouse, and a pair of shoes. Shoes she only wore one day and never again – my sister’s wedding. They gave her blisters, and she was hobbling for days after the event. She normally wore slippers. Her final pair are on the bed. Tiny. Grey, white fluffy insides. These were the more recent ones, her favourites. Before that she favoured a pink and white pair that I’d had to repair with duct tape. She felt more steady on her feet with them, even if at some points she stuck to the floor because the tape came slightly loose. When that happened – twice I think – she just left the slipper stuck to the floor and continued walking to wherever it was she was going to, and called out to me to get it. There it was – stuck to the hall or kitchen floor, lonely sad-slipper.
A metaphor for something or nothing, no doubt.
Although she was ill, we did laugh a lot. I mean – a lot. Times were shit, and sometimes she’d get bad days with her dementia and be cranky, not talk to me for a day or two, but a lot of the times we would laugh. I wouldn’t have been able to cope without the laughter in-between the darker periods. If you’re wondering why I gave up such a large part of my adult life looking after her, there’s one of the reasons.
She was good company.
So. There’s an outfit on her bed and it’s going in a Marks and Spencer bag. I spent time choosing a posh bag. There’s a selection from lesser supermarkets, but she’d love the Marks’ one. So the outfit is going in there.
I sat down to write this, have a cup of tea, and try to get the pain out. I want to write about this moment, I guess.
These really are heavy things to lift.
It’s not going to stop me carrying them around to the funeral directors. I’m going to carry them, walk in the rain, and come back again, hopefully still in the rain. I want it to rain all day. I know the path I’m going to take, and I’ve walked it many, many times. It’s a route I used to go when I went shopping near where the funeral directors office is. I passed this place many, many times. I chose it because I could walk there and back. It would give me time to think about her. What I was carrying.
I feel better when I walk.
I don’t feel like carrying her final outfit on a bus.
I won’t be coming home with a Marks and Spencer bag.