I was damned if I was going to die before the auction.
For the last year my life had been heading towards this event. First, there had been the search for a good hostel for Vera – my 86 year old mother who had Alzheimers. I found one that was suitable however, as with all good dementia care places, there was a long waiting list so I did what I could to keep her safe. I enlisted community carers to help, but still found myself going to her place most days, making sure that she didn’t get into too much trouble.
But trouble came anyway. It came with the delivery boy, a teen conman, who brought her medication from the chemist for which he demanded cash payment and promptly pocketed. But Mum, your pills are all paid for in advance. You don’t have to pay him anything! She never remembered instructions and didn’t always read the guiding notes that I was leaving everywhere. She chased away community carers that were booked in to clean her place and emptied trash in neighbour’s yards.
Strange nameless men were seen loitering at her place. But Mum, please don’t let them in. And she argued back: You don’t understand, they are my friends. Money, family jewellery, objects disappeared.
And once, even she disappeared for a day and a night. I had come over at nine at night to check on her and found the front door wide open, but no sign of her. Wracked with dread and fear that something terrible had happened to her, I eventually found her in the ward of a local hospital where she had been deposited by some kindly soul.
She embarrassed me in public places, loudly calling out unkind remarks to people standing near us. Look at that woman’s bottom. It is sooo fat! Ha, ha!
She developed her own kind of logic that I was always trying to second-guess. Once I removed an old cardboard box that was lying in her garden bed … More refuse, I thought. When she saw that it was missing, she wept like a child. Who has taken my box? I put it there to give that poor flower some shade. Suddenly my attempt to tidy up was turned into an act of cruelty. Then there was a frantic search for another recycled carton to place back in her garden, so peace could be restored.
Though we still managed to find beauty and laughter together. In the afternoons after our tea, we would put on music and dance. She would throw her head back and laugh with sheer delight. And I was gently surprised too how kind strangers could be with her condition. Once, during a medical exam, dressed only in a bra and slip, she invited a nurse to dance and this kindly matron bowed her assent and waltzed her around the surgery.
Always, always we took a shared delight in the beauty of flowers. Flowers we saw on our walks together, flowers in her garden or merely in photos from the pages of a woman’s magazine. She once took pride in knowing all their Latin names, now they had been reduced to their essences – colours, shapes and scents – and this is how we talked about them. Memories are the usual ties that bind relationships yet without them we were forced to find other bonds and the language of flowers became the common thread that kept us bound together.