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  • Jane

Thoughts about mum


We’re up here in Warby for the weekend. It’s a skin/nerves/heart experience, spending time with my 94 yr old mum who I love. I see her so vulnerable and regressing, like a little kid, but in some ways still like her old self.

I feel pleasure knowing she is happy here with me. It is an exercise in true patience - the accumulation of my 60 years of life reactions constantly clash with my effort to remember how she must feel, losing her senses - her speech, her thoughts, her actions, her hearing, her understanding of what I say to her. I get triggered quickly but smiling always helps soften my body when it tightens.

We came here last night. It took over two hours because of the traffic. Mum had wet her pants - soaked her pants - because when she sat down on the couch and got up again, there was a large, round, dark, wet patch. She was unaware, and I wondered whether to tell her, or how to tell her. I left it for awhile, and then, when it felt right, I mentioned to her that she left a wet patch on the couch and she needs to change her pants. She replied that she only has to change her pad, not her nappy.

It’s so surreal when you think of it, that this is my mum who gave birth to me and raised me - in whatever functional way that was - and here she is wetting her pants and unaware of it. Unaware of many things but doing the best she can. It’s an uphill battle or maybe a downhill one; when you're born you open up like a flower with every passing day. Mumis now wilting. It’s a death in slow motion, like a movie played backwards, or a gurgling brook bubbling back into the dark hole of its beginnings.

Old age is suffering and hard to swallow. This is ‘the work’ - to observe it over and over again, feel it, examine it, to smile at it, move on and back again. And then it becomes easier.

Is it worth all this time and effort?

Yes of course.

What better thing is there to do in life? (except having time to get back to thinking and doing art :-).

I am rambling on here but I’m trying to capture these moments, this treasure, this event that goes on day after day till one day it will finally stop.

I watch mum as she fusses around. With her big bottom full of pads. She looks and watches, stands for a minute or two, and thinks. You can just about see the thought nerves travel from her brain to her hand. Her hand isn't sure about its next move. It holds itself there, in mid air, semi outstretched. Then the thought nerve arrives and tells the hand what to do, and the hand finally does it. Like opening the fireplace door, collecting a dish, turning the tap on. All with much thought - tick tick tick. Sometimes she’s quicker, sometimes she’s slower. She’s ok. She’s finding her place here, in this little Warby hut. The hut she and dad bought about nearly fifty years ago. I remember I came here when I was about 17. There’s a photo of me and mum at the front door even before they added the extra room. I’m the same but 45 years younger. In the photo I have plaits and a cosy jumper and look cool in my own way. And happy. Mum too.

I’ll tell you about this shack and how it came into our family. But first I have to help mum with the mess in the kitchen. Two hours later… I gave her dad’s old ties to sew together to make a curtain. I also gave her some bikkies and lemon tea. It’s a very beautiful, special atmosphere here - the fire’s still burning but it’s not even cold. The back door is open and I’m sweating.

Mum and dad bought this property in the early 1970s. The neighbours were friends of mums and told her the hermit who lived there had died and the place was for sale. It’s a very basic asbestos hut. Over the years they added this room that I’m sitting in. Gil and I are the main ones that stay here now. Maziar (our tenant) loves it here and sometimes visits with his friends. Mum has named this place ‘Marysia’s Mayontek, which means 'Marysia’s Treasure’. She wrote a forward in our visitors’ book explaining her love and connection to this place. It explains that when she was a girl in the Holocaust, she dreamed of a little hut somewhere, with ‘a roof above her head and a loaf of bread next to her’ and Peace. That was all she dreamed for. And this hut is her recreation of that dream.

It’s the end of the first day here and mum’s starting to open up and fiddle around doing constructive things like sweeping outside and organising this and that. She sewed sixteen of dad’s ties together and we made a curtain for the main room. I’m going to give her some photos to stick in an album soon, stuff I never get around to doing.

I think it’s a healthy place for her here - the quiet, the peace, the freedom to potter and be helpful. And the best thing for her is that I’m around. I don't say this out of conceit, it's how it is. She keeps taking my hand and kissing it. She then moves to kiss her mother’s ring on her finger, even though there’s no ring on her hand - I now wear that ring. But kissing the pretend ring is a symbolic action of love and protection, like she’s asking her mother to watch over me.

After staring at me, mum said I was an ‘unusual person’. She didn't expand on what she meant.

Behind mum are the curtains she sewed using dad's old ties

Gil and Mia, when Mia & Sunny came to visit in December 2017.

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