A Time to Blossom, A Time to Fade
Just as a baby blossoms in its first year, so a very old person withers in her last. It’s the cycle of life - so clear and pure.
Joyous and sad.
So it is with mum. It’s getting harder to encourage her to eat. I get excited if she manages half a boiled egg cut into small pieces. And maybe a few pieces of salmon laid out on a saucer. It might take two hours to help her eat all this.
I dip the eighth of an egg in tomato sauce then place it into her hand. I sense she’s getting sick of eating boiled eggs.
Slowly slowly. ‘Strozna stronza’ I repeat in my pigeon Polish. I don’t know what ‘slowly’ means in Polish, but ‘strozna’ will do. It means ‘careful’. When I was little, sitting in the back seat while dad drove, I remember mum holding tightly onto the door strap repeating the words ‘Strozna Strozna Adolek’ till we reached our destination. (I just googled how to spell ‘Slowly’ in Polish and for the first time I realise there’s an ‘o’ in front of the word. It’s spelt ‘ostrożny’’.
After I’ve offered mum the food options from the green 'cold bag', I pack it all away. By now it’s 6pm and time to rest. I lower the volume of the blaring TV, turn the station to SBS chill and switch off the main lights, leaving the side lamp with its red glow. I close the door to shut out the racket.
I place the familiar little stool - it used to be Celina’s - close to mum’s bed. I set my timer for an hour, pull my versatile face mask up over my eyes and breathe a sigh of relief. I search for mum’s hand under her blanket and hold it. She tightens her grip - I’m surprised she’s still so strong. I know it’s her way of telling me she’s happy that I’m there. But maybe she’s also reminding me that she’s still tough, ready for a fight. She makes me smile.
Soon our hands get sweaty and mum is relaxed and snoring loudly. Time ticks by. The alarm rings, the hour is up, and I pull off my face mask. It was an hour well spent. This is what mum wants/needs these days - quiet - ‘chicho' as she calls it - but also closeness.
Closeness. This word reminds me of the words mum sewed on her blanket a couple of years ago, when we spent those 9 weeks together in isolation in the hut:
Now I am old, so very old,
I ask my daughters to stay close to me.
Stay a little bit longer
A little bit closer,
These moments are precious to me.
Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see,
Que sera sera
What will be, will be.
Over the seas in the northern hemisphere, my youngest grandson, Yonatan, is tasting his first foods. Avocado, pumpkin, chicken. The milestones are happening quickly - sitting, crawling, playing. Now he is pulling himself up to stand and soon he’ll take a step and then another one.
The cycle of life is so clear - one little human develops while another, his great grandmother, fades away.
But even so, we know she has been one of the lucky ones to have lived a long rich life.
Baby Yonatan starting to crawl, 8 months
Quiet time with mum - on a good day
Quiet time with mum - on not such a good day
Yonatan blossoming, 4 months
Yonatan with Mia and Alma, 8 months
Aba Liad & Yonatan, 9 months
Yonatan, Washing dishes, 10 months
Yonatan, 'First day at school', nearly 1 year