Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Boris and Zelda
In this way, I'm repeatedly blindsided. As soon as I appreciate the comfort of an ordinary moment, it collides with the anticipation of horror and bereavement. Anticipation may be the wrong word. Once you know something is coming, it's already here. The moment of comfort, even as it occurs, conveys the anguish of memory.
When she's in bed, my mother is not in pain. I know what she's not, but not what she is. What I mean by that is she no longer reads or watches TV. Every morning she asks me what day of the week it is, and then she forgets; she doesn't remember that my birthday is in three days. She's rarely hungry and long ago lost her sense of taste and smell. My mother used to sleep all day but now, quite often, her eyes are open.
What does she see? Macular degeneration has taken away most of the sight in one eye and her central vision is severely impaired. She doesn't wear her glasses anymore; without them she can't see the vibrant bouquet of red-tipped yellow roses a friend recently brought for her. They are exquisite. A life-affirming burst of color. I place the vase of roses on a cedar chest right across from my mother, thinking of the pleasure they will give her.
Instead, she tells me to take them into the dining room where I can enjoy them.
"Aren't they beautiful?" I ask her.
"I can't see them," she says.
I bring the vase over to the bed and she peers, dutifully, into the pretty swirl of petals. "Do you see the colors?" I ask.
"They're beautiful," she smiles. "But take them to the other room."
I return the flowers to her cedar chest and she doesn't notice.
Quite often, my mother pushes the cats off her now. Their constant weight annoys her; she says she can't even turn over without having to cast one off, and then they're right back again.
Boris and Zelda find me in the dining room. They sniff around tentatively—all pointy chins, pointed ears, and high, inquisitive tails—before jumping up together to muffle the keyboard of my laptop.
They annoy me, too, with their inscrutable blue eyes, demanding my attention. But all it takes is my index finger on Boris' chin to set him purring, heavy-lidded and content. Zelda is unhappy unless she is on my left shoulder with her nails jammed deep into my flesh, holding me tight. This has always been her favorite way to embrace my mother. Zelda's purring is so loud I can't help but smile. She sounds like a helicopter at take-off. We three are in the same boat now, purring, caressing, and already bereft.