In her fantasy, she’s fourteen and is jogging back from work on shaky small heels, walking down the sidewalk, as the molten metal plip-plops all around her, covering the pavement with perfectly silver discs. Her mother is 6 feet in front, walking alongside her step and urging her to walk with care. A V2 rocket flies into the sky, activating the clock in her head. The woman waits with distinctive silence to locate its target as it glides silently across darkness.
“One,” she shouts, “Two. Three. Four.”
“We are in plenty of time. Lizzy and plenty of time.” Her mother is screaming incessantly, there is no anxiety or panic, just a calm and comforting shout.
It’s the same story like every other time. Lizzy grasps behind her and holds the hand of the woman who is older, and she pulls her inside the safety of their front porch. They watch at the way the home across the street is smashed into a pile of flaming, searing rubble.
My maternal grandmother, Lizzy, is ninety-seven and I often think of her as an individual who has survived. From time and life. She was a young woman with an husband, mother and sister as well as two daughters. Today she has me.
Twice per week, I open the door of her home and then look to the left, gazing through the darkness of the curtains through the hallway as well as into the bedroom. I can tell she’s still asleep. In the slender concealment in blankets, she’s form has changed and her appearance has become shaky and her caregivers claim that she snorts every meal. They also claim that she is still determined however in a sweet manner. She has moved past the annoying stubbornness of old age and has slipped away into the soft humility of a mind that is disappearing.
There’s no time in the day to spend time with her frequently, or so my personal story goes. creating a life that is more significant, thrilling, extremely busy than it actually is.
“I’m thankful that you look at me, I’m so grateful,” she repeats. I accept her thanks even as guilt fights with honesty, and runs through my mind during late nights without sleep.
In her ideal she’s 18 with curly blonde hairstyle and arched eyebrows of a film actor. Her husband George who is the lover of her life, is at the war and she is worried that she will never see him again. He writes occasionally, but there aren’t any post offices in the Pacific and home is his only idea as suicide planes are into the skies. The war’s blackened victims are slumbering alongside them in rows of the deck that is smoking. She awakes crying, covered with fear and sees the image of a wedding couple at her bed. Assuring herself, she thinks of the 60 years of loving life together, and remembers that they were able to spend a lot of time, and yearns to have more.
I attempt to wake her, but she’s asleep. I am aware of the conversation in case she awakes. I’ll inquire if she’s eaten something and she’ll say there’s nothing she’s hungry for. I will try to entice her into the sun’s warmth and force her to drink tea and chat. She’ll say no. She will say that she’s content snuggled in her cozy bed, and that she’s exhausted. She’ll finally tell me that I shouldn’t be expecting this from someone who is aged 97. This is her opinion and I’m not able to contest this, which is why I let her go to sleep without a fuss.
In her fantasy, she’s 24 and pregnant. She’s so close to giving birth that the pains start to rise quickly and uncontrollable. The midwife arrives looking professional, wearing a blue skirt with a tie and cape with nylons, sturdy black brogues, and a nurse’s white cap that is crisp and clean to her head. Mabel is forced to have the comfort of her home, being removed from the hospital due to an acute chickenpox infection. Mabel is infected and contagious and her baby is not concerned about the blisters or disease. She is ready for her next stage.
“Should she be pushing more?” George asks.
“No. There is lots of time” she says to the midwife. This is a lie to gain comfort.
The baby’s head crowns and the face of the midwife is a grim one when towel after towel gets covered in red and Lizzy disappears.
She holds the oily baby, who is squirming, in her arms, and awakes to that sound of an ambulance screaming in her mind.
I’ve come up with an idea. I will call her at any time and take her away to her preferred place close to the beach. An outdoor chair will be arranged along with rugs and pillows and she will be seated like an ancient empress who commands the clouds over the cool autumn sun. Shaded trees will be abound in the afternoon sun’s ozone-rich rays while hot tea in thermoses will be consumed from china cups carefully carried with silver spoons and matching saucers. The picnic will be concluded with a fruity cake and a small gentle stroll through the beach.
I knock like usual, with my head held high ready to take on her reluctance. The plan calls for me and an adult caregiver, who is aware of the stubborn streak to get her out of her bed. Then she gets dressed and washed with eyebrows and lipstick. She walks in wearing pink-striped flannel pajamas with hair in a messy ponytail, looks blankly at me, and asks who is this person? She sways on her unsteady legs every step is in risk of falling, but she holds her ground, defying my suggestion as she sluggishly moves to her room, then returns to her bed.
“No,” she says, “I want to sleep.”
I am the daughter of my mother and I can tell the sound. I let her go to sleep, and my fantasies are shattered. As I walk out my home, the hopeless hope for an upcoming picnic rings with laughter that is mocking.
In her fantasy, she’s ninety-three. She is surrounded by people who she has known for years, but faces that are disappearing fast. They’re quiet and devoid of emotion, and speak in the reverence of dying and death. They tell her that their daughter Jane has been diagnosed by cancer. Inoperable, impossible, fatal. An unsettling wail comes out of Lizzy’s throat, and then blasts into the air. This is a sound that no one should ever have to hear or even hear. A parent who mourns the loss of a child. The ultimate loss of life.
In the next dream, with roles reversed, the daughter who is dying is embraced by her mother until she is calm, and tells her that everything will be fine.
“We are able to spend a lot of the time.” Jane says.
At peace, Lizzy wakes, as her daughter’s shadow swoops in to kiss her cheek and kisses her goodbye.
I have tried to plan the lunch for my mother but I am unable to do it again. It is very unprofessional. Let her be. She’s at peace in her home in her bed, regardless of what you think she wants and what you believe is best for her.
The words of other people’s friends fly around my mind like wild bird soaring in an aviary. flying and squawking until I can control them.
Today, I’ll just lay on her bed, take her hand and let her rest. If she awakes in the morning, I’ll prepare the tea and talk to her stories about life around her. And how much I cherish her. Till she falls back into sleep.
This is why I’m here, remembering the mother who gave us: grandchildren, children and great-grandchildren. She’s not old or weak, with dirty white hair and thin skin. Her fingers don’t bend like misshapen twigs. They work and make smiles, hug and clap with delight. This woman is there under the most fragile surface of life, and it’s a joy just being together with her.
In her vision she’s aged 97 and the other daughter comes over every day. They laugh and smile and discuss the weather, kids and the little things in everyday life. Her daughter is busy however, she stays a bit longer until she realizes the time and is ready to go.
My mother encourages her to stay longerand to sit.
“We can take our hours.” She adds.
“Yes.” Smile “plenty.”