Life gets ever more bizarre, but in ever tinier and ever more domestic ways.
Today Godmother Elect and I went once again to visit Mum in the Home. We find her sitting in the day room with many others, classical music playing loud enough to drown out any vestige of thought. Catching sight of us she raises her arms and reaches out to us in what looks like terror or despair.
My legs don’t work, she says. I try, but they just won’t. (Later the carer tells us that Mum’s mobility is improving and that when she thinks no one is looking she can now shuffle herself unaided and, more importantly, un-hoisted from one chair to the next.)
I’m dead, she says. I’m dead. And though it’s a ghastly thing to hear, she’s telling us the truth. I wonder whether there really is some in-between place like Purgatory where the dead and the living walk side by side for a spell, and know not which they are.
Soon it’s time for lunch. They start wheeling the oldies into the dining room and since we have only just arrived we wheel ourselves in too.
A man on the other side of the room cries out joyfully –
Another lovely lady. Come in, come in, lovely lady and sit upon my knee!
He is referring to GE, not me. GE is even older than my mother.
His wife is at his side. It’s because you look a bit like me, she tells GE apologetically. Certainly they both have short white hair. All the same, I’m slightly miffed.
While they are dishing up we read the menu out to Mum. Plaice and chips! That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Or ham, eggs and chips inserts one of the carers. Irrelevant, I think. Pedantic.
Mum seems terrified of the thought of chips whether with plaice or with ham and just then the man sharing ‘our’ table begins to wave his hands gently as if conducting an invisible orchestra. Someone has turned on the radio and some of the would-be diners start singing along.
One of the carers is a bit of a puzzle. We have never been able work out where she is from but she has an accent so thick it is not always possible to tell whether she is speaking English or her own language – sort of Mexican. But would someone travel all the way from Mexico to wear a brightly-coloured tee-shirt with Carer printed on it in nursery letters?
But she raises her voice and sings along to Vera Lynn and it is a sound so pure and perfectly pitched it brings tears to my eyes –
Dere be bluebird ober de white cliff of Dober… doo murrow jus’ you wade an see….
And it doesn’t matter if she even understands what she is singing, what a powerful resonance those words still have for this room full of the lost and bewildered.
She’s wasted here, GE observes.
But I think maybe not.