Digging for Diamond-Days

Two days ago, when I called, mid afternoon, mum was still in bed.

She feels unwell, she says, her back is sore, her tummy is sore, she is tired, she did not sleep well.

She lists complaints that alarm me. I am distressed to think she might be in pain. That there might be some hidden condition that is veiled by her confusion and her inability to articulate as clearly as she once could.

 I start punching the list of symptoms she describes into Google. Diagnosing. Catastrophizing.

My measured brother sensibly mostly ignores the frenzied texts I bat off to him.

‘I’ll keep an eye’ he says. The silence that ensues shuts me up. 

He is always sparing of words. He once asked me, ‘why do you use 20 words when two will do?’

I have met enough editors to know that he has a point.

When I call the next day though, Mum is in high spirits. There is no talk of pain or tiredness today.  My brother, who looks after her with a gentle, humoured solicitousness, knows her much better than I do now.

‘I am tidying my room’, she tells me and her tone sings, ’I am so busy.’

I check in again today – and feel my heart bumping up against my throat, as I dial, anxious as to how today is – but she is still at it. Still busy.  Still cheerfully engaged.   My brother has indicated a pile of trousers in her room and suggests she sort through them – which ones she’d like to keep, which to ditch. 

She wonders who left them there, ‘they aren’t mine; they belonged to somebody much fatter than me’ so that I have to smile.

‘I have only just finished unloading the dishwasher, it’s good exercise. And for my brain too as I have to remember where everything goes’.

And my heart gives a small squeeze.

‘I like being busy’, she says. ’It’s good to be busy – there’s no time to worry if you’re busy; it makes me happy.’

And I remember the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times my siblings and I tried to impress this upon her when she was sick with Depression. 

Be not idle. Be not idle.

Get busy, ma, it’ll help, it’ll take your mind off things, we said.

But she’d just regard us miserably from her bed or from the chair where she’d wound herself like a comma, an hiatus on life. It said: wait.

‘Do you have any worries, ma?’ I ask her now.

She pauses and then, ‘no, no I don’t think so’.

I need to hold onto the good days. Depression meant days and days, weeks, months of bad days.  In mum’s experience of dementia, so far, I have learned that a bad day, can morph as just that, A bad day.  

We never got that with Depression. A Bad Day. 

And so I understand one more small blessing that I must pick, gingerly, from the fallout of all this and blow upon it gently, rub it on the hem of my t’shirt and hold it up to the light to admire.

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