I begin the one-mile walk to Mom's house to check on her. I love this walk, but I don't enjoy seeing her diminish daily. She is not going gently into that good night and neither am I. When people ask how she is doing, she says, "I'm still kicking, just not quite as high."
I notice the beauty of everything so much more now through the awareness of Mother's frailty. That's one of the reasons I take my digital camera everywhere I go. I see this tree and it reminds me of Mom. The coldness, the green bark hanging on to summer. It is wrenching to be in this stage of life and death with Mother, but there is also a certain beauty to it.
Mother has always eaten very sensibly and been very health-conscious. Now, at 95, she wonders why she was so careful. Her husband and all of her close friends are gone. The image I have of my mother in my mind's eye will always look something like this picture. I will always remember her sense of humor and the sweet torture of listening to her laugh with Dad while my sisters and I tried to get to sleep. She has always had cute little sayings that are so unique like, "Why don't we whistle and start over? " or "Clean is a good color," and this phrase that she can say incredibly fast, "You dirty rotten, turkey-trottin', fly-blowed, maggot-eatin', hammered-down, sawed-off piece of sewer pipe and California peanut!"
I want to firm up some of her history before she gets more forgetful so I ask her about her grandmother and why she was called, "Mungie." She explains that Enid, the oldest grandchild came up with this pronunciation of Grandma. She remembers that the family made fun of how Mungie said that food was "good tasted," and no one could talk her out of it.
Mungie was a very strong woman who crossed the plains with her parents. Mom said Mungie had a way about her that made her, as a little girl want to open up to her more than her own Mother. Mungie took turns staying with different members of the family after her husband shot himself because he couldn't bear the pain of his stomach cancer. Mother was about 18 when this happened and her mother , who we called Nama, told her of the painful ambulance ride she took with her father (Mungie's husband). As he was dying, he whispered to her, "I want you to know that I love you all, " and then he died. (below, Nama,as young woman and with first great-grand-child)
Did someone say that there would be an end,
An end, Oh, an end, to love and mourning?
Such voices speak when sleep and waking blend,
The cold bleak voices of the early morning
When all the birds are dumb in dark November -
Remember and forget, forget, remember.
After the false night, warm true voices, wake!
Voice of the dead that touches the cold living,
Through the pale sunlight once more gravely speak.
Tell me again, while the last leaves are falling.
"Dear child, what has been once so interwoven
Cannot be raveled, nor the gift ungiven."
Now the dead move through all of us still glowing,
Mother and child, lover and lover mated,
Are wound and bound together and enflowing.
What has been plaited cannot be unplaited -
Only the strands grow richer with each loss
And memory makes kings and queens of us.
Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flown to some real haven,
We who find shelter in the warmth within,
Listen, and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
As the lost human voices speak through us and blend
Our complex love, our mourning without end.