Monday, October 1, 2012

the new room mate...

She shares a room with my mom and I have the chance to sit quietly with her for a while. She has Parkinson's Disease and cancer - a deadly combination. And she says she is glad my mom moved in three weeks ago, because everyone else around her passed away - she believed she was next. Now she is not sure any more and it is a good thing... (I wish someone made more of an effort to talk to her about the trauma of losing three previous room mates around her).

She looks troubled today against the yellow pillow case. I ask about her husband and she proceeds to to tells me in broken English (due to dementia) that he has no one else to look after him. He had the flu and did not visit for a few days. And they have no children. She was a medical nurse, highly qualified - worked in the theatre, with much authority. And now she intimately knows what lies ahead for her, but looks at me intently and tells me "this was so unexpected". Life is like that - unexpected. And cruel. I have seen how cruelty plays itself out when life turns a blind eye to good people with good intentions.

I tell her she should not worry so much and that he husband will be fine, because he has a place of his own and new friends. She looks slightly relieved, but totally unconvinced. Her face so pale. (I got a text message this week telling me how pale my mom is, and I think to myself: this, this is pale).

I ask what she worries about most. She is quiet for a while, then tells me softly that she can no longer walk with her husband. And he has to walk alone. This is true. He does. But mostly, he sits alone outside between the summer flowers whenever I come - and looks forlorn and lost. His eyes are constantly filled with tears, and his voice carries bitterness about the smallest issues. He is a man out of control. He is without any ideas. I don't tell her this, but show her the daisies that I picked, instead.

I am glad my mom has a room mate. They don't talk of course, and are on the opposite sides of the room - each at a window. They only really share the morning sun and the same sure future - the unknown road that we shall all travel. On this International Day of Older People I cannot help but think about the way that society - children and grandchildren of older people - throw away the people that cared for them once. Emotionally disconnected, they make their 'loved' ones the responsibility of others who often have no choice but to step into the gaping emptiness of their disappearance. Strangers becoming family. And I wonder - how did we become like this? Such indifferent people in a shared, fragile humanity with way too many myths about age and getting older. We should reframe what it means to be old.

My mom has a room mate. She has a tiny broken body and life is cruel. Both of them - actually. We are told too many times that there is something disturbingly wrong when we speak of the illness and the pain, and are not happy-go-lucky... As if this is an indicator of success - superficial happiness.  I wish upon my friends true joy as we all get older one day. Not make-believe pretence that everything is well - while you actually starve financially, or emotionally. We deserve real relationships in our lives. 

But the truth is, we already have those room mates that share in hardship and in pain, and we should have our eyes wide open when we connect. This is real. Not the fairy tales. But these unspoken, unexpected unfairnesses in life itself that we share - injustice one way or another. Each to their own. And no one deserves death, but we all get it - eventually. Inevitably part of a cycle of life itself. So on our way there, why don't we just make it a bit more liveable for those that are closer to the end of this cycle than we are - then again, even this fleeting thought is just a perception of reality. Because, who knows when?.... 

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