It’s become obvious that mum has only weeks to live.
We were told only last week that not only had the chemotherapy failed to reduce the cancer, but it had spread to her liver. Since then she’s seemed more tired daily.
Today I spoke to her on the phone and I was taken aback by how out of it she seemed. She was talking about a meeting she’d had with a solicitor yesterday about some documents we’re looking for. I then mentioned a delivery she’d recently received that arrived broken and that I’d emailed to arrange a return. She got the two completely confused, going on about how waiting for the refund would help the solicitor with his search. I said, softly, that I thought she was getting the two confused. “Oh god, you’re right,” she said. “I never know what’s going on any more. Ask me what day it is.” “What day is it?” I asked. “Ah, see, I know today! I’ve already been asked twice! It’s Thursday!”
It’s Wednesday, of course. Apparently she’s better in person – my brother went round an hour or so later and says she seemed much better, though he’s one of those men who can make a woman be exactly the way he thinks they are. But my sister later confirmed on the phone that she’s sleeping a little more each day, a little less in touch with reality each day while she’s awake. She eats incredibly small amounts. Soon, my sister reckons, she’ll stop eating altogether.
The strange thing is that I’m not more terrified now about losing my mother than I was a few days ago. I’m terrified that I already have.
I’ve realised I’m losing two people. I’m losing my mother – the one person in the world who I know wants desperately for me to be happy. The one person who’s always rooting for me, always reminding me that it’s OK to laugh and enjoy life, not just always be worrying about some imagined problem or fretting about some invented task. The one person who I could have gone to with any problem, no matter how ashamed or tortured I was about of it, and who would have listened, not judging, not laughing about it with their friends afterwards. Not that I took much advantage of it.
But I knew that already. I’ve mourned that already, though I’m sure I’ve got more to go. What I realise now is that I’m also losing – have already, to be honest, lost – my mother, the woman. Who is – I always say most clichés are clichés because they’re true – my best friend.
I can’t think of anyone in the world who I could talk to, for hours, as easily as I do with my mum. Never trying to impress, never worrying how I’m coming across. And now that’s soon going to be over. Maybe it already is over. She can’t talk for hours now. I find myself sitting in awkward silence with her, for the first time ever, because she doesn’t ask the questions, make the responses she used to.
I think I’m only appreciating now, for the first time, how intelligent she is. Was. Is. I don’t know. She was educated, but more, she was unashamedly intelligent in a way it just seems people aren’t now. She studied Latin at school, for god’s sake. She didn’t know the derivations of all the words I asked her about, but she’d bloody well look them up. She wasn’t ashamed of being educated, like baby boomers all seem to be.
She was elegant. Not in the skinny, uptight sense. She just knew clothes. She knew style. She had an in-built sense for aesthetics. I went shopping with her once a couple of years ago. God, we had so much fun. And now I see her in her pink cupcake pyjamas, an oasis of class in this shitty ugly cheap world I seem to be stuck in.
I don’t know – I honestly don’t know – who I can just read the paper and talk about it with now. Or listen to music or discuss politics or philosophy or anything without it being a competition. I try to talk about these things with my other, male best friend, but it always seems to turn into a competition. With men, this stuff is all about egos. And the women I know are mostly trained not to talk about it in public. Or they just don’t want to. I feel like everyone else I know my age either is an idiot, or is trying desperately to be one. I’ve felt like this all my life; god, isn’t it time that stopped being true?