My mother died by her own hand: the same hand that planted delicate roses and hydrangeas and turned and watered their soil, that wrapped my ankle in bandages and pat my head and held my hand and struck my brother to the ground. It was about a week ago when she closed the curtains of her room against the noon sun and climbed into bed, still in her bathrobe. She had taken to wearing that constantly and would shriek at my father if he suggested getting dressed. Its pale pink fluff was smudged and dotted with potting soil after she had spent all day and often into the dull evening darkness out in her garden, tending to flowers that need not be tended so much. She must have gotten some comfort from that, more than she was getting from my father or me or anything else.
After Patrick left for the last time (I was around eleven) she had been almost deliriously happy; a happiness that frightened me with its intensity. She would take me everywhere with her, always exclaiming how wonderful a thing was, such as a new house being built up the road, or a bird alighting on a distant tree, and laughing giddily at almost nothing at all and running around and twirling and trying to dance with me. She seemed to be in love with everything but even then I knew it was not pure, there was an edge to it and what I’d call now madness and the longer it went on the more the madness showed and slowly she turned back in on herself.
I think it might have had to do with my growing up. I started to shy aware from her company as I got taller and my instincts for exploration really began to kick in. Not only geographical exploration but mindful. I desired (inspired by Uncle Waldo) to meet new people and hear about new things and it was around then that I began hanging out with Sally and I can say now that it was right from the off that I was in love with her and I find it hard to say I am not still. My mother didn’t necessarily disapprove of this friendship, in fact she and Sally had gotten on very well, but I did get the scent of jealousy wafting off her more often than not. By that time, my mother was 100% confined (willingly) to the house (and garden), so she could not do much but sigh and wave goodbye when Sally and I went out.
That’s the way it was for so long that I pretty much forgot about her. Maybe forgot is the wrong word but I rarely thought on her other than a daily visit to her garden to say hello and ask how she was and she would look up, her eyes glazed by medication, and that hint of recognition would light her up long enough to smile at me and reach out weakly for my hand. I would give it to her and speak as though she were the child and I the adult always wanting away. She would ask me what I was doing and whether I had done my homework or not and I’d place my hand gently on that pale pink fluffy shoulder and tell her the work was done and I’d be back soon and she’d nod and sway back to her flowers; they looking up to her like adoring subjects and she beaming down on them like a glassy-eyed, surrogate Mary the Mother.
About a week ago she, pinked slightly from bathrobe and sun, said goodbye to her botanical children (but not her human), shut the curtains and climbed into bed and that hand of hers popped pill after pill into her mouth and with the aid of a glass of water (that she didn’t finish, half empty I suppose) swallowed. I imagine it was tough going but in the end, for her, it must’ve been worth it as she found herself drifting away, disappearing into nothing. I wonder how much she was really aware of who she was and all she had done (good and terrible) as she dissolved. I wonder how much any of us are aware of that and whether it really matters.