Just when I wasn’t looking, my mother became old.
I’m not sure when it was. Perhaps it was yesterday, whilst I was on the telephone or last night, as I mended the fire and my back was turned.
But when I looked up again, she had changed.
She has become shrunken and creased and has the jaw of an old lady, which quarrels with itself as she eats. A moment before, she had just been my mother but now she is small and transparent and I want to put my arms around her in case she should break. But my arms stay where they are. Not because I’m proud or embarrassed, but because I’m angry with her for being small and transparent and I’m angry with myself, because I can’t remember when it happened.
When I was little, my mother was comfortable and wise. We would stand together in the kitchen and she would zip me into my anorak, right up the neck, even though I wriggled and protested and told her I was too warm.
“It will rain later,” she said.
And it always did.
On days which were full of spring sunshine, she would still slide my hands into gloves and twist a scarf around my neck.
“You’ll be cold otherwise,” she said.
And I always was.
Other children had brothers and sisters and cats and dogs, but I had my mother all to myself and I was full and satisfied. Now, the shine of being an only child has become dull. Now it tastes bitter and resentful. Now I want to share.
I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I stopped feeding my life to her. Instead, I give her fragments, pieces she will easily understand. Not platefuls of information which confuse us both and force me to remember that she is old and transparent. But the little pieces aren’t enough and she is drifting further away from me. Now, instead of talking to my mother, I talk to the steering wheel and the bathroom mirror and the photograph of my dead father, who sits on the mantelpiece and watches us age without him.
Today we are going out. I organise and check and feed her pieces of information. I slide her hands into gloves and twist a scarf around her neck.
We stand together in the kitchen and she looks at me with old, transparent eyes. “Do you think I’ll need a coat?” she asks.
And I’m frightened to look away.