Notes from the airport

When I saw my mother on Thursday they told me she was a bit agitated. She was delighted to see me, of course, when I explained that I was me, but she didn’t really retain it. She kept saying she should go and check on the people in the other room, see if anyone needed anything, offer them some tea. She felt that she must be the hostess, but she wasn’t really sure who all these people were. She asked me where Dad was, and if he was looking after them. She told me the lovely nurse we’d been talking to was the new maid, that she was excellent and they were lucky to have found her. She was tailoring her narrative to her reality as well as she could, but it kept breaking down because she knew she was missing something. I’d sit her back down every time, telling her that the people were being looked after, that she could relax and just take her ease, but she didn’t really believe me. As I left I looked back into the room and saw her standing up again, a nurse heading over to settle her.

When I saw my mother on Saturday I brought my dad with me. I brought him in a wheelchair, because his knee is very dodgy and he can only progress very slowly with a walking frame. She was so happy to see him. She held his two hands in hers, all their knuckles knobbly, their skin blotched and stained by age. The staff watched in delight, teary, because they say she asks for him all the time, wants to know where he is and how he is and when he’s coming to see her. We stayed for some tea and biscuits and halfway through the conversation she rediscovered who I was and was delighted all over again. When we left she told him he’d been a lovely husband and the nurses all blinked back their tears again.

She’s a real lady, they all said to me.

He’s such a gent, they all say about my dad at the hospital.

When I saw my mother yesterday she was having breakfast in a pink dressing gown I’ve never seen before. She was calm and sensible and very much herself. She got all the news from me, anew – that Dad’s in hospital and will have to go into a nursing home and she will join him wherever he chooses, that I’m back off to America today because I can’t stay, that we’ll sell the house. That she lives in that nursing home, and has a lovely view of the sea from her window, just the same view as from our kitchen window but without the neighbours’ hedge in the way. I brought some pictures for her walls and some new toothpaste and socks because they’d told me she needed toothpaste and socks. We shared a whispered joke, because her hearing’s still fine and she’s as amusing as ever. ‘Well,’ she said philosophically as she looked around the breakfast table at her companions, mumbling their toast and picking at the tablecloth, ‘it’s all a new stage, isn’t it. I must remember that. Maybe I should take up a new hobby.’

She was so much herself that time, her real normal my-mum sensible self, that was the one that nearly broke me when I left and got into my little red rental car and drove down the hill for the last time. That’s what’s bringing the tears here in the chilly boarding area of the airport as I wait for a plane to take me far away, back to the other people who love me too, whom I love too.

Getting old sucks. Not getting old sucks as well. There’s no way around it; we can only forge on with whatever hand we’re dealt, and hope we have as much good humour and grace as my lovely mum.

A blown poppy, dropping its petals over grass.

I just missed the poppies. This was the last one.

19 thoughts on “Notes from the airport

  1. Naomi

    Oh this is heartbreaking. You are right, we must keep going. It is beautiful how much love is there between your mum and dad, between the three of you. I hope that your parents can be together in a nice home soon and that you return home to the warmest of family embraces x

  2. Olivia

    That was a tough journey in so many ways and you never complained about any of it. Your parents sound lovely and I’m sure they appreciate having you to support them. Xx

  3. Mind the Baby

    Oh Maud, I’m so sorry. That’s so hard for you and your parents. Your poor lovely mum. I hope they can get her and your dad together as soon as possible. Our system is oh so very hard on the aging. Love and hugs to you xxxxxxxx

    1. Maud Post author

      Honestly, I think the system is great compared to what you’d be up against in the USA, so I’m not complaining. And every single healthcare worker I’ve encountered has been utterly wonderful. They all deserve medals.

  4. Kate takes 5

    I totally get it. The hardest part is when they are in that inbetween phase – still enough themselves that they know what’s happening. I found it easier as my dad got worse, strange as that might sound. All the love and hugs. Being far away sucks too xx

    1. Maud Post author

      That’s exactly it. It was much easier to laugh about her “new maid” comment on the first day than it was to say goodbye to the person who was so much my real mum on the last. Thanks, Kate.

  5. Sinead (

    Oh God. That’s really hard for you. You’ve documented it so beautifully though. They sound like a really beautiful couple. A cruel world indeed but as you say, you have to keep going. But not easy at all. Sending hugs. Someone once said three strangely paradoxical words to me when my own mum passed away and they always stuck. Mam is mam.

  6. Nicola Naessens

    What a beautifully written, highly emotional post Maud. You have conveyed your feelings and also the gorgeous relationship between soul mates perfectly.
    Much love to you xx

  7. Life on Hushabye Farm

    I cried reading this. You have captured both the beauty of your parents love and the heartbreaking cruelty of aging. I hope they are reunited soon and that the love you are returning to will bring you the comfort that you need. Xx

  8. Jill

    This is so bittersweet and so beautifully written. Seeing our parents decline too soon or at a good old age is something that few of us escape and I’ve often weighed up if getting old is in fact better or worse than not getting old. I haven’t worked it out…

    I’m glad you got to spend some time with your mum as herself. xx

  9. Aedin Collins

    This is so beautiful Maud. I just wish it was fiction. Getting old is a curse but I’m convinced it is also everything we have on this world . Sending you all the hugs,xx.

  10. tric kearney

    I’m so sorry Maud. What a bittersweet visit, lovely to see your mum and dad but so hard to accept the reality. I hope you are now in the arms of those you love in the US and know that those you love here are comfortable and being looked after.
    I cannot imagine the toll of this visit on you. Virtual hugs are all I have. xx

  11. Muuka

    I’m so sorry you had to leave them, and I hope they are together soon. Aging is so hard, especially when you then have to be so far away from them. Sending you hugs and hoping you’re now with the other people you love. x

  12. Suzannacatherine

    Such a beautiful post on such a heartbreaking reality.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and your inspiring words.

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