I checked my phone when I arrived at Mum's place, and sat down on the hall couch by the lift around from her room, to reply to a long text message. I proof read my reply, pressed send, and looked up to find Mum, mightily pleased to have sneaked up on me. She sat down in the next chair, and we shared our ice cream of choice— Double Chocolate Magnum, if you should ever be visiting. It was a freezing day, so we went back to her room.
Her world is closing in around her. Just one room of her own, with a little shrine of photos on an old glass fronted bookcase from Hilltop days. And ice creams. Ice cream is always welcome.
I think the bookcase may have come from Grandpa. She adored her father, and his photo sits in pride of place on his bookcase, among other photos from the family. Some of the photos are of people who were dead before I was born. I am not always certain which generation of the family we are talking about, and I think there are times when she also forgets. On Friday we were talking about Dad, when midsentence, he turned into Grandpa.
In front of Grandpa's photo she has a printed card with the first lines of a prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
As we were talking, my phone displayed a number I did not recognise, and I said I'd check if it was anyone who needed attention. It was, and excusing myself from our conversation for a few minutes, I listened to the person calling. I made some suggestions about how they might navigate their situation, listened some more, and then was able to come back to Mum, who had patiently listened to my side of the conversation.
I thanked her for her patience. "I think it was a good thing that I answered it," I said. She pushed herself up out of her chair and limped across to the bookcase.
"At times like that," she said, "I've always found this rather helpful." And she handed me the card with the prayer.
She is still my Mum.
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