Mom is having a bad day. She has just now risen from bed, though it is nearly noon, leaving me with three hours of periodic breathing-checks from her doorway since I got up at half-past eight. Her light is always on when she’s had a bad night, her book open on her chest. Last night I heard her book fall to the floor and leapt from bed half-asleep before my brain caught up and I realized she hadn’t fallen, it was just the sound of paper rustling in midflight before the covers smashed close on the carpet.
It has been a quiet morning, the phone has only rung three times. When Mom woke up finally and got out of bed, I rose to wish her a good morning and her hearing aids weren’t in. She saw me walking towards her and announced with wide eyes, “I had a bad night.” Was it pain? I exaggeratedly mouth the words, because I know she can’t hear me. “No, I just didn’t sleep”. The rash is coming back, from the Tarceva, so it takes her longer each morning to put her hearing aids in, because her ears are sore. She watches less TV these last few days since Thursday’s chemo, opting for books instead. I like the quiet.
She goes outside to smoke a cigarette, and I offer to put up the umbrella for her so she can sit in the sun but protect her sensitive skin. “I don’t have the base for it” she says. “It’s still up in Running Springs.” Her house is divided, half her things are with her husband in his home, half her things are here. I don’t like being the one to remind her of it. I am the one who buys her cigarettes, at first clandestinely so that her sister wouldn’t know she’d been smoking, then brazenly, when it occurred to me to defend Mom’s right to the little things that make her happy. This first morning cigarette, it has occurred to me, is her way of re-entering the world privately every morning, so that she can cry and then pull herself together after a bad night without me hovering.
Especially this morning, when she awoke to find clumps of hair on her pillow. One cigarette wasn’t long enough and she’s still weeping as she stands behind me making herself some oatmeal. My computer is in the kitchen. She has been trying to prepare herself for the hair loss from chemotherapy, but the rash kind of blindsided her and this barrage of indignities hits her worst in the morning when she is at low ebb. I bought her scarves last week, brought scarves with me from Europe, and when she starts wearing the wigs and turbans she is planning to buy, I will start wearing the scarves with her. I find them beautiful.