Friday 4 November 2011

The past, the present and the possibilities

"You sound like a character from a Murakami novel!" said Julia.
I was sitting in her rocking chair; we were having a little break before resuming our usual Friday afternoon music session. Vivaldi, Granados, Brahms, Schumann and Dvořák. 
I was in pensive mood.
I had been quite unsettled the previous evening by the realisation that my mother didn't remember much of my whole stay. She said she had the feeling I had just arrived. That was not the first time I had heard that during the two months. Normally, I would take the time to help her find the path to her memory, a little exercise which requires a long time and lots of patience.
She does remember, but the path to her memory is blurred, or her mind would go blank, like a candidate at a quiz show. So I liked to think. But I had to cope with the truth. The disease was slowly unearthing its grim harvest. The fact was painful, but I had to accept it - in order to move on. I can only wish it doesn't get worse.
"Time passes so quickly, two months look like a few days" she said apologetically. The last time that occurred, a few days before, she had said that she could hardly remember any particular moment  spent with me during those two months. They only came back after a painstakingly long game of memory recomposition. She was right, in a way. We had not done anything memorable. Spending time together, talking a lot, having walks along the river, eating at restaurant. Oh yes, she did remember that dinner that Karen threw for her and my brother's new son.
My task, I realised, was to blend in  my parents' daily life and liven up their routine, not to exhaust them with surprises and a non-stop string of events. The focus was on them, not on how I would feel. Nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling distraught at the face of complete forgetfulness.
As I said to Bévinda, I can handle death, but to be forgotten by one's own mother is frightening.

During one of our walks along the river

With her grandson

A new project I have found for her will be around this Vietnamese poet, Hàn Mặc Tử she loves so much. What has kept my mother going until now is to write and translate. I was surprised the other day when I realised she had started translating many novels into French.
She had translated many poems by Hàn Mặc Tử into French and I came up with the idea of making an art book out of it. My photographer friend Yves Schiepeck had just released a beautiful book of photograph Roots of Coincidence, that he paired with poems by a Teresa Chuc Dowell, young Vietnamese poetess who now lives in the United States.
I read my mother's translations of the poems and they're beautiful. She has managed to capture Hàn Mặc Tử's very unique style of writing and instead of just turning them into one of those books that, once read, people leave taking the dust on a shelf, the thought occurred to me that the Yves' photos would be a perfect match to the poems, not that they would illustrate them, but better, create a parallel visual world of their own.

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