Saturday 24 November 2012

La famiglia mia


"Hello stranger" my mother greeted me as I passed the door. The return of the son after one year of absence. Time seemed to have stopped for a few seconds as I stood at the threshold of my parents' house. The feeling that I was watching a repeat of a familiar film. Time resumed its course when I stepped inside. Had my mother changed since last year? She and my father hardly seemed any older. I looked for signs of alteration in her words, in her stare but didn't see any. She hugged me tightly. Jan was standing behind me, smiling at this moving reunion between mother and son.
A few minutes later, we were having tea around the dining table. It seems time stands still in this house. I had brought a box of pineapple cakes which she loves.


Grey sky. The temperature has dropped. I drove my parents to my brother's house. It's Wednesday. A much anticipated day for my mother, for that's when they can spend it with their grandson. My brother's house is located at the other end of the capital, in the suburb. I always dread going there. It's a long walk from the train station. I know the houses and the buildings are inhabited, but I can't chase away the feeling that I'm walking through a cemetary.
No traffic on the road today. My father freaks out whenever he takes the car. He's getting old so his reflexes are not as good as they used to. If I jump a few years back, I wouldn't say his reflexes were that great then. He would never have been hired for a car chase scene. His anxiety become words and when he's not the driver, it's nearly maddening!
Their Wednesday with the grandson follows the same pattern: go to the nanny, pick up the baby there, bring him home, feed the baby, put the baby to sleep for his afternoon nap, give the baby a little snack, have a walk with the baby, bathe the baby, then bye bye baby. Yes my tone is dry. Don't I feel the family blood pounding in my veins? As I told a friend, even though I know he's my nephew, even though he looks absolutely adorable, I can't pretend to be excited when I'm not!
From relatives to friends, everybody seemed to be more excited to see the baby than I am.

Grey day. Rain? On the verge to. Not much connection with my nephew. Understandable, since I'm a stranger to him. And my mother suddenly became territorial, so I let her enjoy her grandson. I'll have time later.
I'm walking the dog and trying not to walk too fast, so my parents can keep up with the pace. They have to stop every ten meters to make sure the baby is warm - poor thing just caught a cold. We are going to the park to the park, a fifteen minute walk from the house.
The park near my brother's house is gloomy. The neighbourhood is gloomy. A young boy was racing excitedly on a miniature blue bike. I smile faintly. It suddenly reminds me of the day my dad taught me how to ride a bike. I was a five. We were practicing on the parking area near our flat. It was the end of the afternoon. My mother and my younger brother were there too. He couldn't ride a bike yet. He was only three. But he had a yellow plastic fish on wheels and would try to follow me happily with it.
Happy time.
Wasn't it?


First appointment with the dentist. I badly needed it. My father came with me. I drove the car. Now that he's old, he tries to avoid the unpleasant experience as much as he can.
"Your mother only has 8 years left to live, do you know that?". He paused.
"That's what they say about people who have the Alzheimer disease. 8 years."
I remained silent. I could find nothing to reply.
"I told your brother. I guess he's really sad about it". So was I. Who wants to see his parents go? That is, if there is love in the family. I still didn't know what to say. My father would always find the most unlikely timing to send out such news.
"And many people say that the person who takes care of the patient usually dies first."
I knew it. That was the case with Isabelle's parents. His father died earlier this year, and his wife still thinks that he's always late...
"What can I say to that?" I said after a time.
"I just wanted you to know".
My parents will be 80 next year. Given their age, it will almost be a natural thing if they happen to pass away in 8 years.
Dry? Yes.


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