Hi people. You have all so patiently and loyally followed along through me dear mum's decline--which continues, though I'm loathe to overfocus on it. I'm reminded of a friend who recently sighed, "Well, my sponsor died last year, so THAT happened to me"...I thought, Didn't that happen to your sponsor?...
Anyway, suffice it to say that literally every hour since last Monday we, meaning my five brothers and I, have been awaiting THE CALL. One of the most astounding things to come out of this (another being that my mother is defying all odds by not having eaten for about two months and still drawing breath) is that our sixth sibling and "little" (47-year-old) sister Meredith has heroically been sitting vigil by Mom's side at the nursing home for what is now seven solid days and nights. Meredith eats there, sleeps there (they actually gave her a bed in a spare room so she didn't have to snooze in the recliner), and the other day she told me, "I know so much about the place I'm starting to think I should offer to pitch in and do some filing"...
The first few days I felt sort of heroic and teary and liminal-time-and-space myself, and then I started getting edgy...every time the phone rings my heart skips five beats. Still, it's been a comfort that every sigh, raised eyebrow, finger movement of Mom is reported, discussed at length, and analyzed. It has been a gift beyond measure to have Meredith there: otherwise I would have felt the need to be there myself. So she has been an ambassador for the family (my brothers who live close by have also been visiting regularly), the nerve center, the "beloved son" who is standing at the foot of the Cross...I've also been in close communication with my brother Tim, who lives in Bangkok, and that's been a gift, too.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon I had my second Artists' Round-Table (my one true idea/project of the year) scheduled, and though I knew The Call could come literally in the middle of it, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. It's been bakingly hot in L.A. for weeks but I also decided to go ahead with my plan to assemble a chicken bisteeya, which is a Morroccan dish, the recipe for which I had Xeroxed out of Ruth Riechl's I think it was Tender to the Bone years ago and never yet made. A bisteeya, it transpires, involves two small chickens, a cinnamon stick, a hunk of peeled ginger, many almonds, much confectioner's sugar, eight large eggs beaten with chicken stock into a curd-like consistency, and a package of filo. So I whipped that up over the course of four or so hours, as well as a ginger-nectarine cobbler, and then the folks came, bearing more food: triple creme cheese, fancy crackers, fruit, scones, et cetera.
We had a new gal, Mary, who was just delightful and is a professional viola player. "You play the VIE-O-LA!?" I brayed upon welcome, thereby mispronouncing, like the hick I am, the instrument to which she has devoted her life. Luckily, Mary has a sense of humor and fit right in with being invited to grab ice of out of the freezer with her fingers, the giant frond from the Brazilian pepper tree in the back yard that served as a bisteeya "garnish," and the bathroom door that for some reason never quite closes.
We talked about the critical inner voice, the fear of letting go, the desire to become like little children again, the isolation and loneliness of being an artist, a writer, a sculptor, a painter, a person with a congenitally messy room, a human being. We laughed, we commiserated (a friend of a friend's husband had recently committed suicide, leaving a wife with two small sons), we basked in the early fall sun, we ate. I thought, as I often do, about how Christ knew it was all about the food. At the end of the day, what we really want is to be welcomed, for someone to know our name, for someone to bring us a plate of food and a glass of water, or black currant juice from the Armenian grocery mixed with sparkling water, or super-strong iced coffee.
Mom is past swallowing but yesterday Meredith reported, the nurse held a sponge soaked in water to Mom's mouth and for the first time in days, her lips moved. "I thirst," said Christ on the cross. We eat for everyone. I drink to, and for, my mother.