My throat has been dry. Since the thyroid test came back ‘on the low side of normal’, my throat has been drier. I drive, and as I do, my imagination drives along with me. In many directions. Today I was supposed to be doing someone’s hair. Until a phone call from the nursing home changed all that. I drove 20kms to pick Mum up. I sipped at my constant companion, my water bottle.

Mum didn’t want to go anywhere. I explained she had to see her old Doctor because…..well because “she’s known you for twenty years”. Mum wouldn’t move off the lounge. Her appointment was in half an hour, we would have to be on our way soon. The nurse offered Mum coffee. The mug arrived with two teddy bear biscuits smiling and waving. They were laid out on a plain paper towel. Mum likes nice things. Delicate cups and saucers. She looks unimpressed but says nothing. I look at the mug of coffee and remember my dry mouth.The Phillipino nurse offers me a coffee but I say no thank you. I don’t want to put her to any trouble.

The nurse has a plan. “Come and lie down darling, you look tired…”

“I am tired” Mum agrees, moving with aid to her bedroom. I stand half in the door waiting to redirect her to the car. She doesn’t notice the change of plan. The nurse and I exchange glances, smug in our duplicity. I have Mum sitting next to me and despite the tension of getting her there, I love having her back. Just Mum and I, away from the nursing home, I can pretend nothing has changed.

We make it to the appointment. I know I have to take Mum back but all I want to do is bring her home. Dropping in would be the worst thing to do. This is the first time she’s been “out” since she went “in”.

“I just want to go home” she says. I half wonder which home she is thinking about, but I really know which one. I avoid the word home and mention lunch instead. I sip from my water bottle.
“You didn’t get me one of those”
“Oh, this is a bottle I brought with me, I carry it everywhere….I’ll pick one up for you on the way”
“Where are we going?
“To drop this paperwork over to Kerry….you know Kerry?”

I drive and think. Lunch, where will we go? She doesn’t feel like walking. The flu has sapped her energy. I can’t leave her alone in the car to go and buy something. I remember drive thru McDonalds. Mum used to enjoy late night post-mortems at Mc Donalds. We would sit and laugh and pick over the evenings details. We were different then.

I order a chicken burger with an orange juice for me and fillet-o-fish and a water for Mum. We park in the McDonalds car park. Off to the side under a weeping willow tree. Our view is Pennant Hills Rd. We watch the trucks, eat french fries and make small talk. I want to hold Mums hand but I don’t. I tell Mum the water bottle is her drink. She looks disappointed. I give her my orange juice and she sips it like a child. Until all that is left is air. I decide to save the water bottle for Mum to take ‘home’ with her. At the traffic lights I lick my dry lips and wonder about the dryness in my throat.

Mum and I hold hands walking into the home. She settles with her friends whom she may vaguely recall. “Have you been sitting here long?” Mum asks.
“Oh yes….all day”
“Do you get bored?”
“Have you been waiting for us?
“No…I don’t think so”
“I can’t get the lid off this damn water”
“Here, I’ll open it” Phyllis holds it upside down.
“Be careful, it might burst open”
“I’ll put it in my bag then”
“I hope it doesn’t burst open in your bag” Mum says
“Then I won’t put it in there then” says Phyllis
“I could put it in my bag” Mum offers
“No, then it might burst in your bag”
I watch the pure liquid swill within its clear covering. I wish I had that water. I wish Mum could have it back but Phyllis is happy with her new toy.

I say goodbye to all the ladies who want to go home. I say goodbye to Gordon who tells me he feels a little lost. I tell him he can’t possibly be lost in such a lovely place.
“Now that’s a point” he answers hopefully and wanders down the hallway looking for something. I walk to the car and suck the remaining warm water droplets from my drink bottle. My eyes are wet and my throat is dry.

6th August 2010

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