I took my mother for a ride today. I took my mother who carried me in her womb, brought me into the world, cared for me, and looked after me until I was allegedly able to look after myself.
I took my mother for a ride today in her wheelchair. I took my mother who loved and cared so much that she suddenly appeared to me one day on King's Cross Station just in time to hand to me the pair of RAF shoes I had forgotten to pack in my bag before finishing a spell of home leave and returning to camp when I was an airman.
I took my mother for a ride today in her wheelchair in the sunshine who took me regularly to the Co-op on Wood Green High Street to kit me out with new school kit at the beginning of each new school year, and then took me for refreshment afterwards in Lyon's Restaurant which is stuck in my psyche as being staffed mainly by fat, black women.
I took my mother for a ride today in her wheelchair in the sunshine in the park who bought me a comic to read every weekday to look forward to when I came home from school. On Monday she bought me the Topper. On Tuesday she bought me the Beezer. On Wednesday she bought me the Dandy. On Thursday she bought me the Beano. On Friday she bought me the Victor in which I read about Matt Braddock VC and Alf Tupper who was the Tough of the track (or was it the Tuff)? On Saturdays I bought myself the Eagle. Shame about the Eagle. If it was on sale today, I would still buy it.
I took my mother for a ride today in her wheelchair in the sunshine in the park so she could enjoy the sights and sounds of ducks on the pond, the soft warm breeze in her face, the children playing, the young men fishing, the people lying on the sun drenched grass and others conversing happily as they walked in the sunshine.
My mother could not walk in the sunshine. Her legs are far too swollen and painful. Her lungs are unable to oxygenate her body sufficiently to walk a few steps without getting more out of breath than I do after I have completed a six mile run. If she so much as taps her delicate skin against any hard object she bruises like I might bruise if a boxer had punched me hard and ungloved. Her body is in a state of rapid decline and I can only watch, while trying to do small kindnesses to ease her pain and bring some happiness and comfort into the very late Autumn of her life.
I think back over the years to the time when I was a small child. That was well over fifty years ago and the memories are still fresh, like only yesterday. On Sundays she would slave in the kitchen preparing Sunday Lunch - always a full roast, while I would go for a long walk with my father, often to Brookman's Park, and always with Buster the dog. During the week, she would always make sure I was up in time and had a proper breakfast before school. She never had a career. She had a series of smaller jobs which meant she was always home for me when I arrived home. There was no chance I would ever be a latch-key child.
Now the years have flown and the lie of the land has changed beyond recognition. My Dad died in 1999, and since then my brother and I have taken it in turns to visit our mother. In the years since 1999, time has cruelly killed off all her remaining friends except one. Despite her painful infirmities she continues to care about her family as if we were still small children. Her brain is good and sharp. She says what she thinks, and because she has nothing to lose she can laugh at the ironies and injustice's which plague her. She has a keen sense of humour.
We all change. A work colleague remarked to me a few weeks ago that if you grow old, then it is a privilege as many are snuffed out in their youth, let alone their prime. We all think we are immortal. I know I still think and feel as a young man - and then I look in the mirror! Nothing stays the same, and everything gets taken away - eventually. I try to look after what I have got. I fight the ravages of aging by frequent exercise and attention to diet. I see in my mother the root of my own flesh and blood. I revere her spirit and kindly nature. I continue, like my brother, to visit her as long as I have the privilege to experience her living presence. Then, I will weep.....................
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