I go to Myer to buy nighties. They are crisp and new. They are cotton with a delicate flower print. The woman serving me apologises for no one being in attendance at the counter while I was waiting to pay. I say the garments are for my mother. I think about adding – she is dying. But it is something that is just said in my head, to myself. It is a whisper under everything that I am doing. Like the rattle of the tracks under a train. Monotonous and keeping time. Outside the department store the arts market is going on in the square. The sky is ridiculously bright and blue. How dare it? I buy a takeaway coffee. In my head to the barrista; My mother is dying. The coffee machine has only just been turned on. It’ll take a few minutes; Is that okay? My mother is dying. Will she wait while I get takeaway coffee?
They already have her in a new nightie. It is pink, with flowers. I don’t think it is hers, but I don’t say. I put my two newly purchased ones, tags still attached, in the drawer. Tomorrow she can wear one of mine.
How are you Mum?
Better, she says. You don’t look better, I think, but do not say.
I am so thirsty. Still?
I check the fluids are working. Yes.
The tips of her fingers have changed colour. They have a blue hue. Think violet. Her feet too. In her outgoing breath there is a gurgling, fluid sound. On the inward breath too. She wants to cough but can’t seem to manage it. Her throat is like a frothy drain. What does it mean not to have the power to cough and clear your throat?
Visitors come. We sit around her. I give her globby water. I am careful to make sure she can swallow it. It isn’t much and does little to quench her relentless thirst.
She starts guessing her ailment. Appendicitis? Am I going to theatre?
Have you got pain June? the nurses ask. No.
Then she asks for Panamax. It has been her cure-all for many years, since the demise of Bex.
We conclude she must have pain.
The doctor has written her up for Hyoscine and Morphine. The drugs of the dying. At 3pm she has her first dose of Morphine.
Once she has had these drugs the gurgling stops and she closes her eyes. This is the first time she appears restful. It is a relief. It is like watching a baby sleep. It is peaceful. It is how it should be. I feel like someone who is waiting for a bus, but who isn’t in the slightest hurry to go anywhere. I feel like a person who is sitting in the sun, with my legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. I have nothing to read and nothing to occupy my hands. I might just watch the traffic go by. I might just let the bus be missed. I will simply sit in the sun. And wait.
It is not over and I don’t know how much time she has but it is different now. There is no struggle to cough. There is not thirst. There is just sleep. There is just waiting and watching. I guess this is a vigil.
Dust is beginning to gather by the wheels of the bed because we have shooed away the cleaner. There has been no Leonie with her turned down mouth dragging her noisy vacuum. There are no stray mandarin pips. No crumbs from biscuits had with tea. Just dust.
From the en suite bathroom comes the burping sound of drains being unblocked. I think of Rolf Harris and the noise he made with his Wobble board.
I look through her address book for names of people I should ring. I ring some of her very old friends. They too are old. Some are older. Some still drive. Some have recovered from worse, or so they say. But they know what I am saying without me having to say it. It is in the croak of my voice. The child like sorry. They say, Thank you dear for letting me know. Give her my love. They say it matter-of-factly. How else should they say it?
Do all the dying look the same? She looks like Dad did now. Gone is the originality of her face. It is a dying face now.
to be continued…