Washing my mother's hair, in the shower. She is sitting on her shower chair, wash cloth to her eyes, head forward, while I lather up her hair. She winces as the water hits her, even though I have taken great care to test the temperature.
It is never just right. I try to accept that I cannot get this, like many other things, just right.
As I gently massage her head, I smell the shampoo, feel the silky suds between my fingers, and I imagine that this woman was once a little girl, an adolescent, a teen, a young war bride, a young mother. In those few moments, a kaleidoscope of images of her, both imagined and remembered, transport me.
I forget that she has arrived where she is today. I forget that her body is giving out, that now, she is not in so many ways the mother I have known my whole life.
I remember my Mom, the one who was always there for ME.
But then the shampoo, and the shower, are over. She is stepping out onto the mat, and she starts to cry, frustrated that her recently broken arm still hurts her so much.
And the nurse in me, though I wish her gone forever, appears.
I assess, and question, and assess, and as patiently as I can, direct her to the exercises she has neglected, hand her the pain meds and the glass of water, as she tries to evade me.
But I am a good Nurse Ratchett, and I get it done.
I serve her a cuppa tea, and leave her to her TV. This somewhat short exchange has exhausted me on a level I can't identify.
While I knew that it is a basic truth, that you are never ready to lose your mother, now I know even more, that you will always long for the mother you knew.
That's really all I have right now.