Friday, May 26, 2006

Early Morning Reflections

I am able to block out the sounds coming from Bea’s bedroom until I start catching certain words, louder than others. “Come!” for instance. There is no way that one can be ignored. The clock indicates it is 6 am. Out of bed I stumble, none too happy to have a second night disrupted this way.

“Is it someone from my family?” Bea asks when the door swings open. “Ah, good! I didn’t have any supper. Not a crumb.” (Not true. She ate half her supper.)

Bea grasps for my hand, as I start to leave, having ascertained all is well. “Please don’t go away.” Who can resist the plaintive tone? I turn back and fix her pillows mechanically, still half asleep.

“One is missing. It’s still at the concert hall,” she tells me in the ebullient tone of someone eager to share a fabulous experience.

“Concert hall?”

“I took it with me.”

“I have to make some coffee,” I announce, not ready to deal with hallucinations just yet.

I stop on the way and read my email There is a message from my son who comments on how caring for a newborn is tougher than he had thought. I reflect on the differences in baby care and the care of an elderly person. You get to hold and cuddle the baby. It’s cute and doesn’t talk back. The baby has its whole life to look forward to …

I hear mumbling as I return to Bea’s room and hand her a banana, which she eats in two seconds flat. Bea has reached the end of her life, while little Juliette is just beginning. There is symmetry there, somehow ...

“Who were you talking to just now?” I ask.

“Grandpa. He isn’t here anymore. He didn’t say a word. I wanted very much for him to tell me that he was okay.”

I am about to feel relieved that Bea has been daydreaming of my father when she asks, “Do you think it is better to take a streetcar?”

“You talking to me?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know," I say, remembering that streetcars still ran up Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC in the sixties. Perhaps Bea's mind has replayed a concert she once enjoyed?

“When can I get back home?”

“You are home,” I tell her, changing her brief. “This is your bedroom.”

“I mean back home where my father and step-mother live.”

There is no answer to this at 6:10 in the morning.

I would prefer to be in Los Angeles, helping out my son and Nathalie. But Bea needs me here. She is helpless, like a baby.

I notice that Bea is settling in to rest.

“Are you going to take a nap?” I ask.

“Yes. How about you take a nap, too?”

Sleep-deprived, I am unable to keep the irritation out of my voice. “I can’t.”

Bea notices the change in tone. “Thank you. I ever so much thank you,” she says and means it.

It is impossible to feel angry under the circumstances.

Bea closes her eyes.

I lean down and give her a kiss goodnight.

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