Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Garden Party

Bea has always been a good hostess. She loves people and enjoys receiving them in her home. On the evening of our discussion about Nancy, I hear Bea say, before the Sandman catches up with her, “I’m fond of so many people that I see in this room. I’d like to take this opportunity to …”

Bea was not in the habit of falling asleep in the middle of a sentence, but she does it all the time now.

I usually notice the presence of visitors because my mother becomes preoccupied with their welfare and uses a more social voice. Today she is entertaining. I stand in the doorway and listen.

“You sit down!” she says, as if addressing a child. And then, in a more solicitous tone, “I do hope you’re warm enough. I’ve got an extra coat if you need one.”

Bea may be bedridden, but she still receives guests royally.

This morning I can tell my mother is upset about something. She quickly explains the conundrum: the bed is too wide to get through the doorway. Her guests want her in the next room, or perhaps outside in the yard, where she can observe their interplay. A glamorous woman with “temperamental” hair has come to call, with family. There is also Montgomery, who is wearing earrings: “He has the smallest mouth for a man I’ve ever seen, and look at the ears!” And several little boys, including “Babydoll,” a strange name for a boy, Bea agrees. When I point out how unlikely it is that a man would be wearing earrings, she remarks that my son Paul wears one.

Here’s a peek at the garden party:

“Someone is arriving.”

“Who?” I ask.

“I don’t know. He’s running towards where those women were.”

“You mean the older women who were crying?”

I am referring to visitors present during Bea’s breakfast. She nods.

“Do you recognize him now?”

“None of them are near enough for that. I don’t know who they are ... You don’t have to glare at me.”

(You guessed it! Bea is addressing the glamorous woman with messy hair, not me.)

“I’ll eat asparagus, and it will give me some punch.”

I make a mental note to buy asparagus, her favorite veggie.

“Uh-oh, they’re cuffing around, the boys.”

“I think we should tell them to go away.”

“I’m shocked! I have been able to see them, so we shouldn’t tell them to go away.”

Her reasoning makes sense. What can I say?

Curious to find out more about the phenomenon, I ask, “Do they talk to you?”

“Not always … I think that’s ridiculous.”

“What’s ridiculous?”

“The hairdo."

I'm wishing I could see it, too, when she says, "I guess he has the right to because it isn’t easy to keep babies alive. When he first got in that bed, he looked awfully worn out. Oh, hello!”

Someone new has arrived. I ask for details.

“I can’t see him because he’s in another part of the yard. Here’s the one who thinks he’s a hotshot. He thinks he’s going to get good marks.”

“How old is he?”

She doesn’t hear my question. The garden party is much too captivating: “Is it good, the ice cream? Do you like it?”

I leave her be. Later, Bea calls me in and requests a "board". It seems one of the guests is a lawyer, and he is looking to mark down something in what sounds like a parlor game. I have already given her a sleeping pill, but she shows no signs of slowing down.

“Tell your guests to come back tomorrow,” I suggest with a sigh.

As I close the door, I hear her declare, “I want to tell you all that there will be something rewarding for supper, for those who care to stay …”


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