Friday, August 11, 2006

“Each in a Separate Star…”

Bea has another sluggish day. She lies in bed, diminished, resigned, apparently waiting for death. No stream of words bursts forth from her lips. The visitors have all gone. Bea’s mind does not invent any parties. She talks in monosyllables when I interact with her, breathing out short words through the missing teeth and yellowed stubs that remain, puffs of communication. Even ice cream doesn’t interest her. This business of being old must weigh heavily on her soul.

A certain melancholy has settled over her features. Three days of sleep have made the skin around her eyes translucent again, but it doesn’t glow like before. Her face reminds me of the Renaissance paintings she tried so hard to get me to appreciate. I feel as if my extroverted mother has retreated into herself and it makes me sad.

At one point, Bea does recite poetry, only she gets stuck on a certain line, which she repeats over and over, as if to possess it completely: “Each in a separate star …”

When she notices I am paying attention, she explains in the matter-of-fact voice of a child, “Each in a separate star … means we are all going to be in Heaven.”

I am surprised because Heaven is not a concept I can remember her ever mentioning.

Out of curiosity, I measure her wrist. Five inches around. Mine is 7; Sven’s, 8. Her hands are dreadfully cold.

“When the bones grow old, the blood runs cold,” I say, a phrase she used to repeat over and over.

“Shakespeare,” she lisps, still cognizant.

I pull the cover up around her chin, so the fleece touches her face, the way she likes it.

“I don't understand why you are here. Why do you care for me this way?” she asks suddenly, the most words she has said all day.

“You took care of me when I was a baby. It seems normal for me to take care of you.”

A faint smile crosses her lips. Her eyelids grow heavy.

“Each in a separate star,” I hear her whisper as I close the door.

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