This June I took up a challenge to flash write a little true story in under 250 words and in about an hour. The contest was put on by the Canada Writers in Victoria and, as always in that town, it drew a crowd of participants. Hey! I've got an honourable mention! It was good practice and even more, a way to pull back memories of that crazy time after the caregiving was over and before I decided I must write a book. Here's my flash truth.
“She looks familiar”, I thought, glancing her way.
It was fleeting because I needed to be somewhere else. This shrivelled old lady, wrapped in a rebozo against the Mexican morning’s chill, barred my way. She was not in a hurry.
“Buenas dias,” I said politely, peering at my watch and shrugging. Would she understand I had no time to talk?
I sniffed. That smell was just like Mom. On good day mornings in my months as Mom’s caregiver, the mix of cigarettes and coffee on her breath as I kissed her said she’d got out of bed, filled her percolator and lit a Rothmans or two. For now, Mom was not frozen in pain. It would be a good day.
And what about this senora’s back? It hunched in the same way Mom’s had. In the old days, kneading Mom’s hot spot signalled to me loud and clear if she was too sore for a planned outing. Ow! meant let me be.
Earlier that morning, I had been shocked to see my favourite picture of Mom ping onto my screensaver and get stuck there. Her head was thrown back in that signature belly laugh. Seeing it, my two year carapace of stoicism had split wide open and grief spilled out. I’d sobbed for hours. Now, looking at this old woman, I felt free.
She threw her head back, just as Mom did, and laughed that same deep throat joy. Suddenly, I knew.
“Sea feliz,” the crone rasped, backing away from me.
“OK Mom, if you say so. I will.”
I'm wondering. Has anyone reading this had an apparition from a dead parent?
it's about the journey
Caregiving was my first and finest journey. Writing this book about it was the next. It lends support to other caregivers who say, "that happened to me too." I'm on another journey now, advocating for caregiving and an activist to bring on better ways of thriving as we age. It's all brought me purpose and meaning, Come along and get some of that too! I'd love to share your stories. Boldly speaking out about our experiences makes us all part of the change we want to see. So
Join me! Let's talk!