Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Mother

Continued from Muse 6

Making a mess was counter-intuitive to her constitution. She was tidy, OCD tidy.  Her small villa impeccable, sheets changed weekly, the bathrooms carrying the acrid stench of bleach on spotless white porcelain. Towels folded exactly, lengthways in half, then in thirds and neatly piled on the shelf ready for use. Her kitchen benchtops of black granite gleaming, their tiny shards of silver polished daily with a microfibre cloth and Windex. Taps gleaming and the stainless steel appliances bore no fingerprints or smudges once so evident when the house was full. But now, the house was empty. Husband gone, children moved out, she was alone. 

Housework had become a joy, a burner of time and a distraction from loneliness. She wet-wiped skirting boards and removed every speck of dust. She vacuumed daily with a 'pet hair' Dyson even though it had been years since a pet had graced her pristine environment.  She damp mopped her unscratched timber floors weekly or after a spill. Her crippling arthritis meant her hands were less steady, causing spills and cleanses, rinse, repeat. Her windows clear of bugs or fingerprints. The glass-paned bi-fold doors so clean, someone could walk through them, barely noticing the barrier save the small white rectangles painted across the centre to warn the unsuspecting.

The garden was small and it's L shaped lawn careened around the oiled veranda in a perfect 90 degree angle. The Moraya hedges dutifully clipped with sharpened blades on a fortnightly basis to keep their rectangular shape and neat trim. The couch lawn perfectly watered, lush and green, yet no deck chair left indents in its velvet surface. No puppy excavated graves for unchewed bones. No children ran beneath her sprinklers leaving muddy footprints. She maintained it for herself, since no guests visited. Many a balmy night, she'd sit in her director's chair admiring it's verdancy and lamenting it's lack of use. What's the point of a garden empty of joy? No-one ever answered.

When all was to her satisfaction, she'd clean her car. A modest Toyota Corolla long due for replacement but these days, she didn't drive often. Least of all at night. The glare and failing eyesight had shattered her confidence and where would she go anyway? The upholstery hoovered, the interior glass clear of smudge, the dash and wheel gleaming after their coating of Armor All. It smelled and for all intents and purposes looked like a brand new car.  It's exterior relieved of the small amount of dust it ever collected. She never drove in bad weather.

She'd taken to blogging briefly, hoping that her clever words might have encouraged new relationships, a friend or two. Indeed, for a few years it appeared to do so until her life experiences waned and she found less and less to write about that might have been of interest to others. Her tone became sarcastic, cutting, sardonic and bitter. She hadn't had a holiday for years, barely left the confines of home, had no anecdotes of grandchildren - no grandchildren. She launched into politics and social injustice on a site where her readers were more interested in vegan living and how to make cheesecakes.  It bored her readers and they left. It began to bore her and she left.

She adopted social media to vent her spleen but spleen-venting had become the norm, everyone singing the same tune, using the same words, protesting the same issues. No longer did she stand out as a voice in the wilderness, just began to drown in the droning of complaint another whinger in the cacophony of discontent. She deactivated her account. To be honest, it was only there so that her kids would know she was still alive. If she didn't post for more than two days, they'd call. Otherwise, 'crickets'.

She studied the knife block, withdrew a filleting knife from it's sturdy grasp and ran it lightly across the base of her palm. It needed sharpening. Massaging it against a dampened carborundum, she restored it to it's former glory. She prepared meals for one. Tiny fine china bowls laid out with specific ingredients; finely sliced shallots and chili, dried cardamon and crushed garlic. Thinly sliced capsicum, celery and zucchini, diligently measured to reflect the preciseness of each recipe. She took a photograph and uploaded it to Instagram, knowing full-well that nobody she cared about would like it. Forcing herself to actually prepare a meal, provided some stimulation but eating the fruits of her labor was difficult. Her appetite for food, life, was waning.

She ventured into the bathroom and surveyed a little used cupboard looking for a razor blade. Safety razors, a spatula for smearing wax on a body that no-one touched. A make-up case filled with lipsticks and foundation that she had no reason to use, two tubes of long-dried mascara, a product that couldn't enhance her now diminutive lashes, a a variety of lotions that had failed to revive her youthful complexion.  She raised her head and talked to herself in the wall-width mirror.

"You idiot, nobody uses proper razor blades any more...unless..."

The sewing basket had been given to her by her grand-mother eons ago. A small wicker half-basket with a fabric drawstring cover. She hadn't touched it since the days of darning socks or taking up school children's hems. This new disposable society had no call for the skills of a seamstress. These days, you either take alterations to the Chinese lady up the street who will fix a zip or a hem for $10 or just go to Best and Less and buy another. She remembered instructions that her grandma had given, many years ago when using an old treadle sewing machine.

"To prevent unrolling from the spool, be sure you tuck the loose end of thread into the spool notch under each threading. If the notch has been knocked off, slit another one with a razor blade...."

It was the only time as a child, she was permitted to handle anything sharp.

She loosened the thread around the basked, tipped the contents onto a perfectly polished rosewood dining table and began fingering through the contents. A stitch ripper, spools from a long-gone manual sewing machine. A plethora of bobbins and threads. An old tobacco tin containing buttons. A pack of razor blades. The green Gillette 7-O'clock package faded, each blade wrapped in it's own protective sheath of greaseproof paper. Six blades in the pack, only one was missing.

She liked the modern baths. Hers was deep enough but the plug hole still small, it took time for water to disappear down the drain. She could submerge herself in one and feel the slow withdrawal of the 'tide line' from her body as the water edged it's way into the drain. It was a strangely titillating feeling having your body, once embraced by heat and bubbles, slowly revealed by the retreating water. This was going to be the way.

True to form, her daughter had missed her online presence, IM'd, messaged, DM'd, PM'd, Instagrammed and on the fourth day rang the doorbell. She gingerly rotated the brass door knob and released the latch from its unlocked position.  A quick survey of the living room and a call for 'mum' had elicited no response, just the sound of a slow running tap. 

A prettily ribboned envelope and a large pink concertina file had been strategically placed upon the coffee table. As she read, the blood drained from her face, tears welled in her eyes. A letter crafted with such erudite vernacular, a piece of poetry hand-written with care, outlined the placement of Wills, insurances and investments and their resting place within the pink concertina file.  

It's closing paragraph and carefully crafted words providing consolation that this was a choice, a choice denied by modern medicine but a choice nonetheless that her mother had a right to make. 

She dialled 000 without checking the source of the slowly flowing water.

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 7 "Clever Words and Cunning Blades"