Extracts from ‘Limbo’ a continuous journal 2006-
I see her face reflected in the wing mirror. All of the harsh observations I have made and will continue to make, are swept away as I see her face go through a series of gentle transformations from sad and lost to hopeful as the sun warms her skin.
Back at the house. All the curtains are drawn and every door to every room, closed shut. It feels and smells like a lonely place.
Food arrives and there is no indication that the food placed before her is in any way different to that which she thought she had ordered less than ten minutes previously.
We have been coming to this cafe every Saturday and some week days for months. I draw her attention to the changes by way of trying to engage her in the here and now, the less abstract place where she normally seems to reside, the faraway and long ago and the possibly somewhere altogether specific to her alone.
attosecond femtosecond picosecond nanosecond microsecond millisecond second minute hour day week fortnight lunar month month quarte year common year leap year tropical year gregorian year olympiad lustrum decade indiction generation jubilee century millenium
Images from ‘Limbo’ Bus Stop/Time series
Mainly I’m ringing so that she feels connected to someone as well as checking to see that everything is alright, that her day went okay, was manageable, emotionally and practically. To see if she has any problems. I’m also listening for any signs of change in behaviour or speech. Or anything really.
races through her
wracking it with
where she is
the cries rise up
out of her
quaking body like
fraction of time
known only to
All images and text: Sandra Cross 2006-
Before going out to Rearsby to visit M, I pass, as so often, through the reassuring arms of M & S. Today, February 28, the rails are full of really uplifting colours and patterns. The look is Spring. As I walk through the garments, I feel a surge of warmth and wish that Mum could experience this. She would love to wander and drink in the splendour of the new and colourful. When I reach Rearsby, I see nature’s signs of seasonal change. There are little clumps of daffodils just coming through on the verges of the main road. I’ve switched my routine intentionally today. I need to create changes where I can. Visiting in the morning, just after 10.45 means that not only are the duty staff different but the residents’ mood is too. Not because of the staff, because of the time of day. Lyndsey greets me and mentions the time difference. There’s a group of four residents playing dominoes with a volunteer at a table in the centre of the sitting room. The sounds of people saying: ‘I’ve got a one and a blank,’together with the gentle chatter which accompanies the game, is really pleasing. Lyndsey brings a chair over. Mum has a strawberry milkshake. She’s pleased to see me and when I leave the room temporarily and return to her side, she says: ‘I didn’t expect to see you today.’ Mum’s language and being are like this today. She struggles in places and in others is sharp and exact. She wants to draw my attention to something on the other side of the room and in so doing, upends the milkshake in her hand all over her big blue cardigan. Lyndsey takes this off asking me if I’ll be taking it away with me to wash. Yes, I will, and brings some more milkshake over for Mum. I go to M’s room and get her lovely striped cardigan and a scarf. As I help Mum into this, she says what lovely colours the cardigan is made up of. ‘Thank you dear,’ Mum says once I’ve buttoned up the front for her. For the next hour and a half Mum refers to me repeatedly as Sandra. The magazine we’re looking through is, I think, called BLUE – Mum’s favourite colour. ‘Beautiful head of hair. Beautiful woman,’ says Mum ever-appreciative of attractiveness in all its guises. The magazine is a mix of clothing for men, women and children, together with all sorts of household items. When we reach a photograph of a bed and Mum says: ‘Looks nice and comfortable,’ or some such. I counter with: ‘Do you sleep well?’ I hardly ever ask Mum questions because I assume that it won’t go anywhere. Today, in answer to this question Mum says something that almost knocks me over. ‘Not unless I’m with Bill.’ Mum hasn’t mentioned Dad’s name for I don’t know how long, but there he is, keeping her warm and safe at night. We’re looking at a small boy in the magazine. ‘You’ve never had any more have you?’ Mum asks as though I’m one of her sisters I imagine asking if I’ve had another child. We stop to look at a young girl. ‘I like the whole child’s appearance.’ Every photo ellicits a memory or feeling. ‘There’s some handsome girls aren’t there.’ A couple of close-ups of a model’s face and eye make-up in particular has M reading out the title of the piece: ‘All About Blue’ adding her own: ‘There’s some good eyes there.’ Meaning the make-up’s applied well. I ask Mum if she’s hungry, just having overheard a carer telling a resident what’s for lunch. I mention the dish to M: roast turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips and green beans. The domino-playing lady said she’d rather not have parsnips. Later on, I mentioned lunch again and Mum says: ‘Oh yes. Well I try to do…’ I don’t know what the next part of what she said was, but she is suggesting that she looks after her own meals. Another first for a long time came when Mum said to me, perhaps imagining me to be one of her sisters: ‘I wonder what my Dad’s doing whilst you’re out.’ The magazine is open at a double page spread. On one side is a woman, on the other, a huge image of a tube of make-up. Mum says something scrambled like: ‘They had such going on when they were young…’I enter into her mindspace with: ‘Do you know them then?’ ‘Well yes, I know them,’ Mum suggests. Horace opposite rises from his seat. Mum, not missing a beat says: ‘Old boy getting up!’ This mis-match in time, ie Mum not realising that Horace and she are probably the same age is further confused by a description of Ron, who must be of a similar vintage. ‘That fella’s gone to sleep!’ I say he’s having a snooze before lunch. ‘Poor thing!’ M says mock-sarcastically. ‘What will he do when he gets older?’ Annie reaches out for a zimmer. She’s sitting next to Mum who bats Annie’s hand away without actually touching it. Annie wonders what is going on. The situation is sorted out by Lyndsey. Annie had said: ‘I’m doing my best but…’ Sweet Annie said to M: ‘What did you say?’ Mum in her best teacher voice said: ‘Very little!’ Doris is to my left. I hear her say: ‘I want to go home now.’ Strangely, from the TV nest, I hear a woman talking about the house she lived or lives in to another woman. I turn to look at the TV and see striped bands across the screen. The volume is very low too. Grape lady Bet and her reclining companion are seated behind us. ‘Where’s my bag to put this (scarf) in.’ Handbag! I haven’t heard this word for I don’t know how long. It used to be the bane of M’s life. Mum reaches down and very politely and slightly, looks inside my bag and then stops. Doris is on her way to the loo with two carers, each one holds one of Doris’ hands. Mum, looking at Doris from the rear says: ‘They’re helping that young man to make sure he’s alright. Well at least that’s what it looks like to me.’ ‘You’ve done your bit have you?’ Mum asks me after I’ve written something in my notebook. ‘Do you want to have a look?’ I ask Mum about the Waitrose mag. ‘Thank you Sandra. I had a look before!’ Brilliant – a memory. Then scrambled again with: ‘Look at her with the kids in there!’ A photograph of a woman with a bike and a basket full of roses which Mum is taking to be babies?? Back on track with an observation of a model looking very alluring in DKNY underwear. ‘There’s a youngster well undressed. They have some nice clothes don’t they!’ said quite voluntarily, no stimulation from me. It’s approaching lunchtime and residents are becoming active. Able-bodied types make their own way to various tables. Others are winched and delivered to table. Staff are really pressed, practically running at certain points when a wobbly type tries to get up aided and they happen to be doing something else at the time. May/Marjorie 2 is leaning on her zimmer with her head down saying: ‘Close that kitchen door.’ ‘Doris! Doris!’ Lyndsey runs across the room to help Doris. She gets her to sit in a wheelchair which Doris doesn’t like at all and gets a bit angry about. Once settled at the table, Doris starts to move again and another carer calls: ‘Doris! Darling! I’m coming. Can you sit down please!’ Doris had been at a table making her funny noise which she does to amuse and engage people. The phone is ringing. Carers are hard-pressed. I tell Mum that I will be going now. ‘Ok love,’ she says and ‘Take care’ before adding: ‘Take him with you!’ She’s referring to her most prized dog/duck who she is normally so protective of and doesn’t like others to touch. I kiss Mum and tell her I’ll be back soon. Extremely pressed carer whose name I don’t know, runs to answer the phone before letting me out.