In less than four months, the change is profound. Mum is wasting away bit by bit. A necrotic wound on her hip is slowly rotting. In April her hip broke and was repaired. Since then she can no longer walk, she is incontinent, she hardly speaks and when she does she seldom speaks in a context, she is bird thin, and she sits, day after day, parked in front of a fake wood fire and a television screen.

 

She recognises dad and sometimes she knows who I am. She lives in tiny, small world, muddled and foggy. Sometimes we feed her meals to her. She is better using her fingers.

 

She picks at scabs, she folds and unfolds the napkin, she is bored and sedated. She is no longer in our care and we have to put our trust in this untrustworthy system. They mush her drugs up in apple puree. When I ask what is in the mush the carers are secretive. “Coloxyl and Panadol,” she says when pushed but everyone is so sedated on this particular Saturday morning that I suspect there is something else in the mix. On the weekends there are less staff and the residents seem less distracted.

 

Dad and I are visiting. We have joined her by the fake fire.

She looks at me, a puzzled expression on her face.

“You won’t get two legs out of that,” she says.

Dad has no idea what she is talking about but I do.

“Are you sure,” I say, “If not I think I can get some more material.”

 

We are transported back to the lounge room. I have brought my sewing machine down to Geelong and we are about to have a sewing day. We are on the floor on our hands and knees. Material has been folded down the centre line and a pattern is laid out on it. We haven’t pinned it yet. Mum is moving the pieces, and refolding the fabric in an attempt to get a pair of trousers out of fabric that is too short. I haven’t bought quite enough.

 

Mum was brilliant at this. She would always work out a way to make the pattern fit. When we sewed together she always did the hard bits: collars, cuffs, setting in sleeves.

 

Yesterday my daughter came down to visit me. She brought with her the fabric from Africa that she bought when she was there last month. She asked if we could make some cushion covers with her.

 

A little bit of mum alive and well.

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