Tripping on sounds of birds outside my window, I can hear them over the swish-throb of my own heartbeat sounding in my ears, a pulsing slightly alarming and soothing all the same. I can also hear the clanking of a dish outside the closed door of my room emanating from the kitchen where I imagine my mother is sitting, skeletal and serene, in her wheelchair, gazing off through the filmy stare that inhabits her face now, the cataracts of her mind’s eye reaching some unknown space outside or inside her head that swirls and lulls the cerebral juices to twitching stillness, her jerking to and from that space in seconds like recognition of a face, an idea, a musical slice of song, a voice…. I imagine her waiting like the baby bird with beak wide open in anticipation of its mother’s nurturing tongue, depositing the meaty worm of egg or pear.
Where are you, Mom? I miss you hard like a crowbar to the back of the head.
My thoughts cannot stay on task. My self-imposed inspiration today is directed to my ears. Listen. It is nearly impossible to hear the murmur of soft utterings spoken outside my closed door, cooings enmeshed with frenetic blather-blurbs of television banter of I know not what over the din in my brain.
I hear her dully, though. She calls my mother’s name over again sweetly, as if to a child, “Doris…Doris…Are you hungry?” The answer is unintelligible, but of course she is hungry. Her mind does not remember satiation. She, who ate more for comfort than survival, dieted constantly, losing hundreds of pounds over her lifetime, and is now, ironically, the weight her doctor claims befits her small frame no one knew was there. She always felt fat, was fat because she said so, and my father confirmed, except for the time she lost fifty pounds and he said she was too skinny so brought donuts and candy home for her to eat, the very same items he would chide her for eating when he reminded her that she was a “fat ass.” His love was always a savage love.
You are a saint. I cannot blame you for checking out, Mom. I want to be where you are only too often, though I am afraid of dementia’s detritus. You are braver than I ever will be.
But back to my exercise of listening to the sounds, right here, right now, this moment. It’s no use. I cannot hear distinctly above the rhythmic swoosh in my head. It’s my heart. The sound of a moving dish slid across a wooden table, rumbling and ceramic shrill, draws me to her again and again, outside my cave haven door, tended to by caring voices and hands that are not mine, sitting alone with feet, arms and hands moving about her, tending to her every need in studious care, while her husband sleeps off the night’s numerous calls to relieve himself of the plaguing piss of the swollen prostate that stems the flow of sleep and slows his 82 year life ever so much more, each pace a step from bed to toilet to table to television.
The soft pings of my electronic devices notify me that someone has me in mind, has read something I wrote and appreciates or takes issue with it. The whistle of “hey, answer me” has sounded also from my phone and I know that I must answer that one, feeling it in my bones and the back of my neck, even though it is just playful pointless slinging ping pong balls of inanities. I somehow believe I need the nonsense, like my bread and butter banter, countering the angst of imagined life sentences I carry submerged like an atomic sub awaiting the directive to fire.
But now I can hear the dogs bark outside in the distance, loud enough to distract me from the door bell ringing from my phone–simple email notification of stuff like yoga newsletters or soccer updates that can wait–and the murmur of my heartbeat in my ears, backdrop to the dish washing, sing song lullaby caress of Mom’s caretaker and the chirping tree creatures and the people’s pets next door and the insensate stream of yak yak from the tube and my mother’s babble, my father’s snore and my daughter’s running out, late for school, clomping down the stairs and slamming the door. I don’t actually hear but the anticipation of that last sound because her noise is not announced yet and should be–a human-made ping in the nerves from a mother’s consciousness of time, responsibilities and household goings on.
I am told it may be high blood pressure or blocked ear canals that cause that murmuring metronome reminding me that I am seething flesh, a mere mechanism of pumps and cogs and wheels of spongy muscle and sinew. I pay the tellers no mind. I like my heart beating and so the sound comforts me, synchronizing my outers and inners, recalling the always-at-hand task of staying here now with me, with us, with it all, embracing what is: the fauna and flora, birds, dogs, people I love, strangers, trees, leaves, sky, wind, vibration of the telephone and the sky, the stirring of creaking beds and limbs that dash above my head in squeaking pain of wood stretched to capacity by age, use and disrepair, this old house of ours, in our circle of suburban secret burrow and peek, safe seclusion of sound and stare.
I hear the circle of my heart. And it hears me. The world begins and ends in the heart of creation, imagination, the bonds that tie and break, the ebb and flow of living matter, all in a day’s work, in a disciplined moment of timeless listening–to life living me, us.