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Communication

Su Lum

“I get confused,” my almost 98-year-old mother says. “I keep thinking I’m UP the hill when I know that I’m really DOWN the hill.” That was a bad day for a phone conversation, but there are good days when her mind is perfectly clear, when she can hear me and I can understand her. “After all this time wanting to die, I’ve decided I really want to live until election day just so I can vote against George Bush,” she announced cheerfully and rationally, a few days after thinking she was up the hill.She has wild dreams, probably drug-assisted, and often dozes off over a book, The New York Times or her CDs of the five Harry Potters. For some time she has said she feels “disengaged,” which I think of as being in her own space between worlds.”It’s a small circle,” she says, referring to the living world. The circle is her bed in her room, a downstairs bed/bath addition to the house that she designed when my father had a stroke. He never got to use it, but it saved my mother from a nursing home and she has always been thankful for that.Two Jamaican ladies care for her around the clock, her friends (“The ones who are left”) drop by, fellow quilters and potters, her hospice nurse Barbara, Sister Pamela, 85-year-old housekeeper Katherine, Mike the lawn and gardener man, the neighbors. “I had serro – ha! Listen to me, ‘serro’ – I mean I had SEVERAL visitors last week,” then names them. Her view of the room is expanded by a full-length, milky, mounted mirror that belonged to her grandmother, MaMA, a formidable woman born at the end of the Civil War, whom I remember well. “The mirror makes my world a little bigger.”She has a deep, tiled, 10-foot-long indoor window garden crowded with pots of plants, which she oversees from the bed. She often loses words, but she knows every one of those plants personally and can watch her yard and the changing seasons from the windows.”The woodchuck family is flourishing,” she says of her old nemesis from her gardening days. Tell her that a woodchuck has been run over in front of the house and she’ll say, “Good riddance!” I have a flash memory of my last visit in May. My mother is drinking Ensure out of a mug decorated with a whispy flower child. She taps her fingernail twice on the words written on the mug, “A grandmothers’, love is very precious to me.” She doesn’t complain, just gives a little sigh with a twinkle in her eye as commentary on the misplaced apostrophe and comma. I got her a copy of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” hot off the press.Now she says she sleeps most of the time, the days and nights bending together. The New Jersey side of the family is in Maine, so August is a little lonely. “I wish I had full-size action figures of all of you here,” she said.Su Lum is a longtime local who is going out in September. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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