Cyprus is an extraordinary place. It has a pulse of its own and I feel a perpetual oneness with its rhythm. Right now I'm sitting in mum's room. The clock is ticking and I can hear the Greek chatter of the kitchen assistants down the hall as they prepare today’s lunch. The sliding patio doors in mum’s room are open and there’s a soft breeze wafting the curtains. The heavy scent of lemon blossoms permeates everywhere and from outside I can hear the chirrup-chirrup of sparrows as they bathe furiously in the dust bowl of the “lawn”. In the distance is the hum of the morning rush-hour traffic meandering its way into Nicosia. Rush hour traffic? Traffic is always in a rush in Cyprus – regardless of what hour it is! This always strikes me as odd as most Cypriots are generally laid-back and late for everything.
I’ve come to see mum early today as I was thinking I’d take her out for a Cyprus adventure! During my previous two visits mum had described in excited detail how she’d been out visiting people – her cheeks were rosy and her eyes twinkled as she told me, with such enthusiasm, that she’d had a lovely time. I doubted the authenticity of her tales as she was still wearing her bedclothes and slippers (at 4 in the afternoon) on one of the days that she’d “been out”. I took this as a sign that mum is now well enough to be taken out again… and would indeed like to go out for a while. Alas, mum’s trip out will not be today.
It’s a few weeks since I last wrote about mum so I guess it’s time for an update. For those who don’t already know, my mother has Alzheimer’s and her condition has been deteriorating gradually over the past few years. She’s in a care home just outside Nicosia. It’s a good place that is immaculately clean, has lovely home cooked food, cheerful staff and, unlike many care homes in the UK, it does not smell of wee and cabbage! Mum has her own room with her own en suite and is surrounded by family photos and a few personal belongings.
It’s around 9 in the morning and mum has got back into bed, having been fed, watered and washed. She’s not feeling her best today and is not up for a trip out. Conversation is minimal… I say “conversation” but that’s not really what I mean as talking with mum is generally a one-sided chat these days and reduced, as it is, to questioning and answering sessions – the answers often being of the monosyllabic sort. On the bedside table in front of me is mum's teeth receptacle - I haven't managed to persuade mum to part with her teeth of late and so the plaque is surely cementing itself. I look at mum then gaze out the window at the feral cats chasing the sparrows, then back at mum asleep on her back, mouth gaping open, teeth still inside. Sometimes, mum smiles when she is napping and I often wonder what lovely places she visits in Nina’s world – certainly not the hospital! Mum had a couple of hospital visits earlier in the year for various scans – the prognosis is not so good I’m afraid to say but after years of twenty-plus fags a day it’s hardly surprising!
Mum shuffles around on the bed trying to get into a more comfortable position. I can hear the chunterings of an elderly resident grumbling and groaning as an assistant berates her (probably trying to get her dressed) “oossoo, oossoo korimou” (loosely translated - pipe down mygirl). Time for me to go I think but before I do I gently wake mum, kiss her goodbye and remind her, again, that she has a special visitor coming soon. “Who, Who?” mum asks excitedly. “See if you can guess”, I reply. “Are you bringing your mother to see me?” Actually, she’s already here mum!
I probably never told you that my mum, like the Queen, has two birthdays (perhaps save that story for another time). Evidently I now have two mothers!