The Three Faces of Nina
“Wooooo” said a friend’s 1 year old son (whose dad explains that he’s a Mafia No 1 baby). You ask the baby to make his scary face and he stretches open his eyes as wide as they can possibly go, drops his jaw and sucks in his cheeks then makes a perfect O with his lips and goes “Wooooo!” This is his scary face. As a child I had an aunt who would threaten to “change her face” if we misbehaved. This was a euphemism for getting rather cross with us and putting on her angry face (it worked wonders - we were all terrified of her). When I visited my mum a few days ago she was wearing HER scary/cross face, but just for nano-moments at a time. I’ve not written about mum lately as I’ve been at a loss to find an upbeat way of saying sad things. But it’s timely that I do a posting now as she seems to be going downhill rather quickly and many people have been asking about her.
Did you ever see the movie The Three Faces of Eve? It’s about a woman who has three personalities; one is the real her but the others are somewhat good cop bad cop. It’s a bit like that with mum… occasionally I glimpse the real Nina, the one who is lucid, witty, intelligent and sometimes a bit mischievous. More often than not it’s the timid Nina, the one cocooned in dementia, lying still and quiet on her bed, seemingly managing her pain with controlled breathing while she fiddles with her wedding ring and stares at the ceiling. Occasionally I get to see the cross and angry Nina – like the one that reared her scary head the other day and grudgingly ate her food, shouted impatiently at the nurses and waved me away saying she’d had enough. I can’t blame her really as she’s very poorly and has to put up with… “These mad old people around me all day long”. “When are we going home?” she says, almost daily. A heart is a wondrous thing is it not? Mine gets broken every afternoon yet, miraculously, with the dawn of each day, it becomes whole.
There isn’t really a great deal to say about mum other than her health has deteriorated rather quickly, she has become a bit more frail but… still has that magical twinkle in her eye – sometimes… like the other day when I thought she was asleep and she opened her eyes and threw me a cheeky grin. When I sat with her on Sunday afternoon I felt an ironic sense of role reversal as I recalled how mum had spent hours nursing me through childhood asthma, bronchitis, glandular fever and other stuff. When it was my turn to be a mum I did the same for my children. I’m sure any parent has recollections of sitting beside a sick child, or a new baby, not taking your eyes off them, watching and listening to their fragile breath… sometimes even giving them a little prod to make sure they are still alive. Strangely it’s exactly the same feeling with my mum and the love is overwhelming. And so I sat with mum on Sunday observing her breathing through her nose and watching her cheeks puff in and out, like a little balloon. Her eyes were closed and she was listening to some music… tapping along sometimes with her fingers.
I’ve come to discover that music can have a calming effect on mum so I sometimes take along my laptop and “spin some tunes”. Her favourite is a recording I have of Alex singing. She says it reminds her of her mother singing and that Alex has the same sweet voice - the smile on her face is priceless. Sometimes I’ll put on a salsa tune or some tango and dance around the room - it usually makes mum smile or chuckle and I think she remembers when I used to make her dance salsa with me before she became so frail. She used to say 1, 2, 3… 5, 6, 7 in Greek and collapse in heaps of laughter.
A few days ago I thought I’d have a day off from visiting, as my brother was popping in to see mum. Half an hour into his visit, he called me to say “Rosanna, can you come as mum is asking for you.” I generally call in every day so I guess mum has got used to my visits. Apparently, she had “been round to Rosanna’s house but she wasn’t there” and she’d “knocked on the door and looked through the window but I couldn’t see her anywhere”. I haven’t seen mum for two whole days now as I’ve been unwell myself but I’ll go tomorrow and await with excited anticipation to discover which Nina will greet me – I think it might be cross Nina and it will be an absolute pleasure.