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One of our usual conversations:
– Who of my family died?
– No Mom ask who is still alive, it is the shorter list.
– Any of my siblings still alive?
– No Mom, you were the youngest and you’ll be 100 in a couple of months.
– Really? How did I do that?
My stock answer is in Arabic. Whenever you lose a member of your family people have a phrase of condolence which says “the remainder to your life”. البقية في حياتك My stock answer was always that as she had lost most of her family, she kept gathering all those remainders which accumulated to her present number of years. This, thank God, tickles her sense of humor and a potential half hour of depression is averted.
Another stock conversation is every time we sit down to lunch. This is the one meal we have together, sitting at the table. The conversation usually starts with:
– Is your brother back?
A year and a half ago my brother went to New York to be with his daughter when she gave birth to her first child. He was there for a couple of weeks and has been back and abroad several times since, but still to her he is still abroad during that particular journey. Five minutes later after explaining all the above, she has a bite or two, then asks: is your brother back yet. Second time around my answer is just a yes. A pause then:
– Why don’t you want to tell me what happened to Cookie (her dog). How did she die?
– She is not dead, she is downstairs eating.
– Why are you lying to me? So up I go, call the dog, and only when she appears does she believe that she is alive.
Another stock conversation is:
– What is the name of that woman (her nurse). I tell her.
– She is no good!
– Why Mom?
– I don’t like the way she talks to me, she is too familiar!
– What did she say?
– I cannot remember.
– Ok when did this happen?
– Just now.
– Mom we haven’t seen the woman in a couple of hours.
– No she was just here and I don’t want her anymore.
– Ok Mom, give me a chance to find a replacement and we’ll get rid of her.
– When we go back we should take the cats with us.
– We are now living here Mom.
– Really, haven’t we just arrived yesterday?
– No Mom we’ve been living here for 11 years.
– No way! Did we bring all our clothes?
– Yes Mom.
– I want to go visit, I miss the old house.
– Ok Mom I’ll arrange for a night to be spent there, but you know it’ll be difficult to take Cookie.
– Never mind, I don’t want to go, too many painful memories there, but if you insist we go I will go.
– No Mom I don’t need to go.
– Don’t cancel your going on my behalf, it won’t kill me to spend one night there.
– No Mom I don’t need to go.
– Ok if you are sure.
– What is this area we are at? I tell her the name.
– Is it by the sea?
– No it is in the desert.
– Whose house is this?
– Ours.
– Do I have a room here?
-Yes your own room and your own bathroom.
– Good… Where are we? What is the name of this area?
-Do you have people coming today?
– No, I have Cineclub tomorrow.
– Ok if they come I shall go sit in my room.
– Why Mom? They’ll be downstairs and won’t disturb you.
– No I might be in the way so I will just lock myself in my room.
-No Mom, no need for that. They won’t come upstairs, you stay comfortably here.
– Do you have people coming in today?
– Why don’t you go out?
– Mom I just came back from spending the day out.
– I don’t want to keep you from enjoying yourself.
– You don’t Mom, I go out whenever I want to.
Later in the day
– Aida, don’t go and leave me.
– Mom I am just going down for a dip in the pool.
– Can I see you from up here?
– Yes just step out on the terrace and you’ll see me.
– Is there anybody with you?
– No I am swimming alone.
– Ok don’t take too long, I worry.
– I’ll just be an hour.
– No too long, come back quickly.
– Ok Mom.
– Are you upset with me?
– No Mom
– I feel that I have done something to upset you.
– No Mom nothing happened
– ok but just in case I did something, don’t be upset with me.
– Mom, you haven’t done anything and I am not upset, I am reading.
Two minutes later
– Are you upset with me?
– No Mom I am reading
– Well just in case, I am asking you not to be upset with me.
– Mom, nothing happened and I am not upset, but I’ll keep that for next time you upset me. Now I’ve had it in advance.
Two minutes later
– Are you upset with me?
– No Mom, I am just going to get a drink of water
I go to my room, close my door, into the bathroom, close the door and let one strong scream rip. Wash my hands. Take a couple of deep breaths, then go back again for another round.