The Pearl Giver Ch5
By lisa h
I arrived outside Amy’s door at 9am and waited. We’d developed a routine and I didn’t even need to get out the car to knock for her. She emerged, wings still on her back.
“Feeling a bit fairy today, are you?” I asked as she opened the car door, taking her wings off before climbing in.
“Yes, yes I am. The sun is out, the birds are chatting away and the flowers are blooming. What more could I ask for?” She turned to grin at me.
“How’s your mother?” I always asked this, another part of our routine.
“She’s fine, still in bed,” came the reply, but the smile faltered.
I started the drive to Clatterbridge, Veronica on my mind. Someday I was going to get to the bottom of this.
Sometime around lunchtime, I decided that today was the day.
“I would love to meet your mother one day. It’s such a shame that we always miss each other.”
Amy was in a chatty mood. It wasn’t until they started to infuse her with the third chemotherapy drug that she slowed down.
“I know. She’s ever so grateful that you’re about, helping look after me.”
“But Amy, it’s strange how she is simply never available.”
Amy didn’t answer and turned her head to stare out the window.
I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what was going on. She let me take her hands in mine. “I know something is wrong, and a problem shared is a problem halved.”
A sob escaped Amy, and before I knew it she was crying her heart out. A nurse came over and pulled the curtain around our cubicle, leaving us alone together. I held Amy close, her chest heaving, until she pulled back and indicated at the tissue box. I pulled out a couple and handed them to her.
“I’m so sorry, Amy. I should never have pried.” I stroked her head as she dried her face, slowly regaining control.
“No, no, it’s okay. No one else has had the guts to ask. Only you.”
My heart seemed to turn cold. No one but Amy knew where Veronica was? No one? How could such a sensitive and wonderful girl like Amy be left to shoulder this mysterious burden by herself?
A nurse opened the curtains and stepped in. “Is everything alright, Amy? Is there anything I can get you? Tea, water?”
“Tea please,” she whispered. “Three sugars.”
The nurse disappeared.
“So where is she?” I asked in a small voice.
Amy opened her mouth to reply, but silenced when the nurse pulled at the curtain. “Is it okay to come in?” she asked.
I glanced at Amy for permission and received a nod. “Yes, it’s fine.” I said.
The nurse put a cup of tea on the table along with a few different packets of biscuits. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Amy nodded and the nurse disappeared.
“My mum is in a care home,” she said suddenly.
I hadn’t expected this. I’m not sure what I had expected, many scenarios had been mulled over between my husband and I, usually over a large glass of red. Mostly I thought Veronica had abandoned Amy. How do you respond to that? I stuttered out, “I’m sorry...”
Amy shrugged. “She’s been in a while now. She’s got early dementia. It hit hard and I coped at first. But then I got ill and social services came and took her away. They put her in a care home with the elderly as a stop gap, waiting for a place in the dementia unit, but she settled in so well social services never moved her.” She sipped at her tea. “I hated them for that... taking away my mother.”
“Do you visit her?” I had taken a packet of custard creams from the table, but didn’t open them. I held them tight as I waited for Amy to speak.
“I wish I could go more often, but it’s hard, what with me being ill.” Amy dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.
“You know I’d take you. You need only ask.” I reached out and patted the back of her hand.
She looked at me, her eyes impossibly big, tears gathering to fall. “You already do so much.”
I grinned. “For you, Amy, I can never do enough.” I gave her a cuddle and then sat back. “We’ll do this however you want to… or not at all. It’s entirely up to you.”
Amy nodded, using the cuff of her shirt to dry her eyes. “I want you to meet her. Who knows, maybe Mum will be at home.”
I looked at her quizzically.
“What I mean is whether she will be lucid. Sometimes you can’t get a word out of her. She just sits there, vacant, staring at a wall.” Amy picked her tea and took a sip. “When she does that I reposition her chair so it looks like she’s staring out the window. Even if it’s only pretending, at least it’s better than letting her stare at the smudges on the paintwork.” She shifted in her seat as if uncomfortable.
“I’ll do my best to help, no matter what state she’s in.” I patted her hand. “I promise.”
“There’s more…” Amy wouldn’t meet my eyes, and pulled at the tissue she was holding.
After waiting a few moments, I decided to prompt, “Yes, Amy?”
She sighed, still not looking at me and said, “She gets weird.”
Not sure how to respond to this, I didn’t say anything.
Amy shrugged. “I can’t explain it. You’ll have to see for yourself.”
I was sure Amy most certainly could explain, should she decide to, but I’d pushed my little fairy enough for one day. After nodding my agreement I opened up my little pack of biscuits. Custard creams, my favourite. We both stared out the window, not that there was much to see, just the roof of the lower level of the hospital and the treetops beyond, stretching up to be seen.
The rest of the afternoon’s chemo went quietly, with Amy dozing through the last two hours of treatment. I watched the trees in the distance as they dipped and danced in the breeze. A panic attack had tried to grab me earlier; I had no experience of dementia. I had no idea of how to deal with her mother. What had I promised myself into? The motion of the trees calmed me. This little angel managed to cope with her mother’s illness all by herself, despite all the people around her who would offer their help in a heartbeat. All I had to do was show up and comfort her after a visit to what sounded like a mostly catatonic woman.
I put my coat over my lap to try and dispel a chill that had come over me. Father gone. Mother’s mind gone. Amy herself with a tumour that would kill her one day. It was enough to throw most people into a deep depression. Yet Amy was the opposite of everything I might expect. People could learn from her. I pulled the coat up higher and watched the treetops wave back and forth. I’d be okay. I could do this. If Amy could, then I must.
Turning from the window I focussed on Amy as she dozed. An angel if ever there was one. For the first time, I wondered what I would do when she was no longer here. Then the answer came to me: smile, dance, laugh and turn circles in a meadow of flowers.