“Happy Mother’s day!” she says, standing in the front-porch. “These are for you,” thrusting two balloons in my hand, tied with ribbons and a dangling, silvered funky fish. ‘Love you, Mum,’ emblazoned on both.
“One from each of us, Mother. Only … I thought you might be feeling a bit down today. The blue one’s from me and the red one’s from Andy.” Red, her sister’s favourite colour.
Mothering Sundays, until this Mothering Sunday, had always meant lunch at Andrea’s. Juliet never has perfected the culinary art, something at which her sibling excelled.
Occasionally, we’d picnic at the Butterfly Park if the weather was clement, but whatever … before, there was always big sis directing operations. A born organiser was Andrea.
Not to say Juliet isn’t. Far from it, but with sisters, pecking order is everything. We go on through to the lounge and decide where to put them.
The balloons bib and bob either side of the fireplace as sunlight streams through the window – its warmth coaxing and cajoling them to liberate themselves.
“Next weekend you must take them outside and set them free. Andrea promised she’d be there, just the other side of the horizon. She needs to prove it to us, Mum. OK?”
“OK,” I parrot.
Two weekends later and they’re still in my lounge; decidedly deflated.
It’s now or never time.
Juliet will ask me any day soon. ‘Have you done it, Mum?’
I couldn’t lie. Not to her. She always knows when I’m lying.
In the garden, I untie the funky fishes. My grip on the balloons tightens in the skittish wind. My heart pounds.
Be rational. Let go. They are only balloons after all. If only.
I remember ‘letting them both go’ years since when they started their nursing careers at the age of eighteen. How I missed them, but they came home often – laundry in tow.
A sun burst illuminates the afternoon sky.
Andrea would scold me if you could see me today, dithering as usual. I could almost hear her. She never minced her words.
“Mother, for goodness sakes! Do it, Mum. Let the fucking things go! If you think this is difficult, imagine how it was for me.
I wanted to hold on to my life no matter what. I didn’t want to let the cancer win but there came a time when I had to let go. That’s what you’ve got to do now. If not for yourself, for Juliet.”
A sudden gust of wind snatches the ribbons from my hands. Juliet momentarily flies higher but Andrea pretty soon catches up the distance.
Together, elatedly they dance and I look on; watch them disappear as they meld with the horizon.
I catch my breath.
I try to imagine what it feels like to be God. A responsibility I wouldn’t want for all the tea in China. Make a lousy God, me. Everyone would live forever if I had his job.
It got me to thinking that maybe there is a greater force. One even He answers to.
Four months down the road, I’m done with asking, ‘Why?’ Trying to make some sense of it all. I guess it’s much like asking the wind why it blows.
But, who am I trying to kid? Truth is – I never will stop asking.
I walk back to the house and phone Juliet. Just to hear her voice.