My new BFF: Alain the Plumber #JusJoJan Day 5 – Gurgle

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

“No, no, no!” I wailed as I stood, sink stopper in hand, listening for the healthy gurgle of water draining from the sink and gushing down the pipes to wherever it is dirty dish water goes. Instead, there was only silence as I watched the dirty dish water circle painfully-slowly and lazily in the sink.

This is a familiar situation in our house. Because the slant of the pipes is not steep enough, every few years, debris accumulates along the way and clogs the pipes. But this was New Year’s Eve. In a pandemic. It’s as if the debris conspired to gather for a clandestine celebration just to spite us.

I asked Ben to come and take a look. He poked around in the sink and … success! Slowly but steadily the water drained and disappeared to wherever it is that dirty dish water goes. Then, a few hours later, I discovered exactly where it is that dirty dish water goes – at least when the pipes are clogged.

I opened the top of our washing machine to do a load of laundry and there it was. Clearly, this was a job for a professional. But again, it was New Year’s Eve. In a pandemic. What plumber in his right mind would want to celebrate the end of one of the worst years we have known by being elbow-deep in dirty water?

Thank goodness for small miracles!  Small Miracle #1:  One of Ben’s clients is a plumber who lives close by; Small Miracle #2: His wife/assistant answered the phone – on December 31st!  Small Miracle #3: Alain, the plumber in question, came and fixed the problem within an hour.

Pandemic restrictions or not, he was already in our house and it was New Year’s Eve. “Offer the man a glass of wine,” I whispered to Ben. And so it came to be that we gratefully toasted the end of 2020 (safely physically distanced) and welcomed 2021 with Alain the plumber!

Written for Just Jot It January’s word for Day 5: Gurgle.

Snapshots

March 7, 2020

I look at the picture I snapped of my mother yesterday and it just makes me sad.  I don’t know why I took it and now I wish I hadn’t.

When I arrived at her door, she greeted me with the Québécois two-cheek kiss. Then her eyes quickly went to the nylon lunch bag I carried. I bring lunch on my weekly visits and it’s always a treat – something she loves but is rarely served at her seniors’ residence.

Her eyes widened with glee when I took out pizza, hot and fragrant with the scent of pepperoni. It’s disconcerting to see child-like joy beaming from an aging parent’s cloudy, sunken eyes, but it made me smile. At 93, the things that bring her joy are few and far between. Pizza is a small price to pay.

After we ate, I took out a coloring book of cats. My mother loves cats. The Christmas after my father passed away, I bought her a tiny Himalayan kitten she named Frosty. That cat had a mean streak but she catered to its every whim. Frosty left this earth a few years ago and my mother cried for her as much as she did for any human she ever loved and lost.

“Do you want to colour with me?” I asked. “Sure!” she said with enough enthusiasm that I believed her. My mother is very good at hiding what’s going on in her head because it helps to cover the memory gaps. Gaps that used to be tiny, hairline fractures but are increasingly like faults left behind by an earthquake.

We colored and chatted until I stopped and moved to the couch behind her. That’s when I snapped the picture. In it, the thinning hair where her head touches her pillow lies flat against her scalp. One rebellious lock sticks up in the air. She is wearing charcoal gray jogging pants, a worn cardigan, white gym socks and slippers.  Except for her adult-size, she looks like a child hunched over, absorbed in a school project. 

JUNE 7, 2020

I saw my mother today for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown in March. So much has changed since then. There was no two-cheek kiss greeting when I arrived; instead, mask in place, I stepped back when she opened the door. Only when she went back into the apartment did I follow at a safe distance. She has trouble wearing a mask, so I made sure to stay distant during my whole visit.

Instead of food, I brought gifts: a blouse and a cashmere shawl in her favourite color – pink. I sat on the same couch as I had in February and asked her to brush her hair, put on some lipstick and change into the blouse and shawl.

“Why?” she asked.

“You’ll see,” I said.

When she came back, I took out my cell phone. “You look so pretty that we’re having a little photo shoot.”

The look of pleasure on her face at this sliver of flattery and attention pierced my heart.

“Wait, let me brush my hair again!” she said, laughing like a young girl.

Later, I deleted the photo I took in February. For three months, I feared this could be the last image I had of her. Then I printed the one I took today. In it, my mother is smiling as she clutches the shawl close to her. Her lips are shiny with a shade of lipstick that almost matches the shawl.  Her smile is self-conscious but pleased and reaches all the way to her eyes. She looks beautiful.

“Lonely is not being alone, it’s the feeling that no one cares.”  – Author Unknown

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Mother Earth’s Side of the Story

I badly needed to go for a walk yesterday.  For me, it is a physical act of reflection, an active meditation and a way to make decisions  by “walking on it” instead of “sleeping on it”.

As I walked, a brisk wind rubbed against my cheeks. Then it intensified and roared through the  trees, making the branches sway and dance. Finally, it tapered off to a soft whisper. And I suddenly had the image of Mother Earth, fully and truly exhaling for the first time in decades, her long expel ending in a contented sigh.  In the short respite that followed, I imagined  the whole sphere of planet earth slowly expanding as she inhaled deeply before letting her breath out in another gust of wind.

She could finally relax. For decades she had been trying to save man from himself and tried her best to keep up with the rapid changes he had imposed on her.  But while she was busy trying to stamp out a forest fire that raged on one continent, a tsunami washed away part of another one.  When she tried to hold back a hurricane threatening to sweep up people and buildings in its path, an earthquake brought destruction elsewhere. Until, finally, she just couldn’t be everywhere at once. And that’s how one microscopic virus escaped her notice. But instead of destroying the land, oceans,  forests,  fauna and flora,  the virus was attacking man himself.

She had wept at first, like a mother who had failed her child.  Businesses were shut down and people were confined to their homes. In all corners of the world, many were sick and dying.  Others were terrified of going into debt because the world as we knew it was at a standstill. The virus had brought man to his knees but she was just too tired to help.   So, man would have to deal with this himself and for now, she would rest .

So she sat back, took deep breaths and looked at the changed world. The skies were almost empty of planes. In one part of the world, cars were in front of their owners’ homes instead of idling in traffic in the cities and polluting the air.  Entire families played basketball together in their driveways in the middle of a weekday. Couples  walked down the street in the fresh air instead of on electric-powered carpets in airless gyms.

Elsewhere, people stood on their balconies and raised their voices in song. They smiled at each other from a distance and shouted words of encouragement.  We can get through this together, even while we have to stay apart was the universal message.

Mother Earth sat up in astonishment.  Could this be what had been needed all along?  And then she felt it, that little glimmer of hope that all would be well. And she closed her eyes and slept while she trusted man with the task of triumphing over the tiny virus that had wreaked havoc all over the world.