“What about this one?” I ask, holding up a pink and white striped blouse pulled from my mother’s closet.  It has seen better days. The collar is frayed, there is a light stain near a buttonhole and it is at least one size too small for her.

My mother is sitting on her bed watching me like a hawk as I rifle through her closet. She shakes her head and says firmly, “No. I might wear it again someday.” Discouraged but determined not to show it, I put the blouse back in the closet. It’s bulging with trousers, sweaters, blouses and skirts, many of which haven’t seen the light of day in years. Some can go to Goodwill and others should be thrown out, but she refuses to part with anything. I have to tread carefully, though.  I am still learning to navigate this chapter in our lives where I have become the parent and she the child.

While pretending to pick some lint off my sweater, I watch her from beneath my eyelids. The last few years have not been kind to her. (To be fair, she is 93 and did not look her age until recently.) Her face is heavily lined and dotted with age spots. Last year my brother and I insisted she get new dentures because a few of her teeth were broken and wire was poking at her gums. The elderly can be fiercely stubborn, though, when it comes to change. In the end, she caved only because we stayed strong.

She used to faithfully curl and set her hair every day; now it gets a perfunctory brushing in the morning. And the new clothing I buy her stays on hangers while she wears the old favourites I am now trying to weed out. “They’re too nice to wear just around the house,” she says. They’re not. They’re just new.

My brother, who is also active in her care, recently said to her, “What happened to my mother, the one who took pride in her appearance?”

“Ouch,” I said when he told me.

“I know, I shouldn’t have said it and I won’t do it again,” he quickly added.

It’s funny how her pride suddenly re-surfaces when other people are around. She is sitting on her bed now because her legs will no longer support her for very long. Yet when I coax her to leave the apartment to go to the common area of her residence, she refuses to take her walker. The first time, I accepted her decision. But it is a long walk to the area and it was soon clear it would be tough going without the walker. She clung to me and we took slow, small steps; yet to her, this was somehow better than being seen using a walker. I considered putting my foot down and going back for it, but I didn’t want to make her feel diminished.

I was ready for her the next time, though. When she again stated that she didn’t need her walker, I said, “Why don’t you use it? We can both put our purses on it and we won’t have to carry them.”  Because this was no reflection on her physical limitations, she agreed docilely. I learned it pays to be creative instead of insistent.

Now, I make one last attempt. I hold up a gray jacket that has decorative rhinestones and used to be part of a pantsuit. It’s not in terrible shape, but it too has seen better days. “This?” I ask hopefully. There’s a flash of uncertainty in my mother’s eyes. I hold my breath and then she says, “I still like it but if you want it for work, take it.”  I say that I would very much like to have it as I quickly fold it and put it in a bag destined for Goodwill. I get her to agree to part with a few more items in the same way, and we are both happy with the day’s work.

Write what you know

I first started a blog four years ago and I was excited and starry-eyed about the whole project.  It was called “52 Weeks” and the idea was to post once a week about a fabulous woman (friend, colleague, family member, etc.) I had the good fortune to have in my life.  Before publishing, I interviewed the “woman of the week”, wrote and edited the article, found a good photo to accompany the article, etc. It was fun but time-consuming. My biggest fear, though, was not doing justice to the women I was trying to honour. I lasted seven weeks.

Just over a year ago, I re-booted the blog as “Inked In” with a completely different focus. My main goal was to write regularly enough to make it a part of my routine. I didn’t limit my content to any particular topic, but hoped I would find subjects interesting enough to the blogging community.  Nor did I commit to posting once a day but aimed for at least 2-3 posts a week.

And until recently, I’ve done OK. Not great, but OK.  But lately, well, inspiration is hard to come by so I’ve been missing in action.  I’ve tried Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages and stream of consciousness writing (not one of my favourite exercises) without much luck. So, I thought that I would do two things to kick-start my writing again:

  1. Salute the bloggers out there who faithfully show up and WRITE.  Some of the ones I follow and read regularly are Maggie at From Cave Walls, Elizabeth at Saved by Words, Beetley Pete, just to name a few. You are my heroes!
  2. One of the first blogs I wrote last year was called “The Case of the Missing Sock”, but it’s really about writing what you know.  I’m going to re-read it and try to take my own advice and write about something I know, even if it’s missing socks.

If you have advice about making time to write, finding ideas, etc., please feel free to share!

Secretary of the Cabinet of Astrology – #SoCS

True story written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Conscious Saturday for January 25th. This week’s prompt was:  Last call. Talk about the enterprise (sales or service) conducted by the last phone call you received from a business you’re not associated with (i.e. your workplace), or talk about that phone conversation itself. Have fun!

The phone rang in the middle of the day. I checked the number on the digital screen and it was not a familiar one. It didn’t display the words “Private caller” though, which usually means a telemarketer is waiting on the other end, so I picked up.

“I am the Secretary of the Cabinet of Astrology,” came a melodic female voice in French in an accent I couldn’t quite identify.   An image of an exotic-looking woman with a turban on her head sitting at a table and staring into a crystal ball came to mind. Stereotypical, I know, but that’s what came to mind. This was swiftly followed by the thought ‘Cabinet of Astrology’ – really?  Such a thing  exists?

The woman quickly went on with her pitch:  I am calling to offer you a complementary consultation… ” and then, she actually yawned. I could hear it:  a full intake of breath, followed by the exhale of a great, big yawn.  Afterwards, she didn’t apologize – just started back where she had left off. I was already annoyed at being called at home in the middle of the day to be offered a service that was of no interest to me. But her lack of manners put me over the edge.

In no uncertain terms, I said, “Thank you but we are not interested.” Before I could finish, she interrupted in an aggressive tone, “Madame! Madame, wait for me to finish.” Again, I tried to do the polite thing by repeating “Thank you, but …” Again she interrupted me and that was it for me. I hung up.

Thirty seconds later, the phone rang again. A quick check of the number showed that it was her.  The nerve of the woman!  I didn’t answer and she did not, thankfully,  leave a message. But I was curious, so I googled “Cabinet of Astrology” and what do you think I found?  A web page with dozens of comments from people receiving harassing calls at all times of day, always from the same woman from the same number.

Well, as the saying goes, “I’ve got her number now,” and I won’t be answering any calls from it.