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I arrived home several days ago to the old, ongoing question of how to get new writing done when the business of life occupies your mind. My father’s health took a nasty turn in my absence and my sister and brother came to the rescue. So did my husband, who reassures me that sleep is overrated. It’s the fear of not sleeping that skewers me, and how I’ll manage without it.

This way. With paper and pen and coffee. I write down everything that’s been going on with my father and mother, both 91, including Dad’s remark to me. “Just sit down and relax.”

The blossoming trees are like suspended snow. The cherry at the foot of the garden. And all the tulips wide open.

On Saturday morning I took my mother for a walk and after we sat down in the courtyard of their residence, I asked her if she was worried.

“We’re at the end of our lives,” she said. “I just wonder—”

I waited, thinking that she must be wondering what would become of her if Dad were to die before her.

“What do you wonder?”

“If we’ve contributed anything.”

The transience of spring blossom and now the planning for the permanent hairdo of zinnias, nasturtiums – something to fill the poor front garden. While inside the house, my mother’s marvellous paintings cover every wall.

About four o’clock on Saturday afternoon our worries lifted when my father got out of bed and dressed himself for dinner, then went down to the dining room and ate well. He was back to himself again, if much thinner and weaker. That night I had a beautiful sleep.

My study is full of drafts of Alone in the Classroom that I need to sort through and file away, keeping parts that were edited out since they might bear fruit later on. I like this room so much – the windows, the oak rocking chair with its flat arms, all the books, all the surfaces, no matter how buried in paper. I remember a phrase from James King’s biography of Margaret Laurence, that she mothered herself with her writing. What a shock to rediscover that she was only sixty when she died.

My new boots, by the way, worked well. Made of soft leather that’s kind to the feet, and so chic they have eyelets but no laces.

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