During the last few visits I have had with my mother, she has surfaced briefly if at all. I have felt mostly useless and left out of her dying process because she has not spoken to me or responded to my voice. While that is understandable, it is painful – almost a noir comedy feeling of “my mother has left the building” without the laugh track.
In finding the suit for her burial and setting it aside for her caretakers, I was reminded again that my mother – and my father, for that matter – taught me a great deal about personal vanity. Mother’s closet is full of color – rich purples, bright reds and blues, lots of lovely pastels. Her shoe rack has reds, silvers and golds on it as well as the usual navy-white-black-tan river running through it. Mother held the expectation that she would look nice for herself even if no one else cared.
Her hair – so dark in her youth, is now greatly silvered, but not white. She always kept it cut, permed and neat, going to Melinda twice a week to be sure it looked nice. When she fell and a circle of hair had to be shaved to do the few stitches she needed, the wound was on the back of her head. Melinda carefully tended that wound until it healed, giving Mother the shampoos she needed but making sure to comb as much cover as she could over the area –you would never have seen the “hole” as Mother called it.
This week something of the old vanity has stirred in Mother. Her caretakers give her a shampoo often when they give her a shower, and then they blow dry her hair using a round brush. But Mother suddenly woke up and said that she wanted her hair to be done by a “professional” – and that was the word she used. By a professional. We have duly made the appointment and a stylist will come to her.
This flowering of the woman – not the mother – that I have always observed felt good even if it is a single blossom. I heard myself laughing as the caretaker relayed her request. It felt almost as if she had shouted, “honey, I’m home!” and I heard the echo of the screen door slamming behind her from my childhood. That kitchen door swing shut with a sharp sound was a regular part of our comings and goings in my childhood. When we sold the house a few years ago, we found that we did not even have a front door key as accustomed as we were to that back entrance. Home was through the kitchen door always.
There is an old Gospel song that talks about “stepping on shore, finally home…stepping on shore, finding it Heaven.” Soon she will. And her hair will look good for her homegoing.