Night Watch

Night after night while the oxygen tube sucked your nostrils dry, and you fought keeping it in place, I observed. I waited. I held watch over you Mom. Glad to be your daughter. Proud of my strength, your very legacy to me. Yet your fragility tore at me as in time did the actions of my siblings, your other children. Still, you and I bore it all as we'd done before. Kindred survivors. Warrior women were we.

In the early shifts the terrors came frequently. Those nights there was no comfort from the birch tree outside your window. Nor was there in the muted classical tunes of Rachmaninoff and Mozart.

You shifted often, grabbing at the bed-rail for freedom. Your shrunken muscles unable to lift either arms or legs from the mattress.

I saw the fear flit across your eyes, your face, and the set of your mouth as you tried to gain control. Your hands unable to grasp a cup, or spoon for feeding, began their agitation. Pulling at the sheet, plucking at the blanket. Fingers pulling at your lips, patting your dried thrush tongue.

Your gaze sometimes emptied, as if doing so would allow the fear to pass without the racking reminders of past injustices. Previous hurts.

Then you talked Mom. And how.

"I tried to curb him," you whispered. "There was nothing in place. I worry about him."

I wrote those nightmares down Mom so that one day I could give voice to your fears. That one day I could be my mother's voice. A reminder to all what silence does when used to keep secrets such as this. A remembrance that whilst you were gone, someone else's nightmares were just beginning.

“Poor me. Poor me. I helped abusers,” you cry.

And each time I gaze upon you I wonder about your broken shoulder in August, the broken nose years ago and all those unexplained and witnessed injuries. And I can't understand why no-one listens. No one seeks justice. No one.

“She made her choices,” my siblings say of you.

But what woman, what mother chooses broken bones, isolation, fear, and such sleepless nights as yours where the movies war across your memory? Not willingly. Not by choice.

And sometimes in the night while my head lays upon your bedside, you come back to me Mom. You pat my hand and those eyes crinkle and twinkle.

“Put on the kettle Tessie,” you say. “We'll have a cup of tea.”

So I settle for the hospital cuppas brought by other caring mothers, knowing our days of a cup of tea and a chat are stolen forever. Ever so grateful for this limited mother daughter time we've managed to grasp. Because without it, I too will be lost.


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day UN Declaration of Human Rights European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity Towards a Society for All Ages