Return of the mallards / March 27, 2006

A good weekend, overall. The ducks are back in the pool, and it’s taken them only a day to overcome their shyness and waddle up to the back door to take food from me. As usual, Mrs. Mallard took the initiative, while the mister hung back and quacked in the anxious but muted way that male ducks have. They usually arrive in the morning and stay most of the day, paddling about or loafing poolside. Last year the lady duck returned long after we usually see them, well into July. Very often I’d look out the back door and see her on the top step, staring through the glass into the house. One day we left the breezeway door open and she hopped up onto the porch, where we gave her some bread. They are both so lovely, but especially the female with her earthy plumage. I love the patches of blue that are almost hidden beneath her wings.

We made arrangements to have someone–a homemaker–come by for a few hours several times a week to visit my mother. She’ll come at midday. I was afraid of my mother’s reaction, I know she feels that she’s losing control of her life and this is just another arrangement being made by someone else. We’d talked about it on several occasions–first she wanted no part of it, then she opened up a bit. I’m still not sure how it will go–my mother was very quiet after the case manager left this afternoon, but she surprised me later on by saying that she’d like the homemaker to help her make her bed. Making the bed is a necessary daily task for my mother (unlike at least one of her daughters)–her frailty at it now makes her so discouraged that I’ve suggested she just leave it unmade. But she will not.

I think she may see leaving the bed unmade as the ultimate capitulation to her age. Making the bed is one of her ways of asserting that she has standards–it’s tied up with being a good Christian and a useful person. It’s one of the daily acts that means much more than it seems–making one’s bed and then lying in it has a psychological resonance. I’m thinking now that losing the intellectual functions may not be as traumatic in the end as the loss of the small, seemingly necessary rituals that we repeat each day in order to carry our past with us as we age. These acts hold our secret selves and bits of our beliefs, and their meanings evolve as we repeat them, but they reassure us.

My blog treasure of the week:

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Absolutely great.

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