A buzzing in her ear is what she told them. It wasn’t as if she needed special attention, it was a buzzing and she was one of seven busy lives, albeit the pivotal one. A little later her friend Olga noticed the stagger and that was the first time it became an issue. Five of the seven hardly noticed, it was still just a harmless buzzing, it was their mother and they were children. Soon afterwards there were doctors and specialists. Still the older ones didn’t consider a specialist significant, they had seen Paddy go to a specialist, and some of them had been at one themselves. So they went about their college and work lives without any noticeable change in the house. She was able to manage the buzzing and the walls and furniture must have been near enough if she lost her balance. Christmas came and went like it normally did, bitter sweet and tense.
He spoke to the two eldest late one evening, during the first weeks back after the holiday. Paddy was blunt but his words were a vague blur, sickness, operation, little chance, brain tumour, months left. The boy was still thinking about Joni Mitchell’s Shadows and Light, he could do that blotting out thing and was happy that he never reacted like others.
The disease emerged in its clumsy knocking over way and her face started to twist but he could ignore this, she was there in the evenings with dinner and hugs and little chats. There was no difference in stuff between them, nothing had changed and he was happy that nothing should change. He’d seen the others needlessly adjust, seen them hold back and say stupid things.
He’d never agreed with the operation, especially when she arrived home worse then when she left. He resented Paddy for having let them do this to her and her hair. But at least she was home again and he made everything return to normal. Normal had become coping, but it was still normal now that she was home and with them again and although partially invalided, she was in her chair and the bandana didn’t matter. He could bring her tea and didn’t see the dribble from her twisted mouth. It didn’t matter that he had to help her up the stairs; he was strong and could easily lift her. He listened to Joni’s melancholy and got lost in it.
He didn’t like the hospital, didn’t want to have to bring her back where she would spend more time away from their home. Every time she went the house became sad and only Joni’s melancholy kept him company until she returned. The hospital visits became hard to manage; Paddy worked and couldn’t bring her the sixty miles during week days so he volunteered. He could be on his own with her again, just like when he was a boy. He was strong and could manage her, could lift her, could get her tea and cake and wipe the dribble.
Paddy dropped them to the train station. He can’t remember getting on and getting settled. Whenever he was with her time ceased, he basked in her crooked mouthed radiance. He loved her. The journey was in three parts, this first train, a second at the junction and a final taxi ride to the hospital and he was happy at the thoughts of this precious time between them. But something happened at the junction. They managed to get off the first train without any trouble, the platform was at the same height as the train floor and he lifted her gently over the gap. She held his arm and they crossed over to the waiting express and still, he never saw the pending difficulty. She hesitated and leaned back as he directed her to the first of two steps but she couldn’t lift her foot or coordinate her movements to get onto the step.
He held her thinking there might be something wrong.