Walking to the hospital, I am noticing the plain, boxy apartment buildings of Vancouver of the 40s and 50s, none renovated, in colours of pastel and forest. I can hear the voice of a friend Bert who left the city years ago, moving to Calgary. ‘Everyone says Vancouver is so beautiful but look at the buildings. If you picked up the whole city and plunked it down in the middle of the Prairies, people would notice how ugly it is without the mountains and the water’.
I think he’s correct, mostly. For a city that strives to be sophisticated, there are many parts of the city that seem sleepy and quiet, small town, and not particularly pretty. The bushes and shrubbery are often perfectly shaped in a suspicious way. There has been a movement to let lawns be overtaken by local wildflowers and plants, but the majority still are suburban green grass that call out to be mowed, regularly.
Still, I see a burst of buttercups and suddenly think: when I have last seen buttercups? Tiny, shiny flowers of the happiest shade of yellow. I guess I don’t notice them in Australia where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years, or perhaps it’s because where I live in Sydney is more concrete than lawns.
Today, Mom is weak. She has apparently lost quite a bit of blood in the last day and a half, possibly from bleeding from stomach ulcers, but when they do the stomach scan, they say the ulcers are minor and ‘not suspicious’. Unlike yesterday when she was awake and alert the whole day, she is mostly asleep today.
Her hair was shorn when they operated on her, after the firemen broke down the front door of her apartment, and took her to the hospital, unconscious. A sub-dural hematoma, brain bleeding, that the first doctor told us might be a major stroke but wasn’t.
After three weeks, her hair is growing back nicely, though it was a bad haircut. I use the tiny scissors that my brother always carry around with him (“They’re bent,” I say to him. “They’re old,” he replied) to cut off stray hairs that are sticking out. With her hair short, when she closes her eyes and lays her head back on the pillow, she looks like her mother, who we called Japo, mother of my mother, who had grey hair when I knew her, always pulled or pinned back. I’ve never seen the resemblance before but now, with Mom five years older than Japo was when she died, she really looks very similar. When I was a child I used to study the lines of on the face of my grandmother so well, I loved her so.
I’ve learned that it’s not in my nature, nor useful, to worry into the future in cases like this. I’ll allow myself to picture my mother back to living independently, fiercely, and causing people to wonder how she can be so strong and healthy at the age of eighty-three, but I won’t, for now, picture the alternatives. It’s not how Mom would think either. Instead, I’ll just think about the buttercups on my walk to the hospital, the particular shade of yellow, the way the sun made them even brighter.