Two weeks ago at the start of our visit Mom said, “Where are all my books?”
I told her they were in her apartment (of course, a lie, we let her apartment go in 2011 after she moved into the nursing home).
“But what happened to them?”
“They’re still there, Mom. I didn’t bring them all because you’re always saying it’s too cluttered in your room.”
“But I need my books.”
Her once deep brown eyes were filled with fear and anxiety. They have turned a lighter, more watered-down brown over the past several years.
“Okay, I can bring them. Which ones do you want?”
“Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Vivien Leigh.”
“A biography of Vivien Leigh?”
“What’s it called?”
“Okay.” That biography was written in the 1970s and the jacket cover is a photo of Vivien Leigh in 1890s dress and a parasol. Thank goodness, I remembered it and purchased a used copy from amazon.
“Are you sure they’re not lost?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Please bring them right away.”
“I’ll bring them next week.”
I looked into her bedside dresser and found a paperback copy of Wuthering Heights.
“Here it is!” I said.
She leafed through it, momentarily calmer.
“That’s not it. It doesn’t have the pictures.”
She wanted the 1943 version of Wuthering Heights with wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. That book, along with Jane Eyre, also with wood engravings by Eichenberg, was severely water-damaged during Hurricane Irene. Most of Mom’s belongings had been stored in our basement and most had been damaged beyond repair when our basement flooded. She doesn’t know that we had all her belongings, nor does she know about the flood. I hope it stays that way.
(google images – cover of 1943 edition of Wuthering Heights)
“Okay, Mom, I know which one you want. I’ll bring it next time.”
This past Saturday, I presented her with a copy of Vivien Leigh, along with cookies, a birthday card and a bouquet of flowers: today is her birthday.
“What about Wuthering Heights?” she said.
“I have it in a box in the basement, but haven’t had time to dig it out,” I said.
Another lie. I ordered a set of the vintage Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but they haven’t arrived yet.
“Oh, you’ve been very busy, haven’t you?” she said.
“Yes, I have. At least you have Vivien Leigh. You can start re-reading it and look at the photographs.”
The truth is she doesn’t read anymore and hasn’t in some time, but she enjoys looking at photographs and illustrations.
“You’re sure nobody took it?”
“Yes, Mom. No one stole your books.”
“Oh, thank God. I was so worried. I need them with me.”
“I told the florist your favorite colors were pink and lavender, and he put together a wonderful bouquet. Smell them.”
I brought the vase of flowers close to her nose.
We brought our Dunkin Donuts coffees to the Secret Garden and sat outside.
“The air is heavy,” she said, “so quiet.”
“Yes. I suppose people are on vacation.”
“I suppose so.”
The books were not spoken of for the remainder of our visit. Ahhh.