I've just returned from The Trip Back to the UK to see Mother, something that always raises the afore-mentioned fundamental question.
The home she now resides in is about, to my mind, as good as you could get, especially if you were, like Mum, someone who felt nourished by being in the landscape of Dorset.
Thank God the winter has moved off leaving the cherry blossom, daffodils and bluebells a joy to look at. We spent many hours during my stay just sitting, drinking tea, watching the rabbits chasing each other and new mole hills popping up.
This is always met with a resolute, 'but I don't want to stay here for the rest of my life,' or similar words.
I like to think at the grand age of eighty-five, if I had to live in a place with many other old folk, that somehow I would feel content enough: a busy life, lots done, now just an occasional trip out to a garden centre or a National Trust House - gone the excitements of travel abroad; planes, boats, the unknown, but I've done enough. But maybe when that time arrives, it's never enough, what we have achieved.
Anyway, this trip back I decided to take over (as in guerilla gardening, not taking one over on the plane) a flower border; to create a small Mum space where I can put in bought plants and make it feel like her own place. Perhaps this will be enough to link her with the ground there - so similar to the soil and plant types in her own garden.
We put in roses, delphiniums and small plants I can't remember the name of. Soon enough the bees were visiting, the plants looking well-settled, and I drew a map of the border so she can remember where the new inhabitants are.
"Why on Earth, blue," questioned Mum. Why indeed? Then I remembered it was National Awareness day, or something. The letters of the posters dotted about The Home were in the same neon colours – cakes to match. A few days before she had asked me what National Awareness meant, and I had duly read the info and then tried to reinterpret in a manner that would be . . . acceptable.
"They want to try and 'open up' conversations about life and . . . death."
I sighed, knowing where this was heading.
"Well, say 'Aunty Mabel had always wished that before she . . . you know, died . . . that she could have seen Tom Jones sing, preferably in his pants, or that Uncle Tom had wanted a small part of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to play on, or possibly at? his death bed. These things, perhaps could be possible."
"What rubbish. How would you fit the B.S.O into one of these bedrooms."
"I know, it's just an example. Just think how bad the relatives would feel if, after the event, so to speak, they discovered such a wish written down somewhere, and someone could have done something about it."
Mum thought for a while as we watched a huge-eyed deer stepping out from the rhododendron bushes.
"So," I said, "what about you? Is there anything you would like me or the home to do . . . about . . . before, you know . . . "
She smiled at me wickedly, picked up one of the cup cakes and bit into the blue icing: "They can just push me down the hill."
I smiled too and picked up the yellow cake.