She hasn’t known me for years; instead of throwing hugs she just casts spears, her careworn face now lined with meanness.
It’s hard believing things mother once told me: ‘I’ll love you evermore.’
It started with the bears she saw supping in the gloaming. ‘Four of them, as real as day, with teacups of bone china.’
She speaks of them with a faraway look in her eyes as if she sees the memory playing across the eroded silver screen of her wasted mind.
I wish she’d play the memory of me: the holidays in Cornwall, that thunderstorm in Fiesole when we dashed back to the caravan, even when I failed my GCSEs, and shamed her.
It’s hard to remember.
‘It’s me, mother…’
But the waters of the womb aren’t strong enough to stop her fatal amnesia; a fugue that lasts a lifetime brought on by father’s death, but the signs were there before he left, when she spoke of bears in their Sunday best.
‘Take me to the woods! Take me when the trees are bleeding, you’ll see them, too, you’ll see I’m right.’
And so we search countless forests, because despite the punches she showers on me, demanding, ‘Who are you?’ she is my mother.
A copse in Wiltshire overlooking August wheat was our last trip together. Whilst golden stems with heavy ears bowed awaiting harvest, she passed in the car home, staring out the window. It wasn’t till a bumpy rhythm started – her head on tempered glass – I realised she’d gone.
So here I stand on a hill in Fiesole, dusk turning Il Duomo red, denying my grief, admitting something else, instead.
A Tuscan sunset turns the olive trees to bleeding Roman pillars.
And at my feet a child’s teddy bear set, forgotten, left and faded.