"I'm imprisoned," my mother laments. She is resting on her bed. She splays her hands open across her knees as if in an attempt at freedom.
At 93, her license has been suspended after driving into the wall of a carpet store.
"I don't need to drive far, why can't they understand that? Just up for milk. To get my haircut. A couple of blocks...."
By imprisoned she also means isolated. Isolation can look and feel the same; it can feel as damp and shadowy as the worst imagined cells. Even when the sun is out and blatant on her windows, showing up winter's dirty prints – The windows she looks out of most days, lying on her bed, too tired to do much else after the long ordeal of getting dressed, breakfast, and sorting through the mail. Looking out to the confused daffodils that have bloomed too early and now already are hanging their withered heads.
But also to all the small things she may have missed when she was more agile, moving about too quickly to take note of, like how long and still a rabbit can sit in the middle of the lawn.
I sat on the bed beside her. A robin was tugging at a worm at the edge of the garden.
"I saw a whole flock," she told. "Who sees flocks of robins? Like those black birds that make such a raucous. But the robins stay. In fact, I don't think they ever left."
It had been a mild winter. I'd noticed our own robins. Just not enough to know whether they'd actually ever left to come back. Most days, I am far too agile and busy to have missed them.
We talked about moving the bird feeder closer to her bedroom window rather than outside the sunroom window.
I remember when my grandmother was my mother's age, and in a nursing home, my mother placed a small bird feeder just outside her own window.
Isolation can be the loneliness of that, being on the other side of a window. And my world will feel as damp and cold as a tight cell once my mother is gone. I will be imprisoned. In grief.