His mother lives in an old age home. There are nearly 150 of them there, average age somewhere in the late 70’s. Many of her friends are living with their kids in the “granny flat”, not to mention those in a Wendy house in some back yard. The ‘lucky ones’ were sponsored by the children overseas and are now living there, far from their friends and the familiar.
The food is bland some days under the command of the new chef. They fired the previous cook as she was caught stealing. The rooms are small, usually crowded with extra cupboards or a table to make space for a hobby.
The bathroom have baths (it’s an old building), no showers for the sake of arthritis stiffened and inflamed joints, or to ease the constant fear of falling and breaking a hip. She sits on a little plastic stool to wash herself, pulls the plug, places towels inside the bath and then carefully steps out, hanging onto the handle on the edge of the bath.
When he takes her shopping she is happy. Most of the others have to go with the minibus. It is not as low as the car, making it difficult to get in, especially if it is raining. He parks in the invalid parking when the car guard beacons to him. She then has space to get out and to open the door wide.
She pushes the trolley because it’s something she can hold onto over the sometimes uneven floor, and should she get a bit of vertigo. The handbag is tightly clutched, the shopping list (only 15 items) in the other hand. By the 3rd row she has to rest. Getting her breath back to pick up the 6kg of the milk pack and to place it inside the trolley basket. The last 12 months he has done it for her, but she’d forgotten.
She pays. The handbag is open for all to see and take. He keeps a subtle eye on her. Next to her till is a neatly dressed couple, paying with a SASSA card. Look closer and one can see the mend in his shirt. The wife wears no jewellery and her nail polish is chipped.
Now they are off to Clicks. He stands at the door, pretending to take an SMS and replying as his mother goes in alone. Buying nappies is a bit of an embarrassment.
He takes her back to the old age home. The power is out. They wait an hour in the lounge until the lift works again. She rests a bit before they have tea; it has been an exhausting morning.
When he asks her why she insists going shopping and expresses the wish that he could look better after her, she replies:
“You did not just dump here and forgot about me. Like some other’s children did. You already pay for my monthly rent. There are so many that do not even live in an old age home. It gets me out. I enjoy it. You allow me to do most of the shopping. It restores some dignity, I think. I am grateful”
He later says goodbye. Gets in the car and cries. For her, for all the poor, for the country.
The hopelessness overwhelms.....