My mother has been clutching her big hand bag the last two days of this trip, and it’s been driving me crazy. It’s a big purse with long handles, and I have no idea what the heck a little person like her does with such a big bag (she’s only 4 feet 8 inches tall, and perhaps even shorter now since as we get older, we tend to shrink). I know for a fact she’s got a lot of cash in that bag since she never carries credit cards and is on vacation, but she’s not even letting the bag dangle on her shoulder as she should. She’s holding it like a baby with both arms everywhere — on the ferry, all over Butchart Gardens, and then at Granville Island Public Market. She looks like a nervous wreck.
In the last two years, my mother has become even more distrusting, paranoid, nervous, and negative about the world. Part of it is because about two years ago was the point when Ed’s life started escalating in a negative direction, which ultimately led to his tragic suicide. Since then, my mother’s smile in photos has changed drastically. It changed a lot for the first time when he got into legal trouble in May 2000, and then for a second time in 2013 when we lost him forever. Now, her attempt at a smile is like a mix of a confused, shocked, hardened stare, one that would be completely quizzical to those who know nothing about her. “Smile!” we say in photos, and her confused stare is the result.
It’s sad to see her like this, to see what her hard life has done to her and how she has responded to the many circumstances she has faced. Part of it I’m positive is because she herself has a mental illness that just has not been properly addressed, mostly out of her own choice, but we can’t do anything about that in our society since she is an adult who needs to make her own decisions. When I look at the photos of her confused frown or see her clutching her bag as though it’s her life, it breaks my heart a little because I know there’s really nothing I can do to help her be more at ease and actually enjoy life.