The room is filled with flowers, many of them spring flowers; colourful tokens of sent love.
It is nice to have her to myself for a while. Because I am chief Visit Monitor, I know how many visitors are coming and plan to come. Only my brother is due later on this afternoon, but that will be a welcome doubling.
She suggests we take a stroll round the grounds before the sun goes down. We move in half-time, in tandem, her arm in mine. I fret about helping too much, then fret about helping too little. Then I throw her a glance and realise I should stop worrying. She is fine. She is enjoying the rare, clear Spring air.
It is exceptionally clear. It is as though the air were our thoughts, and we the air. Behind the Hall there is a field, bordered by trees, and through these trees a low, sharp March sun catches us as we walk the boundary path. We think we spot the Dementia Care wing through some bamboo fencing. Ah, said my father when he heard about it, that must be the saddest place in the world. But any wing of any Home is sad, in part. Even a Home full of retired thespians is a place where people have begun a process of exile from life. Esme's exile is self-chosen, and temporary, in order to return to life's fray.
We pause to sit on a bench before the round, sculpted head of a man with a fish on his head. Esme, who has studied art for years, says I like it. I, who love art but need to glean meaning in it, see only a man with a fish on his head, and say Mmmm. I make a mental note to ask someone about its meaning.
I hold one of my mother's hands. The skin is soft and translucent. Her hands seem slighter than they once did.
It's a strange time, you know, Liv, she says.
On the path back, she spots a pine cone and asks me to pick it up for her. I know that she will take it back to her room and put it in a special place, to look at, as she has done all her life with natural things - sea shells, pebbles, particularly beautiful leaves. I cast around looking for another. What are you doing No, just one,
What are you doing? she asks. I tell her.
No, just one,she says firmly. One is enough.