12:55:06 pm on
Thursday 29 Oct 2020

The Old Hag in Her Hole
AJ Robinson

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” is how The Hobbit, J R R Tolkien, begins. In fact, I hear the entire story got its start from that one line. It popped into the mind of Tolkien and he built it from there.

Mom lives in my version a hobbit home.

Just the other day my version, The Old Hag in the Hole, came alive, but not due to any effort on my part. My wife Jo Ann and I went to Naples, Florida. We finally were able to visit my mother.

Mom is in her own little room in Aston Garden; she’s allowed visitors in this pandemic age. Sunday morning was our first visit in the gazebo out front. A nurse brought her in her wheelchair and our joy knew no end to see her, to touch her hands and to be able to speak to her face to face, mouth to ear to grab a phrase from radio legend Dick Summer.

Her voice was strong and her mind almost completely clear. She had a few senior moments, but otherwise was as sharp as I’d ever known. We were so thankful.

Mom did look old, truly old. The accident took its toll. Yet, given she’s ninety-four and has looked in her seventies for the last twenty years, it was time for age to finally catch up with her, payment for surviving the accident, perhaps.

There were also scars her legs. Oh, the scars, those terrible, terrible deep scars. I almost wept to see them and had to look away.

Would that I could take her scars onto my body. If I could spare her the pain. Yet, she remained happy and talkative; we even phoned our daughter, Alexa, so she could FaceTime with her Nona.

Mom took one look at Alexa and said, “Here we are, the young princess and the old hag.” That’s my mom, always ready with a joke.

I recall where I got my sense of humour, from mom. She chatted with her granddaughter for a few minutes. Then it was time to say goodbye.

Mom was overjoyed at the prospect of another visit.

Mom told Alexa that she had to visit her in her little Tolkien -like hole. She echoed the same to us, too, as we were leaving. We reminded her that we’d be back in the morning for a visit in her rooms; she was overjoyed at the prospect of visitors.

The next day, Monday, was our day to head for home, but not before we came by for yet another visit. This time we went up to her little apartment. It’s quite modest: bedroom, bathroom and a living area with a kitchenette.

Not much, perhaps, but enough that she can be comfortable. Mom was anything but comfortable when we first got there. The physical therapist was trying to get her to do her exercises. I again wept to see her in pain.

After so many months in bed, her arms and legs have little strength. If she is to function and maybe one day walk, she must build up her muscles. It’s a long, slow and painful process. I was close to tears to see her weep at her failings.

Yet, I knew it was for the best. Afterward we were able to share a pleasant time together. Mom was able to carry on a conversation and she spoke with hope about the future.

There were old friends she was looking forward to seeing. There were games she wanted to play. She loved that there was an ice cream parlor at the end of the hall.

Ah, yes, the little pleasures of life. It renewed my hope for the future; her ninety-fifth birthday is only a few months away. Although a party isn’t possible given the coronavirus, maybe we can do a little something.

All too soon, it was time to leave, time to express our eternal love again and her a kiss goodbye. One of the perks of seeing her in her room, in her little Tolkien-like hole of a home was that we could shed our masks, even briefly. Although she calls herself the old hag in the hole, I couldn’t help but think of that line from Tolkien, the opening to The Hobbit.

Mom is as Bilbo.

Even though it’s said that Bilbo lives in a hole, it is not a dirty little hole, but quite the pleasant place. That’s where my mom is now, a pleasant little place. I can only hope to visit her again quite soon and see she is doing better.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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