Foz is from Somalia.
She steers my mother slowly across the care home lawn. A ship of state adrift on a sea of green.
“Here are my two favourite girls,” I call from the shade of the arbour. Because if I wasn’t jolly I’d cry.
“Haven’t seen you for a while,” I remark as she lowers mum onto the garden seat beside me and relays two porcelain hands from hers to mine for safe keeping for the next half hour. “Been on holiday?”
“I’ve been to Mogadishu,” she says and then adds quickly before I have time to ask something crass like oh what’s the weather like there at this time of year “to bury my mum.”
To bury my mum.
I want to reach across my mother’s head and hold her hand. But, of course, social distancing has made human instinct less instinctive. So words are our lifebelts. To stop the grief sucking us down.
Her name was Fatima. She was 60. A proud mother of four. Two children seeking new lives in America. Two here in the UK. Widowed four years ago so alone in the Somali capital. Taken by Covid before Foz could say goodbye. So she went instead to bury her. And then had to pay for hotel quarantine on her return. Red lists and all that.
These are the bare facts.
I look down at the mother who’s left.
“You can share mine. She can be your honorary mum.”