- Vol. 09
- Chapter 03
'I don’t know my left leg anymore,' she says, in that new voice. 'It’s not mine, it’s the ghost of my leg.'
I drive her to physio, I reassure her, I help her to wash and dress, I paint her toenails rouge noir. 'You’re still you. It’ll come back.'
She dreams about Ravenscar, she says. Cycling down to the cliff tops, the seals, far below, pretending to be rocks until you see them move. Slump, slump, slump, so many slugs on their outcrops, then the sea takes them, and they transform.
'My voice, my leg,' she says. 'I need seawater, Rachel, I must learn to be a seal.'
I humour her, push her wheelchair through Whitby, battle the kerbs and cobbles, the old nappy bucket on her lap. I park her on the pier and fill it. We juggle it home, fill the bath and add the seawater.
Thirty years ago, she bundled me into this same tub and out again into a hot towel, immersion heater singe-scented, baby powder, cocoa. She keeps my bath duck, still. 'Rubber ducky, you’re the one.'
There was always just us. I knew there must be a fulcrum, a balance point, a day when the care-strength tipped from her to me.
We go every day with the bucket, share chips and cornets on the way, dodge the razorbills, Mother swinging her stick at them. She remembers how the wheels on my buggy refused the cobbles.
By day twenty, the bath is a little North Sea, cold grey, kelp and cracked shell. It smells of the lobster pots along the harbour, it has a current when the next bucketful glides in. She dips her good hand, wipes the brine over her face, laughs. I don’t ever think she will do it – she has the walk-in shower but she insists.
'Soon, Rachel. Soon, I can be a seal.'