Mum now gets to pick up the pieces of her life and attempt to move on, in the era after Dad. For her, I'm very little help. I can't replace him.
I looked at her wedding ring a lot, over the past two weeks. Traitorous, I watched it shine while consumed by the fact that she's suddenly a widow, single. The ring sits in the present tense, a false declaration of what box she should tick on a government form. But yet nothing feels more true than that ring, a survivor of the wreckage that brain cancer made of their marriage.
She wore her engagement and eternity rings to Dad's party and to a Christmas party hosted by the neighbours. I didn't ask about how she felt as she undressed those nights, tucking those rings back into her jewellery box.
They were married 36 years, together 39. She now faces another 20 or 30 years without him (assuming, that is, that she lives a fairly standard life span. We know that's not a given, we know it now deep in our bones). She's fairly stoic and grieves on her own. I know that she goes down the farm to check the stock and cries out there, in the early dawn light on the land that they worked so hard to attain and keep. I cry and rage that it's unfair. What she says from time to time, before quietly weeping, is that there's someone missing. It breaks my heart afresh to hear it, each time.
She will have less than a week by herself before my sister arrives on the farm. K and I cross over at Christmas. P, W and I stay until the New Year. We have another trip to see her at the end of January, for her birthday. Mid February we'll join her for a week at the bach on the lake. We've booked her flights to spend a long weekend with us at the end of Feb. We're trying hard to fill the giant hole rent in her life, but I'm achingly aware that it's a paltry second best.