My mother’s name was Lesley Jenner. She brought me up to call her Lesley, because she said she was a person, not just a mother. Lesley was brought up in Dunedin in a Jewish family and was a quiet and polite person who never asked for much. She had green fingers and loved to be outside in nature. Her habit of mind was scientific. Lesley died in the autumn of 2019, a week before Pesach. Immediately afterwards, and for several months, I was occupied with the administration of her death. This followed a period of several years when I had been much occupied with Lesley’s life.
In 2013, Lesley left her own home and lived with me while we waited for an apartment in a retirement village. She had told me years before that leaving her house would be terrible for her, and it was. When we picked Lesley up from the airport and drove her to our place in our tiny little car, she was solid and heavy in the front seat. Her face was set in an expression of absolute misery and she was silent, as if her closed mouth was all that was holding back an endless outpouring of tears.
Once Lesley was unpacked, I started trying to get some routines going. I remember bright spring sunlight shining into the dining room, matching my optimism that we would create a new life now, as people who cared about each other. My partner and I would share our life with my mother and that would help to make up for some of the gaps that were visible in her memory and thinking. We had shared our house with people before so we thought we could make this work. My mother and I would talk over tricky matters like money or what each person needed, and we would solve problems together. After all, I was fifty-nine now.