I returned to Argentina in 2013 after having lived and worked in Paris for twenty-three years. However, it can happen sometimes, when you live outside the country of birth, when there comes a moment in which an irrepressible impulse tells you: «now or never». «If you don’t come back now, you’ll never come back.» And although France is also my home, I jumped over the Atlantic Ocean again, this time in the opposite direction. I had just separated and I wanted to be close to my family –some of my dear ones were no longer there– my friends, my mother. I needed to understand and break down my young transatlantic experience because, according to a popular Tibetan saying, «the homeland is a camp in the desert.»
The relationship with my dear mother has been thorny. The dyad mother daughter, mother son, gives a lot to tell and literature reserves an important part for her with anecdotes about it. In my particular case, my mother was for many years a distant and silent mother, beautiful and distant. With my grandmother, her mother, I had such a great and full love relationship that I did not notice the traces that my mother left on me, I did not feel the frustration that many daughters feel. However, over the years the bond began to hurt. Inside her, despite being the freest being I’ve ever met in my life, she seemed confined to secrets and traumas. When she married a second time, after separating from my father, she locked herself in a golden cage and threw the key away. And she somehow she threw me. And the keys were lost.
In France for years I did an exhaustive analysis with a psychoanalyst, a disciple of another great man, André Green. How did I get to her? She was at the Chinese consulate in Paris to request a visa, we were going with my ex-husband to film a solar eclipse in Asia, I had Green’s book in my bag, there were hours of waiting and I read the entire article «La mere morte» (The dead mother) and the pieces were put together by themselves. Mom had a very complex personality, and there was always that strange point of absence about her. Being alone with me as a child filled her with fear, probably. Not being able to fully assume the maternal function – my father was absent due to travel – my grandmother compensated and my mother became a sister whom I had to take care of.
I wrote poems about her, she was the protagonist of a novel of mine that was published in Paris, under the name of Ana. My editors called me almost crying because of the emotion they felt in front of that story. I described in detail -using Green’s article- those periods of distance that unleashed a permanent internal struggle in me. Does she love me, does she love me not? And if he doesn’t come back? What if I stay alone forever? He did not reach five years.
As an adult, I called her from Paris and read her my stories, poems, notes, chapters of novels, her compliments were the most important thing in my life. «You are the best writer I have ever read.» Those comments filled me with an unusual force. They surpassed those of any of my dear, capable, and learned friends. Mom was a great reader, she was exquisitely educated, sister to nature, music. But this is not the point, the point is that she was my mother. And even if she hadn’t known how to read or write like Albert Camus’s mother, her praise would have been the greatest reward in the world. I wanted her to see me.
In 1990 I was waiting for my Aerolíneas Argentinas flight, there was a delay at the Ezeiza airport because they were bringing Piazzolla from Paris, he was seriously ill and was taken off the plane on a stretcher. That image scared me. But I went up and left. I got married three months later. Every year I returned to my country to be close to my family, that divided family, dismembered since my parents’ divorce. I had everything to live divided. But being a foreigner, writing, teaching and being surrounded made me complete. My grandparents had taken care of the reading girl that I was. My refuge: books, drawings, books. The comments in the 70s were not long in coming: separated mother, it must be for a reason… I got to get out of a car at the age of seven -I went to an excellent private school- because one of the classmates who was in that same car that took those of us who lived in Palermo to school, argued that she could not travel next to someone with “separated” parents. I got off, I felt modesty, sadness and anger. I went to school alone, crossing Córdoba avenue.
I never told my mom so she wouldn’t feel worse than she did after the breakup. Alfonsina has a poem, when she was seven years old, she began to write in front of what hurts her in the world. That cold that mom sometimes transmitted stuck to her body. That is why when she, thanks to the distance, showed herself affectionate, she thanked life for the meaning of contradictions.
I learned over time that mom had traits of what from 1981 was diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome. And no one knew. She passed for being a silent, extremely intelligent, lonely woman. But I saw a fragility, vulnerability, a confinement, I knew about her nightmares, phobias, her fears… I was disarming all this network over the years, with pain, writing and analysis.
In 2013 I returned to Buenos Aires to be closer to her. I always believed that a lotus flower can grow in the middle of the desert. Besides, I was now what she wanted me to be: a writer. I was born under the monotonous sound of the Remington keys, she -stopped working outside the sweet home because it was the patriarchal mandate- and from being an executive in an American company, she went on to transcribe manuscripts… of writers… at home. We had many books. And I was left alone when she left and the books were my brothers, my friends, my ivory tower. Until fear appeared.
I came back to understand her, to enjoy afternoon walks, to be able to walk with that beautiful woman who was my mother, my grandmother had died in 2004. I wanted to feel again the infinite goodness of the world when we went hand in hand down Olleros street, or when we went to those elegant places that she frequented. And listen to her laugh, because when she felt safe she was very funny. I wanted to go back because I didn’t want a plot hole in my life. Because I am a soul cobbler with this act of writing. Unfortunately, family intolerances prevented me from sharing her last «lucid» years with her. When she turned 80, she excitedly went to her house, but her husband stopped her. And so every time she approached me, the door closed again and again. I thought about returning to Paris, there I earned a space with a lot of effort, I felt that there was no solution. I must carry my mother, my father in my heart.
The phone rang, three years later, I was in the kitchen, I still look petrified with the cup of coffee in my hand: my mother had been admitted to a nursing home. Now he was allowed to go see her. We were never going to go back to those walks, to those longed-for meetings, to be together in a harmonious context, in those gardens that I remembered in my childhood when she was well. Mom had Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t be kept in her house, they told me. I looked for nurses, assistants, I thought that she could take care of her in her habitat, she had a black cat as big and beautiful as a panther, it seemed to protect her. I wanted her to keep the world from her, her belongings. But not. All negotiation was impossible. Thus began a five-year relationship where, paradoxically, I was able to create a bond of great love with her.
Perhaps my recurring reading of the Franco-Russian writer, Romain Gary, «The Promise of Dawn», my bedside book, makes me think: Did I invent a mother? Did I make up a link? Mom was in a «lockdown center», as Deleuze explains, in «Postscript» on holding companies. Mom was calm, she was overmedicated, and with her silent «nature», she just wanted to be alone and close to where there was music, and good treatment… But, I quote Deleuze again, these places «have nothing to envy to the most terrible confinements ”. I went very often, tried to investigate, observe and accompany her. Everything I saw there seemed sinister to me. The caregivers were abusive, they are not qualified, and they seem to detest the older ones, perversely they are merciless with those who cannot defend themselves. When I saw marks on my mom’s arms, I screamed to heaven, from there, «good relationships» ended. I saw such great cruelty on the part of these caregivers, I saw drug trafficking, diapers, in short, I left sick every time. Mom was rushed to the hospital for dehydration twice, the nursing home he was in was paid. I couldn’t get my mother out of there. It was impossible for me to bring her home.
Yes, they were years of pain and love. But in each meeting we had, she returned to express the same love for me as when I was very young. And everything that she brought him from her was exquisite, wonderful. They were her words. Because Alzheimer’s requires a lot of patience, a lot of humanity to be able to help connect patients with life. There, in the place of terror, of the Dantesque hell, they dope with excess drugs so that, at night, the hospitalized people do not disturb. Many were the vulgar words that I heard from these people, and mom looked at me in horror at this. Because she is also understood with the senses. She was still connected to what was also part of her life: words. The abuse was great.
Until the last moment they had to put up with my calls: -Did they give my mom water? No. Because she went into a coma after a second dehydration. Mom died on January 29. That afternoon, the last meeting, I cried over her body asleep under morphine. She had had entire days to talk to her and tell her that she would be at peace, that now I was who she wanted me to be, the one that would protect her from a hostile world. Yes, in five years I had a love relationship with my mother. Despite the Cyclops, the Lestrygonians, and several Scyllas, in this personal odyssey we spend every day of her last days after her hospitalization in a loving, caring, generous environment. Doctors and nurses with empathy, they treated us with great affection at the Churruca Hospital. Hilda was a person again before leaving. She was no longer called by her last name, as they used to do in the nursing home. From the desperation it produces in me it makes me laugh. It’s like calling babies by their last name in a nursery. The Nazis put numbers. But I keep mom’s love for words, for everything I read to her, sang to her, for those conversations without a common thread, anchored in a magical and affectionate absurdity.
He told me wonderful things and in my heart I took the Nobel. The last Sunday that I was taking care of her, I knew that I would never see her alive again. When the doctor called me three hours later, with a voice that I will never forget because of her emotion, I heard him say: Hilda left, we treated her with love. Yes, it was. The last time she was conscious, she told me the word that I will keep until the end of my days: it is wonderful. Wonderful yes despite the sadness.
Vivian Lofiego. Writer, teacher, translator, actress. She was received at the UBA and at the Sorbonne. She has published in France: novels, theater, youth literature, various poetry books and artist books. In Argentina: poetry and translation. She was the coordinator of the Juan Rulfo Prize in Paris. She is a translator of poetry, philosophy, essays and novels. Nancy Huston’s translation of it will soon be published for the first time in Latin America. France represents in her life what her grandparents’ house was as a child: freedom, creativity and ingenuity. She adores music, painting, libraries and cooking. She was a finalist for the Julio Cortázar Award. Buenos Aires is like a secret love, it is always where you go.
#sentía #debía #cuidarla #inversa #final #sí #estuvimos #juntas