She trod the lonely path homewards, as the day drew to a dismal close. Heavy clouds threatened a downpour but she remained determined to beat the rain home. Her slow pace, weary with shopping, suddenly picked up speed as the first drops plopped onto her silvered hair. She turned the key in the door and the clouds finally burst and delivered their chilly load to all which lay beneath. It felt like a tiny victory and a smile crept across her face. The shopping bags dropped onto the flagstone floor and she examined the temporary red welts left by the evil plastic handles. She blew on her hands and flicked on the kettle.
The warm fluid gently revived her parched throat as she deposited items into the cupboards. The house was silent, and she stopped to listen. Only the ticking of the clock, which once belonged to her Grandmother, sounded and she looked at her watch. Where were they all? They should be home by now. Her stomach churned and she swallowed hard…perhaps something had happened? But she quickly pushed away the dark thoughts which loomed, just as the clouds had all the way home, and continued working through her daily routine.
After the clock in the hall struck 6, and the table was laid but still empty, she began to pace. Something was amiss…it was odd…but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She rubbed her forehead with her fingertips as though trying to access some long forgotten detail, but nothing sprung to her rescue. ‘They should all be home,’ she thought as she wandered to the French doors and stared out at the lush green grass, which was enjoying a soak. A plump robin appeared and sat on the edge of the stone bird bath. There was a pair who regularly visited for a splash and snack, but this day he was alone, like her. He froze for a minute before fluttering to the feeder and whizzing off, perhaps to share his bounty. A charcoal smell penetrated her nose, “Oh hell!” She muttered, grabbing the oven gloves and pulling out the crisp blackened lasagna. Perhaps I could scrape off the burnt pieces? But as the layers congealed resolutely, she realised it was a lost cause and with a sigh scraped the meal into the food waste.
The thud of the cat-flap made her jump and her hand flew to her mouth. “You scared me to death, you silly thing! I suppose at least someone has come home for tea…eh? Come on then, let’s get you fed.” The tortoiseshell cat meowed and pushed his head against her leg, the bell on his collar jingled as he moved. “Where are they all – eh?” She forked the cat meat into a bowl and placed it on the mat next to his water bowl. Perhaps they had broken down or maybe Simon had lost his keys and was busy looking for them. She wandered through the hallway and noticed a light flashing…what was that? A large yellow post it note displayed the words in capital letters: PRESS ME! So she did.
“You have one new message.” Followed by: “Hi Mum! Hope you’ve had a good day. Remember that Dad is at work this evening and will not be back until eight. I will come and see you tomorrow, when my shift finishes. Sit tight and if you need anything call Maggie, the number is next to this machine.” Her eyes flicked to the large sheet, containing names and numbers in bold printed text. Her heart double jumped and the corners of her mouth turned down. A light flicked on in her mind as she remembered a word. Her legs wobbled but she threw herself up the stairs towards the bedroom of her daughters. She anticipated pink walls, fluffy teddy bears and a floor littered with Sindy and Barbie dolls but as she opened the door, she gasped. The walls were cream and a double bed adorned with a quilted throw filled the sanded wooden floor. There were no posters upon the walls, or toys strewn along the floor. Dirty clothes were not scattered amongst the clean and this was not the room belonging to two little girls. A photograph frame, displayed proudly, two pictures of beautiful young women and her. They were wearing caps and gowns and smiles emanated from the essence of the pictures. She knew, that these were her little girls. She understood for that moment, that they were not coming home for dinner, because they no longer lived with her. And she remembered the really important word which the doctor had spoken. Dementia. She crumpled to the floor and sobbed, sobbed for all of the precious memories she had lost and for the emptiness which filled her mind more and more.
She wiped her nose with a tissue from the box beside the bed and straightened her skirt. She looked at her watch. Simon would be back in ten minutes, so she wandered down the stairs.
The table was set for four and the only evidence of the disastrous meal was the smell of charcoal in the air. What would she cook them for dinner now? Where were they anyway? Shouldn’t they be home by now? She wandered over to the French windows, to see if the robin was there, but the garden was deserted. The rain was busy washing the world clean as she wondered when her family would be home for dinner.
This story was inspired by my Mother in Law, who passed away last year. It got me thinking about things and looking at different perspectives. I cannot imagine how hard it must be in those moments of clarity to understand what is happening and it moved me beyond words. But being a writer I wanted to try and find some words, to attempt to create a window into how this might feel. All I hope for this piece, is that it is provoking. Thank you for reading it.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/94471921@N00/376121027″>Calender</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>