I am posting a rather more lengthy post than usual. I have begun writing short stories, this one is 1,500 words approx. For those of you who have time on your hands.
Time to Remember
Agatha muses, propped and cushioned in her chair with feet elevated to ease her aching knees and feet. Choices lie before her. Life has been a roller coaster ride with more ups than downs, but now the balance has been reversed. Should she play the cantankerous crone and take out her frustration on her minders? That could be fun. Or should she play the role of the docile and compliant sweet old lady with the aim of becoming nurse’s favourite? Which would satisfy her most and make her feel better?
With the first option, there is plenty to complain about. The shock of being woken at 7am when all you want to do is sleep. Losing one’s dignity and having no privacy at all is beyond a joke. Showering is now restricted to every second day, because as you get older your skin becomes thin, sensitive and dry. Having an accident in the night concerns her. Would she start smelling like those incontinent and infirmed old people that surround her?
Her favourite meal of the day is the luxury of having breakfast in bed, even if the toast tastes like chewy cardboard.
She knows some consider her snooty. Why would you sit in a room full of semi- alive beings playing bingo? Or listen to that dreadful, forever cheerful man that comes in with his guitar? Instead, Agatha prefers to daydream in her room and remember happier times.
Growing up as an only child, life was seldom dull. Playing outside, making cubbies, riding her bike and building bonfires with the neighbour-hood gang all flit through her memory. Living near the beach allowed her to walk, swim and beachcomb. Reading became an important escape, which continued throughout her life. Her elderly parents were great readers too.
Leaving school was the best day of her life. She had a job at the bakers, where she learnt how to bake bread, pastries and cakes. Early starts were part of her job and she was proud to be bringing home a wage. Her aging parents had low expectations for her, which she accepted, being a girl.
Meeting Steve had been her big break. He was on leave from the air force. Marrying Steve was her dream. She thought he’d love and provide for her and the children they’d have. The fact that her parents didn’t like him wasn’t important. They’d move away and prove they could make a success of life.
Moving to Darwin was expensive, and it meant that her parents were unable to visit. This saddened her, though it solved problems too. Steve was an alcoholic. Perhaps that was why they were against the marriage? In Darwin Agatha could pretend everything was rosy. She became pregnant and thought Steve would change when he knew he was to have a baby boy. Living in hope, Agatha prepared for the baby. Steve’s job sent him away for months so Agatha had a break from his abusive and demanding behaviours.
Steve was killed in Vietnam and the shock paralyzed her. It was just after Tommy had been born. Gradually she allowed herself to think it might be for the best. She no longer had to stay in Darwin. Her dream of married bliss was destroyed; disillusioned and disappointed she returned to her hometown of Port Sorrel. There she had her parents to help her with Tommy, which allowed her to find work.
Warm fuzz surrounded her as she thought of Tommy growing up. Her parents adored her son, and looked after him three days a week allowing her to work at the bakery. She introduced Tommy to the beach where he collected shells and went fishing with Grandpa, just as she had done.
She rented a shack by the beach and their simple but idyllic existence began. When Tommy started school she worked full time. He did well at school and later won a scholarship to study marine biology at the university in Hobart. She missed him, but was proud of his achievements. He was the first in their family to go to university.
Agatha was feeling the pressure of the sandwich generation, caring for her parents and supporting her son. She had little time for a social life. She dreamt of her boss retiring and taking over the bakery. Tommy brought his girl friends home and she made a fuss of them. Agatha adored Julia, showing her approval by knitting her a jumper and crocheting her a tote bag. The future looked promising.
Her father’s heart was bad, and he’d taken early retirement. He’d pop in and help her with her garden on his good days. When her mother’s health deteriorated she’d call in after work and cook their tea. Not long after this her mother was rushed to hospital. Watching her decline was emotionally draining. Being an only child had disadvantages.
Tommy and Julia decided to marry now they both had permanency at the Antarctic Division in Hobart. She was glad that her parents had lived long enough to attend this happy celebration and see Tommy settled. She drove them down to Hobart to attend the wedding. It was as if they’d both been hanging on for this, as the following year their health deteriorated further. Agatha had two funerals to organize three months apart. Tommy and Julia came home briefly for each funeral, but hurried back to their jobs in Hobart. At least Agatha’s work gave her a reason to get up in the mornings and kept her relatively sane. Selling her parent’s home enabled her to fulfill her dream and buy the bakery.
Agatha put her heart and soul into the bakery and as owner manager she introduced Tasmanian specialties, like truffle meat pies, scallop pies, smoked salmon pastries and blueberry tarts. The café became the place to visit and was included on tourist routes. How busy she’d been. She was proud the business had become so successful. She had trained several people to share the workload, and they catered for many grand functions.
Julia then had twins, Gemma and Gerald, after waiting until forty to have children. She waited to have the right home before having babies. Julia hadn’t anticipated how difficult two babies at this age would be. Tommy was over the moon, but his job was demanding and time consuming so he didn’t appreciate the broken nights. Tommy asked if Agatha would come down and live with them. She really hadn’t want to, but believed Julia needed her support. The bakery would carry on without her, so she took time off, just to see how it would be.
Living in Julia and Tommy’s house was not what she expected. Agatha loved the babies, but wasn’t prepared for the changes. Her own experience of childrearing was obsolete, and unwelcome. In fact she couldn’t wait to get home. Her fancy that she might live in a Granny flat in Hobart was now destroyed. She and Julia didn’t see eye to eye. Her greatest gift would be to leave them to sort everything out for themselves. She was so grateful to have her job to return to. Thank goodness she hadn’t retired. She would look forward to Gemma and Gerald being old enough to spend holidays with her by the beach.
‘Come on Agatha, lunch is ready,’ the nurse calls as she is passing her room.
Agatha snaps back to reality and eases herself onto her walking frame and follows the procession to the dining room. She has made several friends and they often play cards in the afternoons. Lunch is no better than she expects. Crumbed frozen fish fillets with some powdered, mashed potato and a few peas, followed by jelly and custard. How can anyone use so little imagination? Perhaps it is to cater for those who have no teeth.
Considering her earlier quandary she once again realises how positive thoughts and actions will change her circumstances. If she can get into that kitchen she will change things for the better. Discussing this with the Manager of the Home she asks if she can work with the kitchen staff and share some of her experience to improve their menu. The whole mood of the place will improve with better food.
Gaining approval to teach her friends how to cook a few special treats will give them all something to look forward to. Croissants for Saturday breakfasts, and fruit buns on Sundays will be a good start. The kitchen staff is always stretched at weekends, this will be a perfect time to show how they can help out. When Agatha is cooking her aches and pains disappear. Cooking will also take her mind off the fact that her family has no time to visit. She needs to help to feel needed and whole again. Positive thinking being more powerful than negative lifts her to a better place. Naughty thoughts continue to bring a smile to her face as she concocts stories about those about her, maybe she will write some of them down.
Thanks for reading! :-)