Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Ian

Continued from Muse 4

I'd lost contact with him long ago. After the death of my own husband, the sadness compelled me to try to reconnect. Not for any nefarious or devious expectation of a rendezvous or rekindled romance, but just to let him know he'd been in my thoughts.  Loss tends to make one nostalgic and I wondered how he was, what he was doing. I didn't know his whereabouts but had piles of aerogram letters tied with red satin ribbon from years gone by. The address on them being his familial home, gave me hope that his aging mother might still live there. She did.  I wrote to her. She remembered me and responded with cautious grace, saying that he was happy, married, had two little girls and was still living in Manchester. I was pleased.

She gave me his address and I penned a platonic note. We had a quiet and friendly exchange, just the once, and agreed there was little profit in maintaining contact now that we had spent so much time apart and his life was swimming along nicely. He was sorry for my loss, I was happy for his gain.

It came as a surprise when decades later, another letter arrived from the same woman bearing the very sad news that he had passed. He was 66. The letter came after his funeral but I felt a need to let her know that he had also been in my thoughts through all these years. 

A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, a lonely mother missed her only daughter so much that she paid for the family to fly back to England for a six week Christmas holiday. I was one of them, her 16 year old Granddaughter. It was then that I met him. Once again, I rifled through the letters from yesterday and penned a heartfelt response.

"I met Ian whilst on  holiday with my family and staying at my Nana's pub, The Lion's Head in Altringham, Manchester. My Nana, comparable only to Auntie Mame  loved being surrounded by parties and people and the establishment was frequented by young people even though technically it was a "Private Hotel" not a public bar. She was never cautioned since half of Manchester's constabulary also frequented the pub when off duty.  It was lively and due to the presence of police, stayed open way beyond the crazy British Licensing laws allowed. I spent evenings drinking fluffy ducks and eating cheese and biscuits and trying to decipher dialects and accents with limited success. 
To celebrate our arrival in town she hosted a fancy dress party. After being suitably 'styled' at a ridiculously expensive hire salon, I chose a pink and gold Harem outfit. My waist then was thinner and having come from the Australian summer, my tan was healthy.  
The party was a blast, the music contemporary, the patrons young and there I met Ian. His brother Neil was one of the regulars at the Lion's Head and brought him along. Someone with whom I would have a six-year long-distance relationship. 
That winter was the best in my life. Young love and I were allowed out late. We toured the Lake District and most of Cheshire, I went to discos even though I was under age, we lay on tiny boats and dragged our fingers off the bow while travelling through the glittering Blue John Mines. We watched the Muppet Show together, kissed in his little Morris Minor with blue stars painted on the roof . . .the source of a great pickup line..."Do you want to see the stars on my roof?" Worked like a charm. 
We watched Manchester United beat Manchester city, much to Ian's chagrin. Every moment with him was absolutely magic. At the time, he was 9 years my senior and my father was adamant that he had to have me returned safely before midnight. You should have seen Ian's face after receiving a stern lecture about curfews.  He gave me a couple of records to keep him front of mind. 
Once back in Australia, I reminded myself daily of him through Art Garfunkels' 'Breakaway' and Carly Simon's 'No Secrets'. We exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts each year. We dated other people, worked, indulged in our own hobbies and interests but we remained close correspondents. If only we had the Internet back then, things might have worked out very differently. Letters took 10 days to deliver and the wait for each one as painful as the  joy of it's receipt.
I returned to England again after a painful relationship breakup when I was 21 he had remained single and was happy to catch up. It was as if we'd had no time apart. We had another wonderful three months of romance and travel. Everything was perfect. We made a loose pact to meet in Canada the following year. It was his plan to join his brother there and start a new life. In the interim, he gave me a silver ingot on a chain which I wore for years . . . and which I still occasionally wear. 
However, the rendezvous never took place. I fell in love with someone else. I cruelly invited him to the wedding and the letters stopped. No explanation, nothing. Only then, did I realise that I may have broken a heart. Dislodged that arrow from Cupid's bow and for that, I am very sorry. 
I just wanted you to know that the pile of air letters tied with a red satin ribbon are lovingly kept. I often wondered how he was and with the advent of social media, thought I might find him but I never did. I wondered what he was doing, whether he'd travelled, would he have looked me up? Either way, I hope his life was happy, I hope he was greatly loved, I hope his children are wonderful and I wish his wife the best, it's a terrible thing to lose a husband. He will always be remembered by me."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 5 "The Lion's Head and the Bow"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Olaf

Continued from Muse 3

They rarely holidayed together. Their interests were so different. In the beginning, it was his 'difference' that set him apart. He was like nobody she had ever met. Brave, exciting, arrogant. His weather beaten tanned body strong and able, his rugged face obscured by the beard of a woodsman, his eyes piercing blue and fierce with the lust for adventure. She knew he was wild, she knew he was an adventurer and that drew her immediately from her safe life.

She was high school teacher straight out of college, he a reluctant Librarian at the same school but that's where any commonality ceased. He was an adventurer, a trekker, an explorer of remote places. She liked her creature comforts and after years of moving with her family due to her father's work, wanted stability, children and picket fence security.  

Occasionally, they'd vacation in mutually adored places, the Cook Islands or American Samoa but for the most part, they vacationed separately, she visiting friends in New Zealand or Queensland, he taking off for the Himalayas or Andes with little more than a tent and a sleeping bag, and a trusty propane stove.

He was the type to mow his lawn in a sarong, his Scandinavian gruffness easily mistaken for rudeness. He was abrupt and broody. She was a country child then a city woman with intelligence and good manners, genteel and happy. They never married. It bothered her that he wandered off on a whim or that he might take off for good one day due to boredom or the pressures of domestic life.  It tore at her every time she dropped him off at the airport and hugged him goodbye, often wishing he'd go somewhere safer, less remote.  It never bothered him a jot and he'd disengage from her embrace a little too quickly, a little too eagerly. She knew things weren't as they should be but never had the courage to challenge him or indeed to even ask him if he was happy.

He moved through the automatic doors long before she'd even put on her seat belt, eager to be free of the trappings of suburban life, suburban wife.  She wiped the welling in her eyes with the back of her hand and put on a brave face as she slipped sadly away from the kerb, ignoring the chattering of her toddlers, restrained in the back seat. She thought briefly that perhaps Olaf felt restrained but shed the thought as the influx of city traffic distracted her.

He'd made the trip many times alone and with the company of others. This time, he took a bevy of students, eager mountaineers all excited about their adventure. The flights were gruelling, three of them in all and as is always the case in South America, local planes were overbooked and late. Their arrival in Lima allowed them a couple of days respite and time to provision before packing up once again and heading south via the Cajatambo bus on a partially paved road. The 11 hours together allowing them to get to know each other.  His group of students did not like him. They found him gruff and controlling, rude and domineering. He found them trivial and chattering, unwilling to listen or absorb things around them.  They were noisy and disrespectful and he let them know it. They on the other hand knew that the coming weeks were going to require their patience, either that or him being pushed off the edge of a precipice.

The group of 8 prepared with small hikes out of Huaraz to acclimatise to the altitude. Some feeling the sickness but after a couple of days, all were excited and prepared to venture out on one the world's most beautiful treks. Their journey would take them from Matacancha to Pallca among the majestic peaks and stunning vistas.

Olaf was not a patient man and the persistent chatter of his young cohorts annoyed him when all he wanted to absorb was the majesty of the mountains, the depths of the valleys, the abiding silence, quiet as the grave. The rowdy group of fellow Australians were prone to breaking into what could only loosely be called song to vent their exuberance.

"Rocks without mouths sing the best songs..." he'd chided the group when he could stand the cacophony no more. 

"Listen to the mountains, they have their own music and don't need to be corrupted by your caterwauling!"

Silenced by his ill humour, they put metaphoric tails between their legs and complied, but quietly complained about the temperament of their guide and jokingly plotted his demise and disappearance.

It's an unforgiving circuit, the landscape rugged and cursed with unpredictable weather. None of these challenges fazed the group as they trailed along the old Inca road over high pass after high pass, through an Andean wilderness where condors soar high along the ridges and peaks in search of carrion, and wild horses graze in small herds. 

It was on their sixth day that Olaf was uncharacteristically not the first to rise and heat a billy for morning tea. It was on their sixth day that there was no fire even lit. It was on their sixth day that they found him, sleeping peacefully, fitfully, eternally in his tent. It was six days later that his body was recovered by the Peruvian authorities and six weeks after that, when he was finally released, returned home and laid to rest.

It took time for it to sink in. The past weeks had been a flurry of administration, legal representation and scraping the funds to return her partner to Australia under the most stressful and desperate of circumstances.

Her heart doubted and was suspicious but nothing could be proven.  She almost felt shame that he had died by leaving a propane heater on in his tent. She couldn't understand it. He was a seasoned camper, an expert mountaineer yet he'd made the most novice of mistakes. Perhaps he was tired, perhaps he just nodded off. Perhaps someone lit it after he'd fallen asleep.  Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps the differences between them had grown insurmountable and he'd taken his own life.  The autopsy results were certain, he'd died of carbon monoxide poisoning but nobody knew exactly how. She will never know exactly why.

RIP Olaf Arud
"Forever Listening to the Mountains"
1945 - 1995

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 4 "Rocks Without Mouths Sing the Best Songs"

Eulogies 101 - Brittany

Continued from Muse 2

I’ll never forget when Brittany came to live with us. She needed some respite from a long-suffering relationship with a man who had run her ragged. He’d baited her, beaten her, even broke her leg once and always pushed her to her limits. My mother, being the kind soul she could sometimes be, and wanting to sate her philanthropic urges, took her in, so to speak. Although it wasn’t long before we realised, the black-haired beauty had actually taken over, the bitch.

We were fascinated by her at first, tall, dark, with a slender body, ample chest, elegant long legs that helped her sashay through the door and across the room. Her bright, inquisitive eyes darting nervously as she surveyed her new surroundings. Her aquiline nose accentuating a sweet, yet rather featureless face.

She seemed pleased with the d├ęcor and nodded approvingly, making herself immediately comfortable with a familiarity that could be seen by some as contempt. My mother had been particularly generous, providing her with a new bed and accoutrements, none of which received great appreciation. But Brit was fond of silence and barely made a sound with the exception the occasional grumble of disapproval.

She was inordinately fussy to feed. One day she’d love roast chicken, the next turn up her pencil nose and refuse to eat it. Catering became a daily challenge, even to the point where for one meal she would eat only cheese that she’d ‘stolen’ from a cheese platter and hidden beneath a cushion. Her behaviour was inconsistent and erratic, somewhat mystifying. Who steals a piece of cheese?

She was completely indifferent when friends called over. Naturally they were curious to meet the new house guest and bought gifts and smiles. She’d just sit on the couch with a superior expression, clearly displeased at the invasion of privacy. She could easily have removed herself, isolated herself, gone upstairs into the bedroom, moved outside and enjoyed the view from the verandah but no, she preferred to make her disdain obvious and discomforting and with the elevation provided by the sofa.

She’d been our guest for only a week or two when things began to disappear. Trusting as my mother was, she’d leave Ella to her own devices while she went to work. Left alone and to her own devices it became obvious that she’d breached house rules. Upon return, little things, nothing of value or consequence, would disappear. That loaf of bread left on the counter, the leggings left folded on the table, television remote controls, a spare shoe. Who steals a shoe?

This went on for weeks before we discovered a cache of clothes and trinkets had been secreted away for God knows what reason. Confronting her merely incited a head-toss of indifference. She cared not when we retrieved our items. Within another week, they’d be stolen back and stored. And so it went on.

She showed her true colours when visited by a mutual friend’s grandchild. A rather irritating boy of 4 years, a short and dribbly menial who insisted on putting his fingers where they shouldn't go and jabbering incessantly. His constant questioning, touching and poking caused her to strike in a most unladylike manner. Spittle emanating from her bloodied lips after literally biting the child’s ear. Who bites an ear!  

The demon sting hiding behind the facade of a black beauty had been revealed. She clearly had no respect or regard for those who were height challenged and no boundaries on what physical pain she felt entitled to moot out. Secretly, we felt the child deserved it and only chastised her slightly.

Still, we warmed to her curmudgeonly attitude. We ignored her lazy ways. We became used to the theft and fascination with cheese. We learned to vary the menu and that pretty much anything served with home made chicken stock would be eagerly devoured.  We even began to adore the chattering of her teeth when she was happy. It took a little longer to get used to her monopolization of a couch, lying flat on her back, legs akimbo but even that became charming in its own way even if her lack of modesty was not.

Her cancer diagnosis made us love her even more, knowing that her time with us was limited. She left us too soon. That beautiful, sweet, short haired, elegant, needle-nosed, growly, roaching, long-legged, cheese-stealing, child-biting, aloof yet wonderful Greyhound. We miss her much.

RIP Brittany
May There Be Jarlsberg Over the Rainbow Bridge
2009 - 2016

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 3 "The Scorpion's Dripping Wet Lips"

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Pamela

Continued from Muse 1:

There was nothing unusual about this day, or rather this afternoon. Her husband dropped her off at the hospital as he did every week day. She commenced her afternoon/evening shift with her usual diligence and sense of vocation. Helping mothers breast feed, delivering newborns, attending to the endless paperwork that would see her through to the end of her shift.

Evening shift suited her. She could pootle around in the mornings, leave a meal for a hungry family, shop, tend to her garden, play the piano then head to work at 2pm.

She made him drive her there and back because, well, frankly, he liked to drink. He liked to drink a lot. Whiskey being his poison, it made him angry and argumentative, it made him loud and obnoxious.  By insisting that he pick her up, he had to remain sober.  He had to have his wits about him. That night he had his wits about him. He was stone cold sober as he slipped on his trainers, turned off the TV, patted the dog on the head and walked toward his car.

There was nothing unusual about this evening. The route, one he’s travelled thousands of times, just kilometres from home and absent of traffic late at night.  It was a well-sealed, well lit road with gentle curves.  The only thing preventing it from boring, the odd rabbit bouncing in front of the headlights.

There was nothing unusual about her greeting.  She was waiting for him, dressed in her white tunic, her RN badge glinting ever-so-slightly in the dim entrance light, her navy cardigan folded neatly over her arm and a large handbag, hanging from the crook in her elbow.  She smiled as the Honda’s headlights flashed and he approached.  She slid into the passenger seat and kissed him on the cheek. And as he always did, he asked about her day.

“Oh, business as usual,” she chirped, “Three babies, one post-partum haemorrhage but a quiet night in the nursery.”
She prattled on about the ins and outs of the Maternity Ward, frustrations with her supervisor, the laziness of a nursing aid. The more animated her conversation, the ‘posher’ her English accent became.

She loved her job, or should I say vocation. Being a midwife was the realisation of a long held desire. Her own children now grown, she sought comfort by caring for others.  She’d been a nurse in her youth before marrying and having a family, but gaining her midwifery credentials was something she did at 45. No mean feat when pandering to an ‘executive’ husband and four teenage children.  For two years, she studied, took on shift work and eventually topped her class. Ever since, she’d worked in Maternity, even though she could have retired years ago. She did it out of love and dedication, not for the money.  Strangely, she could never stand to be present for the birth of her children’s children. Instead, she’d hang by the ‘phone, waiting for the news of each delivery.

There was something unusual about this homeward trip.  With only 3 kilometres from home, he saw the headlights on the wrong side of the road.  His mind metered the speed of the vehicle and its trajectory.  It didn’t deviate from its course, there was no erraticism in its journey as it careened towards him.  He swerved on one of those gentle curves, his natural instinct to pull to the right exposing the passenger door to the oncoming SUV.

He wasn’t able to talk at her funeral, her children weren’t able to talk at her funeral.  Instead, they sat dumbstruck as a Funeral Director delivered a brief eulogy.  Nurses from work formed a guard of honour for her last journey. She was 62 years old.

She was a devoted wife and followed her husband with four children, across the globe into a new world, a new life. She was a carer, a listener, a firm hand, a wife, a mother, Nana and a nurse.  A woman as at home in the kitchen, as she was on the golf course.   A gardener, a dancer, a singer, a storyteller.   She was dedicated, maternal, wise.  She hated Christmas and its drunken connotations, yet the nicest photograph I have of her is relaxed, slightly tipsy and smiling naturally.  

She loved her family with ferocity.  She called out hypocrisy, she rewarded achievement.  She yelled, a lot! Not so much as we aged but as youngsters, we often attempted to dodge that swinging hand, shielded by a wet rubber glove but it always made its mark.

She was a mentor, a crooner, a tosser of pancakes, a picker of flowers. A woman of substance, a reader of books, a piano player of calibre, the hugger of all huggers.  She hugged so hard that her jaw slightly clicked with the intensity of her emotions.

I wish I had been able to speak some words at her funeral but I’m glad she knew that I loved her during life. I speak to her now as if she’s in the room, I laugh and cry with her even though she cannot hear.  She was the mother I can only ever aspire to become.

Pamela Dunn
Always With Us
1931 - 1992

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 2 "Business as Usual"

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Nakia

The house is long demolished and the once pristine five acres surrounded by cyclone fence bearing the developer’s logo. It used to be a pretty, semi-rural part of the neighbourhood but development encroached and the once tranquil landscape was now dotted with McMansions and Townhouses. The whole street is a construction site and barely recognisable. 

As the bulldozer breaks drought hardened earth, the operator suspends his bucket and climbs down from his yellow tower of destruction.

“Holy shit!” he mutters to himself. 

There’s a sliver of red acrylic blanket, now slowly decomposing, it’s satin ribbon trim nibbled by some subterranean animal and the bleached bone of something protruding from beneath.

As with all ‘finds’ of this type, work halts and the police are called. Forensics pin ‘do not disturb’ ribbon around the grave and gently prod away at the remaining earth. The body is not human.

Two friends listened to an unintelligible auctioneer while only one man placed a bid.

“ You got any money?” she asked gingerly, as the flashy paint was paraded before them. 

She’d never been to an auction before, let alone one selling livestock. The guy bidding next to her was from the knackery and the horse in front was simply stunning.  Stocky quarter horse type, decked out in western gear, all 15 hands of him prancing with his head tucked in, his mane shaven and resembling Alexander's Bucephalus - an arched neck and broad chest, fearless, strong.  

“Well" the friend responded albeit gingerly, "I have mum and dad’s Cheque book while they’re overseas so yes, I have some money but you’ll have to pay me back before they come home!”

That was all it took. That day, the knackery would not claim it's victim. She cajoled some cow hand to load the Galloway onto a truck and transport him to surburbia.  Yes, suburbia. She had nowhere to put the pony but the back yard. From a humble start, he was moved over the years, agisted and eventually had his very own paddock. Three acres of lush fodder, the shade of soaring gum trees and here he remained, happy with himself, not so much with her.

He was a fun purchase. Obstinate, beautiful, delicious to ride with a rocking chair canter that could put his rider to sleep. “Nikky” as she called him was both a bane and an asset. Impossible to catch without three people surrounding him with a sturdy rope, an adept escape artist. A horse with two speeds, stop and fast! A horse that could turn on a sixpence and dislodge it's rider easily. A horse that knew when he was heading home, no matter where he was or whether he’d been along that trail before.  He’d then proceed to prance and jog for the entire stretch. She’d even had to have physiotherapy just after she bought him, his pull had all but dislocated her shoulder.  But he was good in a parade, easy to shoe and tend to when the vet was required.  He was happy with his own company and unafraid of a hose or float.

Only when true love came her way did she begin to neglect him. Boys and cars gave way to  such girlish pursuits as pretty ponies. He was no longer ridden, just fed and watered. No longer loved or pampered. He just wasted away as old men do.

It was a particularly wonderful night with celestial bodies lighting her path from the house to the paddock.  She prepared his meal of mushed oats and chaff, rice oil and molasses, a recipe that wouldn’t place big demands on his worn teeth. He wasn’t standing next to the trough as was his habit, he wasn’t standing anywhere. Her gaze dropped from the starlight night to a small patch of black and white, lying, breathing heavily. Weak with age, he’d stumbled into an indent in the ground and simply decided not to rise. 

She hand fed the wet grain and he ate eagerly, heartily despite barely being able to raise his head, she had the feeling that he knew this was his last meal.  The stars disappeared and became blanketed with clouds as a mizzling of precipitation dampened his summer coat, the temperature dropped. She ran back to the house and retrieved an old red acrylic blanket with a satin trim. It was almost new but a befitting shroud for a once noble steed. She covered him and left him.

His death was rapid and comfortable, the vet’s green dream taking immediate effect. She couldn’t watch. She called the back-hoe owner and asked him to bury the frail pony in the back paddock but while she wasn’t home. Too undignified to watch Nikky covered with clay, hoisted into a humongous hole dug by a 50T excavator and a man who didn’t give a shit from his yellow tower of destruction.

She marked the grave with a little cross, his full name emblazoned on it carelessly but visible.

It didn’t stand the test of time, but neither did he. Foxes had dug into the mound over the years, after them, rabbits made part of it their home.

Eventually another excavator surrounded by a cyclone fence bearing the name of a developer, dug into the hole and retrieved the bones. The driver descending from his yellow tower of destruction.  At first shocked, then relieved, then angry that progress had been halted by the grave.

The remains were not human.

Bunwarra Nakia 
 Cranky Bastard
1977 – 1992 

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 1 "Lights From Heaven"

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Found Objects 2

Continued from Found Objects

A tiny hand clutched hers when she came round. The smell and taste of disinfectant in her system and the shine on pale green walls rendered her more confused than ever.  The small ward echoed with beeps and clicks and the beige folds in the curtain separating her bed from another were unfamiliar and threatening, something from a distant memory but she wasn't sure what.

"Hi Grandma, are you poorly?"

The tiny voice was more familiar but not quite recognisable, as were the concerned faces of her son and daughter, towering above her bed, almost hovering as harbingers yet clearly worried. She felt as small as the hand that held hers.

"Hello Alice." Another voice entered the space.

She turned her head to see the young Intern reading from his notes. His face expressionless, his tone monotonous. He turned his attention to the couple beside her bed as the little boy squeezed tighter and smiled at her.

 "She was very lucky," he began, his demeanour almost reprimanding.  "Thankfully a neighbour heard the dog barking and sounded the alarm.  We don't know how long she was unconscious. I'm advised that she was clinically dead but revived by Paramedics at the scene.  As a result, she's a little confused. She has a contusion on her skull and has experienced a cereberovascular event. She's currently also suffering dysphasia,  has paralysis on the left side which may or may not resolve. She also is showing signs of amnesia, probably due to the head trauma."

 The two adults that she barely recognised were nodding in accordance, soaking up his words, assessing his prognosis but to Alice, it looked like they were ashamed. The woman placed her hand over her mouth to muffle her emotions.

"The first few days are crucial," continued the Intern. "She'll be visited by a Speech Pathologist, a Physiotherapist and monitored four-hourly. But you also need to do your part to enable a full recovery."

"She needs to be reminded of who she is and engaged in conversation frequently to help with her articulation. Perhaps you could bring in photographs or objects that are familiar to her and talk about them, what the meant to her, reinforce her memory. Long term memories are generally the first to return, something from her past would be appropriate."

Again the adults nodded in deference to the medico's authority. The Intern patted Alice's arm in a sign of faux empathy and swiftly exited.

"We have to go Mum," the woman said. "Do what the doctor tells you and we'll be back tomorrow, promise."

She looked into the woman's eyes with an inkling of remembrance but wasn't sure who she was. Her daughter? Her daughter-in-law? Some stranger who had mistaken her for a parent?
The man was already heading towards the door without saying a word.

She tried to mouth "Who are you?" but the words spilled out differently and her nonsense "Ninety-nine, father," landed on her daughter's ears and evoked tears.

"Tomorrow Mum. You'll feel a little better tomorrow."

The woman sighed and kissed Alice's forehead.  Alice felt something familiar about her touch and smell. The little hand disengaged and waved as he cornered the bed, his other hand clasped tight by a well dressed woman who did not look back as she disappeared behind the curtain folds.

Alice gazed at the ceiling and a slightly flickering strip light that made her blink more frequently than she had before. The tubes in her nose made her sneeze but she couldn't raise her left arm to stem the spittle.  A nurse entered with a tissue and assisted.

"There you go luv, I'll leave these here for you. Might have a bit of trouble with that left arm so use your right. The physio will be here in a couple of hours. Would you like a cup of tea?"

She nodded, her throat was parched. She tried to say 'Thank you' without adding 'Ninety-nine father," but it didn't work. The nurse seemed unfazed.

"That's alright luv, It'll come with time," and she too slipped behind the folds.

Folds that brought back a first memory. Folds that now reminded her of those drawn slowly across the casket at funerals. Folds that enveloped as it slipped behind into the Chapel crematorium. She couldn't remember where she'd seen them, only that she'd seen them often.

"Here you are luvvy," chirped an orderly as he set down the cup and saucer. He helped her sit up with firm yet gentle arms, plumped up the pillows and offered her a sip through a straw.

"You'll be alright, you're a lucky girl Alice, a very lucky soul. Just a few more moments and you might not be with us here now. Just think, you'll be up and around in no time. You'll probably look at the world a little differently now that you've got a second chance eh?"

Alice, syphoned the luke-warm tea and rejected the plain biscuit. The orderly too, then disappeared behind the folds, leaving her to assess her survival. Her mind was active even if it was a little befuddled, all she could remember was a tattoo she wished she'd had.

Muse 2 - A Little Death is Good for the Soul
Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory - 8th River of Mnemosyne Challenge

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Found Objects

She'd wondered about it many times. Living alone in an enclave of frightened neighbours, the gates electronically controlled, people peering through lace curtained windows at unfamiliar cars - What would happen if she died, alone!

"I could be dead for days before anyone finds me!" she'd lamented to her kids. They were now grown with wives and children of their own. Rarely seen, rarely contacted other than the odd phone call or message. It had been a constant fear since she'd gone beyond her 70's.

There was no reason to believe anything would happen. She was frail but healthy. She had a panic button in the bathroom and a remote to carry round in the event of an emergency. She'd only used it once when she fell from the second stair and sprained her ankle. Help came . . .eventually. It gave her some solace, but not much.

She had a frame. Since her knee had been replaced, it had been pain free but even harder to traverse those stairs. It was inflexible which is why for an hour, twice a day, she would watch television and use a mini cycle to increase it's reach. Which is why, she'd hired a Zimmer frame temporarily to help her get around. The instability was palpable and her recovery slow. She should have had the surgery done 10 years earlier if only the surgeons had been cooperative and she hadn't been so afraid of convalescing. They wanted to put her into assisted living but she wasn't that unfit. Her curled hair, now white made her look a little mad and her rather random selection of poorly matched clothes might have been a little unorthodox but she knew she wasn't crazy.

She'd become forgetful.  Years of trying to learn a language, mastering sudoku, trying to be alert and forcing memories had only been slightly successful. She still couldn't remember what day it was or where she was supposed to be at any given time without a calendar reminder or a phone call. She lost things, all sorts of things. For one, the remote panic control. Her rubber gloves. That other slipper. She could have her glasses on her head whilst searching for them, her mobile phone in her hand whilst forgetting where she'd left it. She'd left the garage door open overnight then panicked realising that anyone could have entered during her broken slumber, but she knew that wasn't really true. Nobody would come, nobody ever did.

She'd always intended to get a tattoo. A specific tattoo with a specific message. She'd banged on about it for years but never managed to pluck up the courage to be inked. She wasn't afraid of dying. She was afraid of living. That's why she'd chosen this little Villa in it's enclave of fear. All her neighbours were the same. Quiet, unobtrusive. Never waved, never spoke. That's why electronic gates and high walls formed a virtually impenetrable fortress around her. She knew once 'in' she was safe. She also knew once 'in', she was vulnerable to not being found.

As she limped across the lounge room to grab the TV remote control, her brain exploded. She felt weak, sweaty and her hand couldn't grasp the oversized item, bought specifically to help with arthritic hands. She could see the red and green buttons jumping at her - stop then go, in focus, then blurred. She could feel the vertigo take over as she gripped the frame tightly with both hands, leaning her now frail and atrophied body against it, her knees weakening but not prepared to bend. There was nobody to talk to, nobody to help, and where was that damned remote panic button. She began to speak. Not in an ordered fashion but words jumbled like letters newly collected from a Scrabble board and randomly placed in their little rack.

As she glanced upward, pins and needles stabbed relentlessly at her wizened hands. She caught a glimpse of the wedding photo on the mantle. Her voice quivering with fear she asked the handsome man holding her hand for help but the words exiting her mouth made no sense. They'd been so clear in her head but had got lost between brain and mouth. The handsome face smiled back at her giving cold comfort as she slipped.

Her eyes moved rapidly. She felt the aluminium frame beneath her wobble and loose it's footing, only helping her lose hers. She fell. A long, slow fall, the room dashing sideways in a blur of diagonally lined colour.  No-one saw her hit her head on the coffee table as a small spew of red stained the rug. No-one heard her plea for help although she wasn't even sure the words had been anywhere but inside her mind.  As she and her tiny frame covered the ground in a stupor of confusion and a stab of pain, she was sentient enough to realise this would only kill her if she wasn't found. She began to wish that perhaps that would be better and how she should have followed through with the long forgotten intention to have that tattoo. As she lost consciousness she gazed at the inside of her wrist and imagined it there. "Do Not Resucitate".

Muse 1 - Covering the Ground with Great Intentions
Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory - 8th River of Mnemosyne Challenge 
Continued in Found Objects 2