Matilda blinked at the emptiness of the house as the last boxes were taken out and loaded onto a moving van. Somehow the emptiness didn’t look right and she was immediately apprehensive! Had she made the right decision to get rid of it all? Her mind’s eye placed every one of those now boxed up items back in its place just as they were when Jim was here. Each one had a special memory. Some had been purchased new over the years, some were hand me downs as members of the family passed on, and some had been made by Jim’s own hands.
One thing they all had in common was they were well used and showed the marks of age. She’d never see them again, but they were all precious in their time she mused. Reluctantly she turned away from the scene and her eyes strained in the bright sunlight as she searched for the red car that would announce her son Tom had arrived. Fear suddenly gripped her! What if Tom didn’t come? What if she had to face this move alone?
If only Jim were here! He’d been her rock during their life together. It seemed such a short time since they’d first met and he’d swept her off her feet so effortlessly. Her heart rate increased as she remembered walking with him down by the river in the little village of Burtonsville. There he’d drawn her to him and planted that first nervous kiss on her forehead. She knew they’d be soul mates forever and the thought he’d not always be with her was far from her mind as she responded eagerly.
Their months of courting had been a bitter sweet experience. Bitter because jobs were scarce and Jim had to be away from the village often for weeks at a time, sweet because his appearances with a smile and a gift at the end of his weeks away would instantly wipe away her resentment that life was treating them so cruelly.
Matilda’s parents were initially not enthusiastic about their match, but as they observed Jim’s sober ways, hard work and obvious delight in their daughter they warmed to his visits and finally gave him their permission to marry their precious Matilda. That was seventy years ago and Matilda had been only sixteen at the time and Jim nineteen. Matilda’s parents never regretted their decision.
Tom sat in his red car in front of the moving van. He’d deliberately chosen this spot as he tried to compose himself before facing his mother Matilda. He remembered how warm and inviting his home life had been during teenage years.
Jim and Matilda had made their four children their major focus in life and dedicated their time and limited means to provide a nurturing environment to them all. Each of them had blossomed in that home. The three younger sisters had married well and were scattered around the country with their families far from their original home. They frequently phoned Matilda, but were alarmed as they perceived Matilda was not coping well any more. Tom and his three sisters had a family meeting about the situation.
Tom was the black sheep of the family. He’d inherited Jim’s work ethic early and been successful in academic pursuits and business. But he’d messed up terribly in his marital relationship and was now alone, the trauma of that break up had affected his work and he now lived in a one bedroom apartment in the city with little money and large alimony payments to his ex-wife and family. For a while he’d taken to drinking and it was only when Matilda took him in hand he’d successfully re-invented himself, got a good job and faced up to his responsibilities.
This was the cause of his misery now. He’d love to have taken Matilda into his home and cared for her now she couldn’t fend for herself, but without help he’d not be able to carry on with his present job responsibilities. It had been a struggle, but eventually he had to suggest to his Mother a retirement facility would be the only choice for the help she now needed. The sale of her home would finance her accommodation and treatment.
He dried his eyes, put on a cheerful face and went to fetch Matilda for that long journey to the retirement facility close to where he lived. At least he could visit her regularly there.
Matilda shed a tear as she took Tom’s arm and slowly turned to take a last look at the family home. Would her memories disappear as the home faded from sight? She indulged a slight resentment at the fact Jim had left her alone, but it was only a fleeting moment. Jim had been so loving and kind and would never have left her alone if sickness hadn’t intervened.
She remembered that fateful morning when she awoke and turned to look at her Jim. He’d not been well, but still had that trade mark smile on his face even in sleep, but as she took his hand she knew this was not sleep. For the next hour she sat by the bed in her pyjamas watching him, expecting he’d open his eyes and look at her with that same tender love and mischievous twinkle he had when teasing her. Then she realized she’d never see that look again and with a loud wail of grief headed for the phone to break the sad news. Events to follow were mired in her fog of grief!
Matilda held onto Tom’s arm as they made that journey to the retirement home. She needed to feel the security of his touch. She barely acknowledged Tom’s apartment as he stopped to pick up papers to be handed in at the retirement home. This was the place she’d spent many weeks helping Tom with his rehabilitation. It had been cramped and uncomfortable for this old person but it was her son and she needed to be there for him. She waited in a daze as realization set in she’d have to make a new life in a strange place among strangers.
Both Matilda and Tom were surprised as they headed for the reception desk. A friendly nurse took Matilda by the arm and chatted to her as Tom gave the necessary papers to the receptionist. Soon the one in charge came out to personally welcome Matilda and assure Tom she’d be well cared for.
They toured the facility together and were eagerly welcomed by those they met in the hallways and lounge rooms. Tom could see that social interaction with people Matilda’s age who were mentally alert was the kind of therapy Matilda needed to slowly rehabilitate her from her time of grief. Jim would always be in her thoughts, but there were enough planned distractions to give her a reason to live again. Tom determined to make frequent visits to see his mother settled in and happy.
It was an added bonus the day after Matilda’s arrival to have Tom’s estranged wife and children visit their grandmother. Matilda hoped healing could come to her son’s family and that gave her added reason to live to see this take place.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved”