Clara sat up in bed with difficulty. Reaching behind she adjusted pillows, so they gave her back more support. Her back ached and she winced as the effort adjusting those pillows disturbed back vertebrae that now ground together. She gave a little cry of surprise and shook her head sadly.
Slipping back into memory lane she remembered how it hadn’t been that way for much of her life. She’d been into competitive sports since school days and even made a career out of it until that tragic day of the accident. Her team bus had been hit by an out of control cement truck that crossed over the divided highway to hit oncoming traffic. The team bus had rolled down an embankment and Clara’s leg had been pinned beneath twisted steel. Months of suffering through multiple surgeries had eventually rescued her leg, but when eventually out of hospital doctors had broken the news it wouldn’t stand up to a continued career in sports.
So, at the age of thirty-five she’d found herself with a very substantial legal action payout covering more than her medical expenses, but also the Judge’s estimation of income lost through to the end of her contract. But the substantial payments from marketing company sponsorships using her name as a top sportswoman to promote their products dried up quickly.
Clara remembered how she and her husband Bart had sat down soon after her release from hospital to try and reassemble their lives. Each of them had chosen sports for their life occupation. They’d estimated a time in future when their use by date would come around and had factored that into future finances. They’d made wise investments, some in properties. This would be their retirement income and give them not only an income flow but something to manage at their leisure in retirement. But it all required a continuing flow of income streams from their respective careers now and that had halved with her accident.
Bart came up with a solution. Clara’s name was still a highly recognizable asset in the market so why not set up a sports franchise in her name. They could retail sports equipment and clothing under her name, advertise heavily and if successful franchise her name for business in other cities.
So, they sold their palatial home and rented, used savings and Clara’s millions in settlement and gave it a try. And it worked! Both Bart and Clara poured their hearts and energies into the enterprise leveraging recognition of their names as successful sports stars and the important contacts they’d already established in the market place. Soon they were back with the plan and saving for their children’s future higher level education and their salvaged retirement plan.
Clara drifted back to reality. That was then, this was now! She leaned over to press the buzzer by her bed. Where was that woman assigned to bathe her and wheel her to the dining and later recreation room where she liked to play cards with other residents her age? Always late Clara was never like that in her prime! She sat up morosely, she’d always been organized and punctual through her life and had expected the same from her employees who she paid liberally.
Maria finally came around the corner smiling broadly. She was a qualified nurse in the Philippines but since migrating as a family they’d learned she’d have to complete further academic work before being registered as a fully-fledged practicing nurse. Training requirements were different to where she’d completed her work. It was disappointing, as she’d been told at the embassy her qualifications would be recognized on arrival. In the meantime, while she completed necessary units at the local university she’d found work in this nursing home and was soon the favourite of all with her cheerful disposition and willingness to do any work assigned without complaint. Her team mate had phoned in to say she had the flu and couldn’t make it, so the load was heavy today.
Clara relaxed as soon as Maria appeared at the doorway. She loved this woman and all irritation ceased when Maria was around. Maria busied herself clearing around the bed and opening curtains to allow for a beautiful view of grounds and gardens from Clara’s upper level window. Then she skilfully managed Clara to the attached bathroom and showered her then set her in her favourite chair by the window while she made the bed. It was all handled quickly and efficiently and soon Clara was being whisked down the corridor to the dining room before Maria departed to collect another resident. Clara was one of a group who preferred eating in the dining room, but most were content to have breakfast delivered to their room.
After a while Maria returned to whisk Clara to the recreation room where she found her group and chatted for a while before cards were produced and the game began. The women liked each other but the game always seemed to end in a fight, and they’d sit glaring at each other to be eventually moved to other parts of the room where they could choose to watch videos or work on crafts. But fights were always forgotten, and they were eager next day to play the game again.
As Clara sat surveying a new craft item given her to complete her mind wandered off again. The craft item to be completed in easy cross stitch said, “Happy Mother’s Day.” Clara thought hard then raised her arm to get the attention of the recreation room supervisor. Janet Clark headed that way acknowledging other raised arms along the way.
“What can I do for you Clara?” Janet smiled pleasantly.
“Is it Mother’s Day?”
Janet stooped to see what Clara was pointing to and pursed her lips in irritation.
“No Clara, Mother’s Day is on Sunday and this should have been handed out then not now. I’ll take that and give you another one.” She reached down to take it from Clara’s hand.
“That’s alright, I’d like to keep it!” She waved Janet away and stared at the craft piece.
Her mind went back to those days when the family was complete. Bart and she were working hard to recover from the financial shock her accident had caused their life plans. They had two beautiful daughters and a son and the children recognizing how the accident had affected the family reinforced by that move from the mansion to an average rental in the suburbs had been cooperative.
The eldest girl Allison took on some of the household management responsibilities while her parents were working hard to recover their fortunes despite her academic studies. Bart and Clara had resolved their first order of business was to see the children got the best of schooling before other retirement considerations were planned but as the youngest Mark moved to adolescence the inevitable clash occurred with his eldest sister and parents had to intervene. Clara had to put her enterprise management aside while she guided the children through difficult growing up years until they could make mature decisions, then one by one they left home for university and eventually a career of their own choosing. None of them had an interest in management of Bart and Clara’s now prosperous sports retailing empire.
Careers and marriage took the children to far distant states and other parts of the world. It seemed so long ago. What was the point of Bart and Clara working so hard now? They’d made their fortune and it was now time to enjoy it, so they sold business interests and moved to a beautiful secluded place overlooking the ocean near an oceanside city. For a while they’d had daily contact through phone and video messaging with children and grandchildren. Then into their late seventies Bart had a heart attack and was incapacitated. In consultation with the children they updated their will and made their son Mark, now an investment banker in Hong Kong executor before moving to this retirement resort to spend the rest of their lives in enjoyment. They did enjoy a few more years before Bart’s second heart attack. This time it was fatal.
As Clara continued in her depression her health began to fail, and Allison begged her mother to stay with her. They were well off and would construct a granny flat where Allison could keep an eye on her mother’s health. But Clara decided it would be better to move into the assisted living complex in the resort where she could get the kind of care needed as she aged further. She knew people her age here. Her children eventually had to agree that was the best decision.
Clara came back to the present with a start. That was then, this was now. She had no desire to continue and longed to join Bart at rest.
She took the Mother’s Day craft piece back to her room unstarted and placed it on the side table where she could see it. She spent hours studying it thinking of Mother’s Day celebrations as the children were growing up. Each memory was a precious one as the children one by one would bring their gifts to her on Mother’s Day. After they left home the day had less meaning unless one of the families happened to be visiting at that time and the grand children would bring their gifts eagerly while proud parents looked on. Oh, they did send flowers and cards, but this didn’t have the same meaning as the child to parent gift sharing of past years.
So, on Sunday Mother’s Day Clara continued in deep depression. No token flowers or cards had arrived from her children or grandchildren and she shrugged it off. Who cares! She was even short with Maria when the cheerful lady came to care for her morning needs and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day. She went through the morning routines in a morose mood prompting an anxious staff member to send the nurse to check her out. It was so unlike Clara they all said.
Then at lunch time when the attendant on shift came to take her to the dining room Clara refused. They took her anyway complaining all the way but this time they took her down another corridor. Clara angrily thumped on the side of the chair shouting they were going in the wrong direction. They halted at the function room and the attendant peeped inside giving a signal. Then bursting through the now opened door they were greeted by the whole assembled family, their children, their spouses and of course the grandchildren calling Happy Mother’s Day!
Clara wept as the family gathered around. The room was decked out with party decorations and tables laden with food. Hired musicians commenced their music as families headed for pre-assigned seating arrangements with Clara the honoured guest at the head of the table. The mood lifted and Clara laughed as each grandchild presented their gifts in turn. Perhaps she was not quite ready to join Bart yet.
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