For our professional writing unit we were given an assignment to write a short story…so I thought I would publish my attempt!
Inspiration for this story came as I observed a frail old woman who was getting off the bus struggling with her shopping bags. It made me wonder where she was going and whether she had anyone to meet. Then my thoughts led to who she may have been in her younger life and the experiences she may have had. I realised how quickly life moves on and how everyone will one day be in the same situation. As health care is constantly improving and people are living longer I feel it is important to improve the quality of life for the elderly which is reflected in this story.
The Final Mile
Life is full of milestones. Significant moments that are ticked off on life’s chart one by one. When we are young we look forward to them, anticipate them and even hurry them on. A child dreams of their teenage years and the independence they believe it brings, they wish for their first boyfriend, first kiss. In young adulthood we are desperate to leave home, gain a career, get married and have children. I feel that these things are all hastily rushed into as we eagerly wish for what we are not quite ready for. In the latter half of life we dread and postpone them for as long as possible. We deny them often, use white lies to avoid the truth of them. But they can’t be avoided in the long run. I know this as I’ve reached my life’s final milestone and it fills me with fear.
It came with a ring of the doorbell. On my third attempt I’d managed to pull myself to my feet from my armchair where I had been sat watching the evening news. I eventually made my way to the door to let my niece, Sarah, in. She reminded me a little of my younger self as she stood tall and smart in her expensive silk lined business suit. I noticed her shiny, posh car parked outside and smiled at her success as if it were my own. I was director of L.Davies Advertising Company once upon a time; I was a powerful and respected woman in my day, always busy, always active. Not that it means much to me now, it’s just a vague and distant memory I’m afraid. She leant down and kissed my cheek as she entered the house and helped me over to the settee. Her affectionate personality then reminded me of her mother, a quality I’d always envied of my baby sister. But in that moment, like six pm every evening, she brought a smile to my day.
Then life checked off its final box.
“Auntie Lucy, you know I love coming to see you don’t you?” she said softly as she sat down beside me, “but you’re 87 next week, you shouldn’t be on your own. I worry about you in this big house. You should be looked after properly now.”
She looked at me with a fusion of guilt and exasperation in her eyes. I noticed the dark ring marks under them and realised the burden I’d become to her. And I knew it was time. Time to lose my dignity in ‘death’s waiting room’. Sarah smiled and squeezed my hand; her hand was warm and firm, so full of life. I didn’t say a thing, just listened to her.
“I know we’ve discussed this before and you didn’t like the idea but John and I have looked into some really lovely homes. I know you can afford something really luxurious. Then you won’t have to be on your own here all the time”.
In that one moment I wanted to set her free. It dawned on me that she should be dedicating her time to her own family. Her two teenage girls needed her and her husband missed her. She should be running her own home instead of spending each evening checking on mine. I love her dearly, you see, she’s the daughter I never had. She’s the only family I had left. After her mother died unexpectedly three summers ago she’d taken on the responsibility of keeping me company and we’d become very fond of each other. Although I battled with my private thoughts that moving into a home was giving up, I saw her desperate, pleading expression and found it in myself to answer her.
“Yes, ok dear”.
I saw her facial expression turn to relief and deep down I was relieved too. I was lonely, I rarely ventured out of the house anymore and I was incredibly bored. I often wondered what life would be like in old age if I had my own children and grandchildren to adore. I find myself questioning whether I’ve really lived my life to the full- my mind was always set on work and never on settling down.
That night I dreamt that I was thirty again. I was tall and slim with long, blonde hair. I looked strong both physically and mentally; not the frail, hunched old woman that peers back in the mirror at me now. I saw my smooth unblemished hand filling out a mountain of paperwork. Molly, my secretary, brought over my coffee and gave me a list of all my appointments that day. I was rushed off of my feet, my diary was jam-packed and I appeared to be enjoying every minute of it. At that moment my phone began to ring, and ring. Apparently I was ignoring my latest boyfriend.
I awoke to my real phone ringing on my bedside table.
“John and I will pick you up at three to show you a place you’ll just love. Right I must go; I’m late for my meeting”.
Before I knew it I was standing in Richmond Manor’s finest suite. It was larger than I’d imagined and was cosy and warm. A four-post double bed draped in lace was the focus of the room opposite an elegant oak dressing table. Nostalgia filled me as it reminded me of the one that my mother used to sit me and my sister in front of whilst she curled our hair. The walls were decorated with ivory wallpaper and paintings and photographs of grandchildren and family weddings were hung. I wished that I had similar photos to replace them with. John distracted my attention to the large television which he informed ‘had all the digital channels and an internet connection’. I moved over to the window where bright sunlight was flooding into the room. The manor gardens beneath me were full of blossoming flowers and the lake in the distance was sparkling. I looked down and noticed a little bench where two women, who looked the same age as me, were sat gossiping. They pointed over to the gardener in the distance who looked over and raised his cap to them. I had not expected to find such a friendly and happy environment and in that moment I no longer felt lonely or frightened. I had a sense of excitement that I hadn’t felt in years.
I realised that life’s plan knows best. I no longer feel that this is my final mile. Instead this is the beginning of my happiness to come. I do have a family who will always care for me and new friends I have yet to meet. However much longer of my journey is left I intend to live to the full.