Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Control (01/30/06)
TITLE: A Happy Week
By Val Clark
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
‘Nathan, this is ridiculous. It happens every time.’
‘Shh, honey, you’ll wake her. I’ll go and get a nurse.
I force my eyes open. Even that has become an effort.
Narelle snatches a tissue from the box by my bed and wipes the dribble off my face. At first she is rough. I watch the anger seep from her and her ministrations become gentle dabs.
‘Oh, Mum. I’m so sorry that it had to come to this….’
I try to reassure her with a smile that all is well. That she doesn’t have to feel guilty. That everything has a beginning and an end. That I am simply coming to an end. And a beginning.
Nathan and Narelle leave the room.
‘Lord,’ I pray, as sheets are changed and I am un-ceremoniously cleaned up. ‘How much longer must I suffer this indignity.’
Patience, my child. His voice echoes softly in my head.
Narelle very gently squeezes my hand, gaunt with yellow, mummified flesh. She smiles bravely. She has all her teeth. I can’t remember the last time I wore mine. I don’t even know where they are now. Though I do remember Matron putting them in a box the day they took me off solids.
‘No reason for keeping these out now, is there Joy dear?’
Narelle opens a container of mango ice cream. She spoons it into my mouth and uses the side of the spoon to wipe the bits that have escaped onto my face. I try to help but sometimes keeping my head still takes more effort than I can muster.
I remember playing Airplanes with her and smile.
‘What’s so funny, Mum?’
She places her ear next to my mouth. ‘Planes,’ I breathe.
Narelle laughs and dips the spoon into the ice cream.
‘Here comes the World War One flying ace Joy De Vere.’
I open my mouth and splutter with laughter as the spoon enters. There is ice cream on the bedspread, on Narelle’s blouse, on my chin.
She chuckles as she cleans up. ‘Oh, Mum.’
Then the tears start.
Nathan closes his book. ‘Next Saturday we’ll take you for an outing. The beach, we thought. You can feed the seagulls.’
And watch the sun set. I can’t smell the kelp on the breeze or hear the waves but I can watch the sun set.
Silently I pray, ‘Thank you, Father, that I have my sight.’
I motion with my hand. Narelle comes close to listen.
‘Oh I’m as happy as can be expected, Mum.’
Nathan kisses me on the forehead. I know he dislikes visiting this place, but nevertheless he comes and I love him for it.
They pick me up on Saturday.
‘How has she been?’ Narelle says.
Matron fusses with her watch. ‘Oh, really happy this week.’
I have not been happy. This week I feel surrounded by idiots and have struggled to be thankful.
I sit in the back of the car relishing every wonderful sight. We park. A sea breeze ruffles my clothes as Nathan lifts me into the wheel chair. He carefully maneuvers the chair down the concrete path. We sit on the edge of the sand. Seagulls mass around us, feeding on scraps of bread in a mad frenzy. I suck on the piece of bread Narelle has placed in my mouth.
Nathan doesn’t complain when he lifts me into the car but I feel his body stiffen. He is quick to take off his jumper and put it in the boot. He crashes the gears.
Narelle pats his arm and I watch the tension in his neck ease.
‘Next time we take Mum on an outing let’s remember to get the staff to put her in a nappy.’
‘Nappy!’ My daughter turns to me. ‘Is that what you were trying to tell me, Mum?’
I nod. I want to say, ‘You and every member of staff I could get to listen,’ but I can’t.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry, Mum. How awful for you.’ Her eyes tear up.
Sadness and unnecessary guilt. She must learn to let go and live with what is inevitable. Just as I must. As I am.
‘We’ll have you home and cleaned up straight way.’
Home. Oh, how I longed to be home.
Soon, child, soon.
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