Fiction Sad

The Winter of Life

Susan W. Hudson

As she gently placed her deep purple African Violet on the window sill of her new room, Grandma sighed deeply and with a tremble in her voice said, “I can’t do this.” “Now Gram,” Morgan retorted as she hugged her grandmother, “It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat.”

“This IS my defeat. I want to go home.” Grandma said again with tears in her voice. “Now Gram,” Morgan cooed. “Don’t you remember? We sold your house ten years ago just after Grandpa passed away. You’ve been living with Mom, Dad, Max, and me ever since. We love you, and we have lots of fun together.”

That’s not true,” Gram declared.  “Arthur and I have only been married for three years. I just told him last night that we are going to have a second baby. We stayed up all night, laughing and crying. We are so happy to be having another child, but we worry about how lean our budget is.” She dug in her purse and produced a picture. “Look, here we are. We are so young and in love.”

Gram finally settled into a nap, and Morgan slipped out. She phoned her mom and told her about Gram’s request to go home. “I know,” Martha said, “She’s having a hard time with this, but it’s for her own good. I’ll stop by on the way home from work.” 

 When Martha arrived at the Assisted Care Center that evening, she found Gram in a jolly mood. “Guess what I did today.” she teased. “I took a nap, then I took a long shower. It was so refreshing. Then, I met a nice man named Jimmy. He seems so familiar to me. Look, he gave me this picture of him and his wife who recently passed away.” She dug in her purse and pulled out the same picture she had shown Morgan earlier in the day. Martha admired the picture and assured her mother that everything would be okay. She went outside and headed home to make dinner. She had to pull her car over, stop, and have a big cry.

The next morning when Martha’s brother, James, arrived at the Center, Gram was not in her room. She was nowhere to be found. The staff issued a Silver Alert, and they scoured the property. Though it was chilly near the end of autumn, they found Gram sitting in a swing out on the lawn. She was flirting and giggling as if her lover were there beside her.  James was about to blow a fuse when a staff member called him aside and suggested that the staff take care of the situation. 

James walked his mother back to her room. She was still giggly and declared that she and Jimmy were in love. “He likes all the things I do,” Gram said. “He likes to take long walks and explore nature. He loves jigsaw puzzles and Scrabble. He loves to watch old movies and new movies. And, he loves to dance. He wants to marry me.”

“Mom, let’s talk about all that later. Give it some time.” James suggested.

“I don’t have any time,” his mother declared. “My only time is now. I remember the times of my life: the births, the diapers, the sleepless nights, and baby coos. I did what I needed to do. I remember good times: the camping trips, the tour of Washington D.C., the trip to the Grand Canyon. I think those pictures are still around somewhere. But those times are long gone, and I have little time left. This is what I want in the here and now.”

How in the world was James going to explain to her that Jimmy was a figment of her imagination and her Alzheimer’s? She was certainly entitled to indulge in a recount of her good life. But, someone was going to have to try to explain to her that this relationship was not real.

When James left, Gram thought, “Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done, and many things I should have done, but I am pretty happy with the things I have accomplished.  It's called a lifetime. It’s winter now; I must do what is right for me.”

Gram woke up the next morning and watched the first light snowfall of the winter outside her only window. Gram knew she was in the winter of her life. She knew it would go by quickly. She didn’t have time left to sit around and think about what was right and what was not.

Gram mused, “Life takes many turns. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life, so until tomorrow, live for today.  Say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember, and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

“Where’s Jimmy?” Gram asked the attendant who brought her breakfast. “Where is Jimmy?” Gram asked the nurse who came in to check her vital signs. “Where’s Jimmy?” She asked the doctors who came in to check up on her and adjust her medicines if needed. 

When James came to see her at noon. She was unresponsive. She has not survived her winter. Gram was still holding the battered picture in her hand. The picture had been in the “photo box” for years. They had all seen it, but it was old and grainy. They had all taken their cursory looks at it over the years. 

James peeled the picture out of Sylvia’s lifeless hand. He looked at it carefully. He turned it over and was gobsmacked. No one had ever noticed the faint pencil notation on the back. “Jimmy loves Sylvia, 1969” was scribbled there. That was not grandpa in the picture. James was born in 1970. What happened to Jimmy? Was he named “James” after his father? Was Jimmy her true love?

None of that really mattered to James. Sylvia had been a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She had gotten her last request - “I want to go home.”

November 06, 2020 20:46

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