The phone rang as the old lady limped across the room to answer it.
“Hello Nan, Its Kirsten, I thought I would phone and see how you are doing. I need to pop to the shops and wondered if you would like me to bring some stuff for you.”
The old lady smiled, “Bless you, that’s so kind of you to think of me. Since this virus thing has taken hold, as you know, we have to self isolate. I have managed a few things online, but it is so hard. I used to walk around the supermarket. I knew which aisle things were on and could get it all over and done with quickly. Online, I tried looking for tea leaves and that brought up lists of things only vaguely connected to tea. Then I tried brown bread flour. You’d think I was asking for some rare Ming vase. I never knew there were so many types of white flour, but I could not see the brown! Not a chance, but sorry love, here I am going on and on yes, could you get me a packet of the strong brown flour and loose leaf green tea? But is it safe for you to come here?”
Kirsten interjected, “I’ll bring the stuff over and pop it onto your porch, but before I go, we can at least chat on the phone.”
“That would be so good to hear another voice, I talk to the cats, but it's not quite the same is it?” From the tone of her granddaughter’s voice, she knew something was worrying her, “what would you like to talk about, my dear?”
“Ah, Nan, you always know when things aren’t quite right, don’t you? I’m having a problem trying to decide about work.”
“Wait a moment, while I get a chair, then we can talk as if you were really in the room.”
Kirsten heard the chair being dragged across the room and felt terrible not being there to help her Nan.
“Right, dear, I’m sitting, so tell me all about this problem.”
Kirsten explained she had met a guy called Nathaniel when she was on a course and he had suggested she move to his company. She had been for an interview. It was then she found Nathaniel would be her direct boss, which, in her opinion, was not a good idea. While they were on the course, he had suggested they go out on a date. She felt mixing work and pleasure was a sure-fire way for trouble. Also, their offices were in the next town, so she would need to drive daily just under an hour each way to work. That could be a problem in the winter. Dealing with the dark and often in the awful weather too.
The old lady listened until Kirsten ran out of words. Then, “You are juggling lots of different things. Why don’t we look at them one at a time? I thought you were happy with Tom. You’ve been seeing each other for such a long time. Why would this other guy come into the equation at all?”
The younger woman pulled a face at the other end of the line, “Nan, he was so attentive on the course, it made me feel special. Tom is like a comfortable slipper. I don’t even have to think about what he likes or not. It’s the same with him. I don’t know when he last gave me a bunch of flowers. He takes me for granted.” she wailed.
“I know it is easy to get carried away when you are somewhere different. The dynamics of the group change, often interactions become charged. You get excited about what you are learning and it spills over into the personal interactions. That’s not real life, though, my girl. The boring comfortableness you have with Tom is, but I would suggest you both talk things over and go out on a ‘date night,’ do something different. I am not defending Tom. He might not have given you any flowers, but have you done anything special for him recently?”
“When you put it like that Nan, I’m as much to blame as he is, aren't I?
The old lady returned the chair and sank into her comfortable armchair. She thought about the quandary her granddaughter was in and drifted off many years into the past. She had been in a similar situation, trying to decide on two different pathways. She often wondered if she had gone down that other one what the outcome might have been. But she knew the one she took was the right one for her and her children. At least Kirsten did not have children yet.
Days passed before Kirsten arrived with the shopping she had promised for her Nan. “Here, you are Nan. I hope I have got you the right stuff. It’s difficult shopping for someone else, is it? I’ll sit in my car and we can chat on the phone, I’ve so much to tell you.”
Soon they sat as they had before. Kirsten told her Nan about the goings-on of each family member. Then she took a deep breath, “Nan, I did as you suggested and looked into the other job. I even tracked down the lady who had the job before. She said they were not such a good company as they liked to make out. That was why she had left and Nathan is only out for himself. He uses people then when he thinks they are no longer any help, he drops them. It’s my belief that happened to her, but she didn’t say as much. Then I had a long talk with Tom. He’s been unhappy about us for a while. He thought I wanted out of the relationship, so he did not want to pressure me. That’s why he stopped bringing me flowers.”
The old lady smiled, “That’s a typical Tom way to do things. What have the pair of you decided, though?”
“Ah, Nan, I’ve saved the best till last. I’m going to give notice when all this corona situation is over and go back to college to get my teaching qualification.”
“I’m so pleased, that’s what you always wanted.”
Kirsten continued, “Tom says he will support me financially and when I qualify, we’ll get married and decide where and what to do together. Everything is so up in the air at the moment. He thinks things will be very different from what they were pre virus, so it would be better to make those decisions then, but we both know whatever happens we want to be together.”
“I’m so pleased you are sorting things out. Wait, a moment I need to go to my room.” She slowly made her way to her bedroom, opened the cupboard and took out an old jewellery box. She soon had a little pouch in her hand. Then she made her way back to the phone, “I’m back love, but I want you to pick up the pouch I’ll leave by the door. It’s time you went home, but keep me informed. Remember, I love you very much.”
She popped the pouch by the door as Kirsten climbed out of the car. They said goodbye, touching hands with the glass between them.
The old lady sank back into her chair. She was short of breath but knew Kirsten had not noticed. With a beatific smile, knowing she had helped her granddaughter solve a massive life dilemma, she closed her eyes.
The funeral was a strange affair, all done via video link. Kirsten was sure her grandmother had only hung on to life until she was sure she had helped sort out this major crisis. Mopping her tears and holding Tom’s hand, she waved a farewell to her Nan via the camera, as the light caught the flash of a diamond ring on her left hand.