Life goes by with a blink of an eye, someone first said that but they didn’t realize how right they were. Someone said life is short even when you’ve lived to see your grandkids. Sometimes life gives you more than you need or realize. All very true facts we don’t realize until we reach our end. I became a volunteer, more importantly I was forced by her after the disaster I created. We will go back to the start, from the disaster I created to the new way I see the world.
Mum was in the kitchen making dinner as she did every night. Dad and my two older brothers, Johnny and Rex, were in the living room watching football. I walked into the living room probably seconds before mum called us to dinner. My black hair was in a bun, I had black lipstick on my lips, dark eye makeup and a top to bottom black outfit. I had my eyes pierced, and got a new industrial piercing just the day before. Mum hated my goth look, dad didn’t even look at me and my brothers called me demon spawn. I have no idea how they didn’t realize they were calling Mum and dad demons. But the worst was about to come.
We sat down as usual around our dinner table, phones weren’t allowed by dad's rule. Which only meant i wasn’t allowed to look at the screen for the whole duration because whenever Rex got a match update he would take his phone out. Enough about Rex so we were having dinner peacefully, i was taking each bite at a time, taking in all the flavors until Johnny spoke.
“So dad did you hear about the graphite outside our school” I gave him a glare that said ‘don’t you dare’ but he went on talking.
“Yeah” he wasn’t paying attention, that was good.
“The person who did that, the police department are looking for him right?”
“Yeah” now dad looked up. Dad didn’t care about what police did and didn’t do but if he knew I didn't graphite, well lets just say going to jail wasn’t the worst.
“We know who did it,” Johnny flashed me an evil smile, Dad tore his eyes away from Johnny and looked at me “It was her” he pointed and dad that very second turned bright red.
Dad wasn’t so bad but his angry outburst over the past few months had been bad, I had some hand in it though. After dad’s outburst I changed the way I looked which was fuel to his burning anger.
“This is it, I’ve had just enough of you. You are grounding forever, no TV, no phone, no friends. You should be glad I’m not taking away your school privileges” the red face of his was slowly turning purple. Mom had to pull him back into his seat before he could flip the whole table.
“This is not fair,” I yelled trying to portray whatever I did, did not mean I should be punished so harshly. “What about them?” I pointed at Rex and Johnny “They beat up one of their teammates and he ended up in the hospital.”
“What!!” I could see the smoke coming out of his ears. Now it was my turn, they threw me under the bus and I took them with me.
“This is enough,” Mum yelled this time, the whole table went silent and we stared at mum “I have had it with the four of you. I just want a normal family dinner where we don’t fight, look like a demon, rat out on each other or flip the stupid dinner table.”
We sat back down, the room remained in silence until mum spoke again. “Rex and Johnny I’m signing you both up at the local orphanage where you will learn to take care of others and learn responsibility, Anna,” mum stared at me dead in the eye “I’m signing you up as a volunteer at the old age home and Dear you will be going to those anger management classes. And that's it.” We tried to protest but “Am I clear on this or not?” we couldn’t argue with her when she’s angry. Mum's anger is a whole other level, even dad is scared of it.
The next day after school Mum handed us the sign up slips and told us to get out. Her anger hadn’t subdued yet so we all made our way out of the house. The old age home wasn’t that far away and I got there just in time to see the caretaker. She was a woman in her 30s, short brown hair and wearing a sweater vest. She saw my slip, gave me my volunteer card and showed me around the place. Each elder had their own room with Tv and their own bathroom. Their cafeteria was smaller than the one at school but they had more options than school. Once she was done with the tour she brought me to the elderly I would be looking after.
“This is Mrs. Saoirse Redmond,” the caretaker told me outside the elderly’s room, “She has dementia but other than that she is the sweetest one of our residents here. Take good care of her.”
Mrs. Redmond was sleeping peacefully so I went into her room and relaxed on the arm chair until she woke up. It took her 2 hours or maybe 3 to wake up and until then I spent my time going through new ideas for graphite. I didn’t notice when she woke up but she had her way to make me notice her. She threw one of her soft pillows at me, and it was a great shot, hitting me right on my head.
“Who are you and why are you in my room? '' she hissed at me, what a sweet old lady I said to myself before straightening up.
“I’m the volunteer here to look after you” I said with a smile but truly I was regretting this.
“I don’t need one, get out” she was splitting poison by now. Telling me I was the devil and I was here to kill her and so on.
The caretaker ran into the room after hearing the commotion. Mrs. Redmond turned back into the sweet old lady that she was. “Are you alright Mrs. Redmond” the caretaker spoke in a soft voice holding Mrs. Redmond's hand.
“She was yelling at me” Mrs. Redmond lied right through her teeth, looking all innocent. The caretaker looked at me, no she glared at me throwing invisible daggers. She calmed down Mrs. Redmond and then took me out. She explained to me again how this worked and offer to switch the elderly for me but i was adamant now, I wanted Mrs. Redmond. The caretaker didn’t argue much and let me assist Mrs. Redmond. I hurried back to Mrs. Redmond's room and found her having breakfast.
“And who might you be dear?” she asked.
“I’m Anna, here to keep you company” I played along.
“That’s so nice, I have a niece your age. But she loves wearing colors and she hardly ever wears black” she told her mouth half full.
“So Mrs. Redmond…”
“Call me Saoirse dear”
“Ok Saoirse, what's new with you?”
We talked the rest of the day, well Saoirse talked and I listened, I took her out for a walk then for some more food and then back into her room by evening. She was happy and asked me to come back the next day. I leaned in to give her goodbye hug thinking her outburst in the morning was just her dementia talking. She returned the hug but as she let go she whispered to me something that made me shiver.
“Today was just the start, I will rain hell for you.” I gave her a glance, she had the most evil smile and then her face returned to normal and she said out loud “Goodbye dear!”
I went home confused, was she evil or was she acting to get rid of me. At home mum was happy to see us since everyone made a slight effort and didn’t protest. Rex and Johnny told stories about the kids and I told them about Saoirse leaving out her outburst and other weird parts. It had only been a day and mum was glad her way was working for all of us. The next week I went to the old age home daily to spend time with Saoirse, she didn’t act up or say anything like she did on the first day. The week went by peacefully, she talked about her kids, I listened and then I went home. The week after things changed, Saoirse asked me to get her things that were not allowed in the old age home, and I did as she asked because why should I stop her from rebelling. Two weeks went by just like this but on my third week Saoirse asked me to do something i could not have dreamed of.
“You want me to do what?” I whispered coming closer to her.
“Get one of my belongings from Emily’s store room. She's the caretaker, she took all our belongings to keep safe but I just need one thing” I whispers back keeping her eyes on the door.
“Ok look i helped you rebel got you things not allowed here but that goes a bit too far. And why can’t I just ask for it, she’s really sweet and would give me whatever your asking for”
“She won’t, the last volunteer did the same thing and Emily switched her and I got another volunteer. And she isn’t nice, she's only nice to the volunteers so she can keep up a good image.”
“Listen this is the only thing I ask for, I need it before my dementia gets worse and I can't remember anything.”
“Fine I’ll try,” I say, sighing “But before I do that I have one question,” Saoirse nodded “When you said you’d make my time here hell was that your dementia or was that real?”
“It was real,” she brings her hands closer to mine and holds them “all the other volunteers I have ever gotten were rule followers so every time I asked them to bring me things that would make Emily upset they would simply just say no and then I would in a way torture them to quit, I was going to do the same to you but you were different, you broke the rules and did what I asked. You were fun to have around so I dropped the idea.”
The thought that someone liked me for my rule breaking and rebellious behavior was the best thing I’ve ever heard. “Ok so what is it that I’m looking for?” I answered in enthusiasm.
“There is a store room right behind Emily’s office, she is out for lunch from 1 to 2 which gives you 1 whole hour to get in. Once you're in search for a box under Redmond or SR. in the box there should be a wallet, no it's a book, maybe it was a wallet, can’t remember but it's either a wallet or a book with pictures and a letter. You need to get that for me.”
“That’s simple, it's 12:45 right now, so I'll head out and see what I can do.”
I leave Saoirse’s room and stroll down to Emily's office. Emily is in there taking out her lunch from a small Tupperware bag. I see her getting ready to leave and take a few steps back, once she is out of the office I pretended to bump into her.
“Hi,” I said in my normal tone.
“Hey Anna aren’t you supposed to be Saoirse?”
“Yeah, I just came down for some fresh air, then I have to take Saoirse out for a walk.”
“Great keep up the good work,” she said and walked away. Once she was out of site I got closer to the door and turned the knob. It was locked but that wasn’t a problem, I took out my bobby pin and tried to unlock the door. It took a few minutes of struggle and then it opened. I tiptoed towards the store room door and quietly slipped inside.
The room was dark and small with shelves lining the walls. I started from my right searching for SR or Redmond. I found a box labeled ‘Redmond.S’ and I took it out of the shelf. I placed it on the floor, opened the lid and searched through it. It didn’t have a lot but I did find what I was looking for; a picture book and the letter was in it as well. I tucked them both under my shirts and quietly slipped out of the store room and then the office.
I hurried back to Saoirse’s room, I had only been gone for 20 minutes. I closed the door behind me and then pulled out the book. Saoirse’s eyes lit up as soon as she saw the book. She took it from me and hugged it tight, she asked me to sit next to her as she looked through the pictures. Unexpectedly all the pictures were of her, none of her family was in there.
“I was quite a rebel in my day,” she pointed out to a younger Saoirse with goth makeup and rebellious clothes according to her time. We went from picture to picture and for the first time she told me about her job, she was an activist and a spy for the government. She told me stories of her life and I listened. Hours later I went home determined and excited for the next day.
The next day was hard for me. I waited for school to end but every minute was like an hour. As soon as the last bell rang I bolted out of school and hurried to see Saoirse. Before I could see her, Emily stopped me at the reception.
“You can’t go in there,” she told me, her eyes filled with tears, my heart sank and I pulled myself away from her. I ran up to Saoirse’s room. Emily was right behind me. Saoirse lay in her bed perfectly still. Tears ran down my cheeks, someone was talking to me but I could hear them.
My world spinned until it finally crashed and I found myself on the floor. A man put his hand on my shoulder and handed me an envelope.
“She left you this” she said and then walked over to her body. I was escorted out because her family wanted some alone time with her. I opened the envelope which was addressed to me.
Life goes by with a blink of an eye, someone first said that but they didn’t realize how right they were. Someone said life is short even when you’ve lived to see your grandkids. Sometimes life gives you more than you need or realize.
The last month has been the best month of my life since I’ve been here. You made it worth living, without you I don’t know if I could have survived this boring place. I will always be grateful to you and remember you.
One more thing before I go: always be who you are and never let anyone tell you differently and live even if others don’t want you to.
I went home after and told everyone what happened. They gave me time to process everything. I placed the letter in a frame and hung it on my wall. Two weeks went by, I went to her funeral, I gave a speech about her and I finally let her go.