Nicola bowed her head, dabbed a tear from the corner of her eye and whispered quietly “Bye dad, I`m going to miss you”. She walked calmly out of the church and silently prepared herself for all the friends and relatives to come and tell her they were sorry for her loss.
“What are we going to do about mum now? She` s always relied on dad for everything, she` s going to fall apart on her own.” Nicola questioned her sister. “I know, I’d have her with me but in my one bed apartment there’s no room to swing a cat, plus she would hate being in the city, she loves her garden”. Jennifer replied putting the ball in her sister’s court. “Well I’ve got the kids, you know how hard work they can be, mums not going to cope well, she needs peace and quiet at her age to grieve, she can’t stay with me either.”
Eleanor paused outside the room; she didn’t want to walk in while her daughters were talking about her. “Well we will both have to take it in turns to visit her so she has got some company and something to look forward to. You can go half term, take the kids. I`ll go in June before my holidays then we can both go up in August for her seventieth birthday.” Nicola organised their schedules to quell the guilt from not wanting to do more for their mother after the death of their father.
Both placated by the thought of making some effort to check on their mother, the conversation moved on. “Did I tell you I got that promotion in work?” Jennifer swiftly changed the subject. “I was up against six people I wasn’t sure I would get it.”
Eleanor heard the subject change from her and briskly opened the door mustering a smile and as much positivity as she could manage. “How are you both doing?” Eleanor always put her daughters first. “We are okay mum, How are you doing?” Nicola made room for her to sit down. “Oh you know, I` ll be alright.” Eleanor smiled weakly. She didn’t want to be a burden, both her daughters had busy lives to lead but she did have a nagging worry about how she was going to cope.
“Hi Jennifer”. Nicola had been putting off this telephone conversation all day, she knew her sister wouldn’t be happy about her missing her mums 70th birthday, they had both agreed to go up and see her and stay a few days for her birthday. However, they were flat out in work and with Nicola`s new promotion she didn’t want to let the team down and take leave for a few days. “What time are you leaving for mums? I`m really sorry I can’t go there’s an emergency in work.” she lied. “I`ve bought some flowers for her, I thought I’d pop them over to you so you could take them with you”.
“Oh, I’m not going up either, Timmy’s full up with cold, he will be miserable to travel with and it’s not fair to give a seventy year old a heavy cold. I posted a card earlier.” This reply made Nicola feel a twinge of guilt, her mum wouldn’t have missed her with Jennifer and the kids there, her mum adored the children, but now that they were not going either, her mum would be alone for her seventieth birthday having only lost their dad four months earlier.
“I’ll give her a ring now, how did she seem when you went up with the kids over half term?”
“Oh, er I didn’t go after, the kids had a load of playdates and activities booked”. Jennifer’s excuse sounded feeble Nicola felt annoyed by her, using the kids as an excuse whenever she didn’t want to do anything. “How was she when you went up in June?” Nicola`s annoyance instantly turned to guilt when she realised she hadn’t gone up either. “Oh, I couldn’t go, I had to do a course with work, because of my new job”. “Right” Jennifer paused “So none of us have been to see her since dad died.” Nicola let that sink in, her mum had lost her husband of fifty years, their dad, and none of them had checked on her or spent any time with her. “We need to make much more effort from now on.” Jennifer stated firmly. “Yes you’re right, Ill ring her now”. Nicola ended the conversation.
Nicola rang her mum but there was no answer. She felt mixed emotions, mild irritation that her mum wasn’t there, what if she had needed her? Mixed with relief at not having to have a long conversation, she had a lot to get on with in preparation for work tomorrow.
Nicola had just got through the door and the telephone was ringing, she guessed it was her mum she was the only person ever to ring the landline. “Hi mum happy birthday, sorry I can’t be there, work commitments, you know”. “It’s okay darling, I understand.” said Eleanor brightly trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. “I know your busy, Clive and Annie are taking me out for dinner”. “Glad to know you are going to have a nice relaxing birthday, did you get my card?” Nicola said opening her kitchen cupboards wondering what she was going to have for dinner. “Yes got it this morning thanks, I’ve just had the kids on the phone singing happy birthday that was lovely”. Eleanor continued. “Yeah? Lovely.” Nicola was barely listening, she had put the kettle on and was busily making coffee flicking through a magazine. Eleanor sensed she was keeping Nicola from something so although she was fully glammed up and ready to leave and her friends were not due for another hour she pretended she had to get ready so Nicola could be off the phone.
Nicola opened the door to see Jenifer stood on her doorstep. “Come on grab some stuff together, Rodger has got the kids, we need to go up and see mum”. “What? What happened?” Nicola suddenly felt panicked. “It’s nothing like that, I’ve just bumped into Joan, she said she’d been up to stay with mum a few weekends back and she` s got a bloke hanging around, said she was never in. We need to watch he’s not taking advantage of her and going to con her out of the house or something.” Jennifer explained with a hint of annoyance.
Nicola threw together some overnight essentials, phoned a work colleague and got into Jennifer’s big people carrier.
Eleanor’s house was in darkness when they arrived two hours later at 9.00pm. “Where on earth is mum at this time? Its 9.00pm she should be getting ready for bed, she’s 70 years old for goodness sake.” Nicola couldn’t keep the annoyance out of her voice. This was a massive inconvenience for her they were going to have to give their mother a serious talking to.
By the time Eleanor came in at 10.45pm the sisters had got more and more irritated. “What is she playing at? Where can she be at this time?” Eleanor rushed in feeling instant guilt to have worried her daughters; she had just seen the missed calls and read the messages saying they were in her house waiting for her. “Mum where on earth have you been?” Jennifer rose to her feet on hearing her mum come through the door. “Sorry to worry you both, I’ve been at my class”. “What class do you do until 10.45 at night?” Nicola demanded. “My degree class, we had a group session then a few of us went for a drink after it finished”. Eleanor tried to justify. “A degree course? Mum that ridiculous, what degree are you doing at seventy years old, What is the point?” Jennifer was looking at her mother in disbelief.
Eleanor felt embarrassed like she was the naughty teenager and they were the parents. “I am doing a law degree; it’s something I have always wanted to do”. “Why though, what’s the point at your age?” Nicola was confused.
Eleanor tried to calmly justify her actions. “I love it, it keeps me busy, keeps my mind active, it something I have always wanted to do”. Eleanor walked to the kitchen to put the kettle on. “Let’s leave it for now; we are all tired, let’s go to bed.” Nicola suggested to Jennifer. Much to Eleanor’s relief when she returned with her cup of tea, her daughters were getting ready to go to bed and suggested discussing it in the morning.
Eleanor got up early to make a full cooked breakfast; it was lovely to have her two daughters home despite them being angry with her. During the delicious breakfast everyone started to relax a bit. “When are you going back? Any of you still around tomorrow night to come and see my show?” Eleanor ventured. “Show?” both girls looked up confused. “Yes I’ve taken up tap dancing; we are putting on our first show in the local theatre”. Nicola and Jennifer looked at each other in disbelief. “Mum you are seventy” Nicola spluttered. “Listen you two, you know I love you both and I will always be here for you but since your fathers passing I have lots of hours to fill. So I have started doing things I have always wanted to do, tap dancing, a law degree and I’ve joined an amateur dramatics group”. Her voice lowered “That’s where I met Geoff, he’s sixty three, lost his wife two years ago and we have fun together.” Eleanor paused to wait for the lecture. “But mum, at your age we thought you would relax a bit, put your feet up.” Jennifer started. “Sit on the sofa watching day time television not moving, learn to knit and wait to die?” Eleanor cut in “Is that what you wanted for me?” Both daughters lowered their heads like they were small children again realising what they had done was wrong. They had classified her by a number, aged seventy both thought should equal a sedentary life at home. Their mother was a vital woman full of life and movement, wiser and stronger than they had given her credit for, she was a formidable woman, they should be really proud of her. Both made a silent vow to spend more time with their special mother.