A story tangently inspired by another nifty collage (Writing Prompt #159 “Collage 23”) by Yves; a forgotten memory (is such a phrase allowable?); and the May focus of my writing on mental illness/health health/mental well being. “Senility” referred to in this piece was once a catch-all term. I had “senile” relatives, “dotty” relatives, and ones with dementia and with Alzheimer’s.
Almandine wasn’t the sort of girl invited to pool parties, mall crawls, and certainly not by a boy for a date. She wanted to spend the summer break hiding in her room. Write stories in her head and poems in her journal. Lay out in the back yard and get a tan. Try and loose weight. But, her mother’s civic duty mindedness meant Almandine volunteered weekly at a neighbourhood nursing home.
Each Wednesday, she would climb the impressive foot-polished wide granite steps of the public library. Checking out two romance novels to read to Mrs. Greerson was as embarrassing to 16 year old Almandine as purchasing feminine hygiene products or trying on bras. No eye contact, no conversation, no cajoling.
Mrs. Greerson’s large pale green watery eyes could take on a blankish effect. Then, Mrs. G. was in the room listening to Almandine’s reading and equally inside the story as it unfolded to and around her. Senility, the nurses explained, giving Almandine a pamphlet on the subject.
If Mrs. Greerson began to sleep breathe, Almadine would stretch and examine the genealogical shrine of photographs and drawings that covered every available surface in the room. Spanning at least 100 years, the pictures reflected changes in style – from clothes/hair, staging to film and camera angles.
She also played dj for Mrs. Greerson, hauling out and setting up an old mono record player. Mrs. G.’s taste in music was the same as in books: highly idealized and swooningly romantic. Was Mrs. Greerson’s obsession with love because her life had been full or bereft of it, Almandine wondered.
Very few people visited Mrs. Greerson. Nursing homes existed so families didn’t have to do messy things like see grandmothers, uncles, and such, she guessed. Given her relationship with her own mother, Almandine could understand keeping distance once it could be kept.
The nurses suggested, that although she would undoubtedly forget, it would be helpful for them if Almadine kept reminding Mrs. Greerson her time as a reader was concluding. Yes, Almadine thought, back to the hellhole of high school. The last Wednesday, Almadine brought a stack of used romance novels – perhaps someone could be found to read to Mrs. Greerson.
Mrs. Greerson had an envelope for Almadine. “So nice that one or two of you granddaughters could come by every week this summer. Maybe again next year,” she said passing it to Almadine.
As she waited for the bus, Almadine read the note:
how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard winnie the pooh said that.