Marty got up to make a cup of tea. She stood shakily on her feet and shuffled slowly towards the kitchen.
At 87, arthritis had wreaked havoc on her hand and knee joints. Marty winced, as she slowly prepared her brew. It was the sight, rather than the dull ache in her knuckles, that made her grimace. Gnarled beyond recognition, her fingers barely did as they were told; it was through sheer force of will she managed the smallest of tasks- like this tea, for example.
Not trusting herself with carrying her tea back across the room, Marty sank slowly into the plastic kitchen chair and sipped.
She was waiting, a knot in her stomach that seemed to tighten and loosen in rapid succession. Marty was waiting for her daughter, Monica, to pick her up. She would be moving into a nursing home today.
Born Martina Kay, Marty had lived a full and adventurous life. Widowed in her 30’s, Marty had rallied after the burial of her beloved Jeffrey and raised her children, Monica and Jeffrey Junior as best she could . Always a career woman, she had pursued her journalism with vigour – travelling to various countries and meeting new people – as her sister helped her with the kids. Retirement hadn’t slowed her down; she had turned her skills to writing and had 5 published action novels under her belt.
The arthritis in her numb fingers had finally made her give it up.
And now here she was waiting to take that penultimate journey before her final goodbye.
Marty wiped a tear from her cheek. This had been her decision alone. Monica and Junior had done their best looking after her but their family commitments coupled with her growing disability had made this move inevitable.
Two hours later saw her being ushered into her private room in Camberley Home. The staff were nice enough, with a young determined matron explaining the routine for residents; meal times, recreation, rules for visitors….. Marty tuned her out. Her own thoughts were on what her life had become.
“You ok, mum?” a worried Monica enquired. She knew this was difficult for her mum- a woman who had always been in control of her life, now relinquishing it all.
Marty smiled bravely at her daughter but couldn’t trust herself to speak, lest the tears poured forth, unbidden.
“If only I could write,” Marty sighed , after composing herself, ” I’d be able to put some life into this.” She indicated her surroundings with a weak sweep of her arm. Monica smiled sympathetically. Writing had always been Mum’s life-line. She wished she could grant Mum her wish.
That night, and every night for the rest of the month, Marty cried herself to sleep.
She couldn’t shake the pall that had come over her. Monica and Junior were at their wits end. Matron had explained that even though Marty interacted with the other residents, and had even made a friend or two, the doctor was worried about her mental state.
“It’s like she’s fading,” intoned Matron somberly. “At this rate, I don’t know how long she’ll be with us.”
Monica burst into tears. Junior, normally the laid back one, spoke up.
“Leave it with me,” he said, confidently.
Monica, too distraught to ask him what he was thinking, was more than happy for him to take charge. Seeing her once-vibrant mum turn into this ghost of a woman was too much to bear.
The following day, Junior arrived at the nursing home early. He was pleased to see Mum was already up. In his right hand he clutched a heavy case which he laid carefully on her desk.
He asked Matron not to disturb them for at least 2 hours, as he had something of ‘paramount importance’ to discuss with his mother.
Matron didn’t like the sound of this and hovered nearby, just in case she needed to dash into Marty’s room. What was the young man up to?
She had already suggested antidepressants for Marty- but Marty herself had refused.
Monica arrived at the nursing home, keeping to the time Junior had asked her to come. Just as Monica was approaching Mum’s room, she spotted a worried Matron with her hand on the door knob.
Panic surged through her veins. “What….?” she gasped, her fear mirrored in Matrons face.
In an instant, the door flew inwards to reveal a smiling Junior.
“I think you two should see this,” he smiled, letting them into the room.
There, at the desk sat Marty with large headphones with a microphone attached perched on her head. In front of her was a laptop. But it wasn’t this that made both women gasp. It was the complete transformation in Marty. Her eyes blazed with fire and her pale papery face was now suffused with a rich healthy glow. She grinned at them happily and turned back to the screen, speaking softly into the microphone.
Junior gestured for them to leave the room. Outside he explained that he had purchased dictation software that would enable Marty start writing again. She wouldn’t need her hands. He’d also taken the liberty of setting up a her own blog site.
Monica’s tears this time were of absolute joy. Even stern Matron was grinning.
Junior kissed Marty with promises to return the following day to add more features to her site.
Monica pulled up a chair and gently sat opposite this transformed woman.
“What are you writing mum?” she asked softly.
Marty stopped her soft utterings, pushing the headphones off to the side.
She fixed her eyes on her daughter – eyes filled with life- and smiled widely, ” It’s a blog post about me and it’s called, ‘I am more than breath and bones.’
And with that she re-adjusted her headphones and went back to work.
Monica sat in awe as she watched her mum slowly transported into another world.
Copyright Vivian Zems