Learning To Let Go
Maggie’s eyes fluttered open, first soft with sleep then wide with confusion. She looked around the unfamiliar room, noticing the collection of photos on the nightstand next to the bed and the framed picture of a smiling family on the wall.
Coming through the half drawn blinds, sunlight dappled colour on the duvet at the foot of the bed. The curtains fluttered slightly as the door to the room opened. The harsh hall light fell right on her face. She lifted up a hand to shade her eyes.
The door closed again and she dropped her arm back to the bed. “Clarry, is that you?” She was surprised by how croaky she sounded.
He moved closer to the bed. He was dressed in a blue uniform she’d never seen before. The beard he’d sported for years was gone, making him look so much younger. But the softness in his eyes, that beautiful softness she fell in love with, was still there.
He looked like he was struggling to answer her. He opened his mouth a number of times but didn't say anything. Finally, he sighed deeply. “Maggs, we’ve been through all this before, love. Try to remember.”
The voice was a surprise. It didn’t sound at all like him. It wasn’t a bad voice, just not his voice. “What’s wrong with you, Clarry? You sound like you’ve got a cold. Are you sure you shouldn’t be in bed yourself?”
He sighed again. “I’m alright, sweetheart. Now, let’s get you up and about. I can’t let you lie around and waste this beautiful afternoon. How about we go for a walk in the garden?” As he spoke, he threw the curtains open, letting the full afternoon sun shine in.
He pushed a wheelchair over to the side of the bed then moved to lift her into a sitting position. She looked startled. “Why do I need that thing, Clarry? I can walk, you know.” She made to stand while he hovered, gently grasping her waist.
“Oh, I’m sure you can, Maggs, but why not take it easy today. Besides, I don’t mind pushing you.”
“Well, if you don’t mind. I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I feel so weak and tired. Maybe the sun will do me some good.” She let him help her to the chair then watched as he adjusted the stirrups for her feet.
He wheeled her out into the corridor. There was a smell out here she didn’t notice in the room. It smelt like lavender and something nasty, like ammonia, mixed together. She squinted and held her nose.
“Sorry Maggs, the cleaners have just been through. The smell is pretty strong, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. But this isn’t home, Clarry. And we don’t have cleaners. Can you tell me where we are? I feel like I should know but I think I might have bumped my head because I can’t remember.”
“You’re in a place with people who care about you and want to look after you.”
“But I don’t remember coming here. I don’t remember…” Her voice shattered and went silent.
“Now dear, let’s not get ourselves upset. You’ve been here for a little while now. All you have to do is remember. And I’m sure the garden will remind you.”
The doors shushed open and he wheeled her out onto a wide-roofed veranda. The gardens, lush and full of colour, stretched out and down to a high stone fence. Great trees, pines, maples and a big old fig tree, spread shade across the expanse of lawn. Maggie couldn’t help but smile.
“Ah, there it is. I knew there was something missing from your face, Maggs.”
The smile disappeared quickly. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Clarry. I’m not happy, not at all.” He pushed the chair along a path then pulled it up a small grassy slope near a bench. An old lady sitting there gave her a big smile.
“Maggs, don’t be like that. Now, I’m going to leave you for a minute with Mrs Dunstan, okay? I'm going to talk to some people over there. Don’t try and run off, will you?” He gave her a small smile to indicate he was making a joke. She waved him away with a flick of her hand.
“Yes, yes, go on with you. But hurry back, Clarry. You’re still not off the hook.”
He moved down the grassy slope to a group of people sitting around a picnic table. They were all dressed in similar uniforms. As he got closer, he looked over his shoulder at the poor woman he’d just left. He sat down heavily.
A pretty nurse with bright blue eyes patted him on the shoulder. “You know, it gets easier after a while. You just have to turn off your emotions.”
“Easy for you to say,” he replied. “You’ve been doing this for a few years. She still thinks I’m her dead husband; calls me his name. And I don’t have the heart to tell her any different.”
“You can’t do that, you know. You have to detach yourself from their lives. It only makes it harder for you when she finally goes.”
“Yeah, I know. But I can’t help but feel for her. She’s such a sweety.”
“Ah, you’ll learn. Or you’ll end up leaving. So, do you want a cigarette before you get back to her? I’ve got a few with me.”
He sighed again and nodded. He’d have to get some gum off someone as well. Clarry didn’t smoke.