Abraham Jones - Pt 2
By Parson Thru
“I’m glad you’re all here. I’ve got something to tell you.”
And with that, Abraham Jones closed his eyes and fell soundly asleep. The family resumed their vigil: Peter read his newspaper, Sheila tidied around the bed, folding up bits of Peter’s paper and collecting used mouth fresheners and putting them in the bin. Alice and Bill talked of long passed events and long dead family that Abe would have known as his own aunts and uncles. Ward routine continued around them.
As the sun sank behind nearby roofs and the ward lights began to replace daylight in the room, people began picking up bags and taking coats from the backs of chairs in a building momentum towards the car park.
“Come on, Sheila. You need some rest too. We’ll give you a lift and stop for some fish and chips on the way. If anything changes the hospital will ring. We can be back in twenty minutes. Come on.”
Sheila looked at Abe lying head back, mouth open, eyes tightly closed, then back towards Alice. “Do you think he’ll be alright on his own?”
Alice nodded. “Come on.”
“I’ll stay with him, Grandma” said Ollie. “You go and rest.” Looking wet eyed and exhausted, Sheila put on her coat and Peter took her arm as they walked towards the door. The small busy group, clutching bags and forming a loose protective formation around Sheila, made their way out into the corridor and their conversation carried out of the ward and towards the lifts. The bay became quiet except for the thin sound of headphones in ears or hanging over bed ends. Only Abe’s bed was silent save the soft hiss of the oxygen supply.
Ollie quietly moved his chair up to the mid-point of the bed so that he could look easily at Abe’s sleeping face. He mentally prepared himself to spend the night in this position. Abe’s eyes were closed, but his eyebrows moved now and again as if he were dreaming or thinking. An oxygen tube was clipped loosely to his nostrils. Ollie watched and tried to imagine what Abe might be thinking about. His proximity to death? Did he know how close he was? His garden? Feeling lousy? He had said earlier that he hadn’t felt this rough before. Who could know? For all the company of family around the bed, Abe was facing this alone. It’s a path you have to walk by yourself, though countless people have walked it before and countless will follow after.
Ollie was lost in his reverie when he noticed that Abe’s eyes were open and fixed on him.
Abe blinked and nodded slowly. His hand raised from the sheet a little, as though administering a blessing. “Have they gone?” he breathed faintly.
“Yes Granddad, but they’ll be back in the morning. I’m staying.”
“Why? You should go home to bed. What time is it?”
Ollie turned to look at the clock over the door. “Half past eight.” He noticed that it was now dark outside. “Granddad?” Breathing with his whole body, Abe beckoned Ollie closer. Ollie dragged the chair right up to the locker at the top of the bed. Abe beckoned again, “Closer”. Ollie leaned over the bed, close to Abe’s face, stretching to hear what his grandfather might say. Abe raised his hand with its cannula and dressing and weakly ruffled Ollie’s hair. Ollie choked back tears, but they rolled down his cheeks anyway.
“Are you alright son?” came a near whisper.
Ollie fought back more tears. “It should be me asking you that.”
“I’m ok son. Just dying. It comes to us all.” So he did know.
“I don’t know what to say, Granddad.”
“Well at least you didn’t say ‘No you’re not’”, Abe smiled, more with his eyes, which wrinkled in the corners in their customary way – part of the personality that so endeared him to family and friends. Ollie swallowed hard.
“What happened to Louise, Ollie?” Abe asked.
“It doesn’t matter Granddad”.
“No. I’d really like to know. You seemed so happy together”.
Ollie flushed and looked down at the floor. “She’d been seeing someone else for a long time.” He was still tense with the memory.
“I’m sorry Ollie.”
“It was a big shock to me.”
“No. It wasn’t just that. It was another girl, Granddad. She’d been living a lie with me. That’s what she said. Five years and she called it living a lie. It was so unexpected – a bolt from the blue. Then she just packed her stuff and went. I still can’t get over it.”
“Where is she now?”
Abe closed his eyes. Ollie looked up, suddenly concerned at how still he looked. Momentarily, he opened them again. “Ollie. Son. Never be surprised at anything that happens in life. Or at anything that anyone does. Life is crazy. People are crazy. I’ve seen so many things.”
They looked at each other for a while. A look that said so much. Outside of time. “Never be surprised. I’m glad you stayed, Ollie. Thank you.”