Memories, Like Shattered Glass …
Working for some time as a care giver in the community, I came across so many sad faces. Faces, that once had important roles in lives, but now whose eyes where lost. This is my interpretation of the feelings of someone who is affected by dementia. Although my title of Shattered Glass has no specific reference to the writing, it makes me realize the sudden and tragic feelings of helplessness that we all experience at times in our lives.
The waves, rolling and crashing over the shore only fueled Emily’s desire for freedom from her memories. She had long ago realised what an insecure and fragile world it was that she lived in, and feeling lonely and abandoned, she knew nothing but the incomprehensible fear that her past had left her with.
Normality was not a word that featured in Emily’s vocabulary – she could never recall normal as being descriptive of her past, or indeed indicative to her present time. She recalled that the house that she had lived in was a beautiful turmoil of white washed stone work, crumbling in places, but still reminding her of its former glory.
Undulating countryside was the view that she remembered from her childhood, whilst drinking dandelion and burdock pop from a glass, standing in front of the kitchen window. The distant fir trees, standing defiant and proud to the wind, were only saplings when she moved into the area. Emily didn’t want to recall her past emotions – they were destructive and negligent of how she felt now.
Fretful of losing her senses, and if it hadn’t been for the bitingly cold water from the surf rolling across her feet, she may never have known that the tide was turning. She quickly regained her composure. Someone was watching over her, and like the turning tide, they were pushing her back to the safety of the recesses of her mind.
It had just recently occurred to Emily that the present and future was there as an opportunity to move on and evolve from a chrysalis into a beautiful butterfly. She lived in the past, where the future had no meaning. In fact, it was futile to attempt to leave her past behind her. She had no sense of belonging now, only an awareness of surviving. She was ‘Emily, ‘the great survivor,’ and those words would be engraved on her headstone when the time came for her to leave this world and pass forward into the light.
In the distance, Emily heard the roll of thunder, deep, growling, imposing, and she welcomed the sight of the lightening. Danger did not faze her, it was her friend, her confidant, and she openly embraced it. Emily enjoyed dancing with life, fighting the ambitions of life over death, only then could she recall her childhood to its true extent.
Her fondest memories were all tied to that house. She remembered that the garden was a sanctuary of diverse colours, created by loving hands in the most endearing of places. She watched as tall hollyhocks in shades of red and pink, caressed the dry stone wall at the back of the garden. They seemed to sway with the breeze calling “welcome” and in such a sweet voice as precious as their colours. Delphiniums, in stunning blue, played like a symphony of violinists on the stage and they supported the gallery of lavender and lupines in astoundingly bright yellow and rustic gold colours. That only left the foyer of violets and primulas, calendula and daisies, to enhance the entrance to another escape.
She suddenly looked around her with horror, as if the image and sound of shattered glass broke the memory. This can’t be right! What faced her now faded into total obscurity. Despite the crumbling exterior of the house, and the fact that the garden was an alarming sight of weeds and debris, it had once been a home full of laughter and love, a haven of tranquility, a welcoming place to escape, and feel comforted in. The living room (add: had once been) cheerfully decorated in pink and pale green. The two picture windows facing each other allowed a cascade of bright light to enter the room, even the budgie sitting in its cage seemed to be happy and contented in its surroundings. The dark green leather sofa that stood alone in the centre of the living room had been her mother’s pride and joy. Every Sunday afternoon Emily had watched as her mother cleaned the sofa with a pungent mix of vinegar and warm water to make it shine.
Her bedroom was always an adult’s room. Even when she was a young girl, everything had its place. No toys could be seen, all her dolls and much loved teddy bears where locked away in cabinets. She was allowed to play with one toy at a time, and then she understood to return it before daring to touch another one.
Books, that was a different matter entirely. Her mother allowed books, as many books as it took for Emily to sit alone and read, and more importantly, not to be demanding of her attention. Emily mused to herself that her life belonged on the pages of a book, as it had no bearing amongst the living, or the future, if what her mother had said were to be believed.
Still lost in the dream, Emily stumbled as she walked through the garden, brambles scratched at her legs, nettles stung her arms and she shouted out in pain, “Oh my God where am I?”
Blind panic took over, darkness descended like a billowing black cloud, and the restrictions caused by the brambles made her struggle for freedom. Suddenly, she could hear voices coming closer, and a reassuring hand reached out to her. As she opened her eyes to the sunlight, she heard a familiar voice saying, “Hush, dear Emily. All is as it should be.”
The friendly face before her helped her to become free of her restrains, free from the white sheet in which she had become entangled. She breathed a huge sigh of relief as she realised that this was just another normal day beginning in the routine of Holyoakes nursing home.
The clatter of tea cups against saucers alerted Emily that breakfast was on its way. She could hear the familiar squeak, squeak, squeak from the hot cabinet’s wheels lurking down the corridor, and the sickly smell of overcooked porridge wafted in through the open door of the bedroom that she shared with Sara. Emily looked over to Sara, who was sitting on her bed. “I love that pale pink bed jacket you are wearing dear, who bought that for you?” she asked. Sara was slow to respond.
“Was it that nice young girl with the dark brown hair?” Emily continued, hoping that Sara would suddenly remember. Sara stared back at Emily for a moment.
“No dear, it was my lovely Jim, surely you remember that he bought it for me last Christmas?”
Sara stared through the open door, a smile crossing her face. Emily thought for a moment. Jim had passed away many years ago before Sara had come to live at Hollyoakes. He had died of cancer and there was no one left to care for Sara at home. Emily struggled with the lump in her throat. Poor, poor Sara she thought, how sad it was that her memory was leaving her.
Clatter! The hot cabinet was entering the room now, and Sara gazed upon the young girl pouring the tea from a huge, stainless steel tea pot.
“Good morning ladies, how are we this fine bright chilly morning?” the young girl asked in the general direction of both of them. “Lovely porridge for breakfast this morning,”
“I don’t want porridge, I want a poached egg, I always have a poached egg for breakfast,” Sara quickly replied. “Me and my Jim, we always have poached eggs. My Jim won’t eat any of that porridge, it sticks to your ribs like cement he says. Take that away dear,” Sara was beginning to get agitated.
“Now come on Sara, porridge or nothing you know the rules. Let’s not make a fuss again this morning.” The young girl slammed the porridge down in front of Sara. Emily looked on at the scene, but could offer no words of sympathy, as her own eyes began to fill up with tears.
Emily sat and looked in lost abandonment at her surroundings. Tears cascading down her cheeks, and she watched the sight of the young girl with the trolley fade away down the corridor.There was a figure sitting outside Matron’s office, it was a man wearing a big gray over coat and trilby hat. Her heart skipped a beat, “Pappa, papa, I knew you would come,” her voice rang out sharply into the air. “Pappa I am here,” Emily’s voice was full of emotion, as she fought to escape from the confines of her bed.
There she was, that girl who brought the breakfast, Emily looked suspiciously upon her now. “That’s my Pappa, he has come for me, let me pass,” panic took over again, and then followed by rage, as the nurse attempted to put Emily back into bed. She could feel the breath of the nurse on her cheek, it felt like a warm breeze on a soft summer’s day, but it only evoked more memories from Emily’s past.
Watch for Shattered Glass – Part Two, to be published soon.
I came to writing later in life, but according to my English teacher at school, I always had a vivid imagination and a gift of the word. I am not sure if I agree with that, but I do enjoy writing. Now at the age of 60, I still work; and I love the time that I spend with my grandsons, who have been both a source of inspiration in my life, and one of the most challenging rewards. It is true what people say, and that is with age comes a wisdom and a sense of peace not experienced before in life.
I am still learning, life is nothing but diverse.