The doors of the lift slid open and I found Frau B sitting in her wheelchair, waiting.
Heaviness hung in the air. It was a bad day for me to be late.
“I’ve been so sad this past while,” she said when we were back in her room. “I couldn’t hold back the tears.”
We looked out the window at the tree. Its stark crown stood out against the grey sky. A gust of wind swept a handful of orange leaves off its lower branches. We watched them swirl to the ground.
“The weather doesn’t help,” she said.
We’d arranged to clear out the wardrobe, a task I was not looking forward to. Frau B is a back-seat tidier.
“No Katechen!” she will say as I stand haplessly before the wardrobe. “Hang it up so the zip faces left!”
“No!” she exclaims when I do what I’m told. “Put it over there with the blouses.”
We got the job done, and by the time I’d closed the wardrobe door, Frau B’s sadness had morphed to anger.
I found out when I tried to convince her that a sticker might be the solution to an ongoing problem she’s been having with her television.
Frau B’s fingers are crooked and hook-like so she often ends up pressing the wrong button on her remote control.
This results in a maddening situation where she cannot remove the teletext from the screen.
My suggested solution, as with all uncooperative technology, is to turn the offending device off and on again.
But there’s little point if you don’t know where the on button is. So I’d brought along some luminous stickers I thought could be used to mark the right button.
Frau B was having none of it.
“That’s not the on button,” she insisted when I showed her. “It’s somewhere down here.”
I politely persevered.
“NO Katechen!” she snapped. “That’s NOT where it is!”
I put the stickers away.
“You meant well,” she said.
I reached for the book and we continued the story about Rosa Luxembourg, which had captivated Frau B last week.
I was a few sentences in when she asked me to stop. “Let’s just chat instead,” she said.
Frau B’s sadness-turned anger had morphed into remorse.
“You’re my one and only, Katechen” she said. “You really have no idea where I’d be without you….”
Her eyes were glistening and her gaze reached far beyond me.
“And me without you!” I said, with that false kind of brightness that stops you from welling up.
“And I was so snappy with you!” she said.
“My mother always said I would find someone to take care of me in old age,” she said. “And then you came along.”
“You see, mothers are always right!” I said, and made her laugh.
We sat there for a while, looking at the falling leaves, safe in the knowledge that this kind of melancholy too would lift.
Autumn seems to be raring to spill into winter but Frau B is already there permanently. Thanks for being the Spring in her loneliness.
Aw, that was beautifully put, Umashankar. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment!
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I love your writing so much Kate. You make me want to write like you do. I’ll post soon! Loved seeing you in Berlin this month. I won’t forget it!
Aw, Aileen ❤ That means so very much to me! And coming from such a talented writer.. Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement. I can't wait for your next post! And hoping to see you i Dublin at Christmas! xx
I really enjoy your pieces particularly about Frau B a very special relationship for sure.
Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Anne! It means a lot! x
The long drawn-out winter that old age can be is, from time to time, beautifully interrupted by warming rays of sunshine with the sure hope of spring. To be one of those rays of sunshine is given to very special people of which “Katechen” must surely be one.
Oh my…that made me cry a little. Old age is a hard country to be banished to when all your friends and family have long gone. To have you as a friend is a treasure indeed for Frau B. Your shining light will brighten the coming dark days of winter ahead.
Oh, I’m sorry it made you cry! It is hard indeed but it’s heartening to me to see that even in old age there are bad and good days and one can flit to the next for no apparent reason. I think we lift each other out of the bad ones.. And sometimes, we may pull each other down too. But that, I think it what friendship is. Thank you so much for reading, as always. I appreciate it so much xx