“Memories, like the corners of my mind” Cynthia cooed softly to Jack.
“Misty water coloured memories, of the way we were.
Cynthia knew she was playing with fire, The matron had warned her many times before.
“You haven’t time to be singing to them my dear, there’s work to be done” The voice still resonated through her head like an echo. She had been suspended from duties for a week just a few months back, accused of not doing her duties, but she had always made sure her tasks were completed before she sang to her patients. Even while on suspension she still came in on her own time to sing to those that it made such a difference to.
The smile on Jacks face alone, made it all worthwhile. She was well aware that this one song, “The way we were” was special to Jack.
Cynthia had been nursing at ‘Clarendon Grange’ Home for the aged, for nearly three years, after spending 15 years working at various hospitals. This was by far the most rewarding position she had held.
“Cynthia Mulvaney get back to work this instance” The voice made Cynthia jump, but it was followed by Raucous laughter as she realised it was her colleague Annie doing another of her impressions.
“Oh Annie, you frightened me, one day you’ll get caught out, and then I will be the one laughing at you”. Annie was Cynthia’s best friend here, at Clarendon Grange. They had hit off right from the start. Annie sometimes covered for Cynthia while she spent time with Jack, indeed she was the only one that knew the real reason for Cynthia being at this particular nursing home. The reputation of the aged care home was not particularly good, And with Cynthia’s age and experience, she could have worked at much better places.
Jack started to laugh along with the two women, but the dementia that had taken over his mind, didn’t allow him to understand why. Jacks laughter just brought on more laughter from the two women. The moment was broken by a booming voice echoing up the corridor.
“What is going on here? Its time the lights were out in Room 18, that old person needs their sleep. And you Cynthia Mulvaney are treading on very thin ice”
Cynthia was seething, she gently let go of Jacks hand as she rose from the bed.
She entered the corridor which acted like an echo tunnel, especially when Matrons voice was in use!
Cynthia felt compelled to stand up for Jack, and herself. “If you don’t mind, this gentleman’s name is Jack William Dawson, not Room 18 and it is only eight thirty pm. Jack will get to sleep when feels like it, not when you decide it for him”
Cynthia knew by the expression on Matrons face what was coming next.
“My office immediately” barked Matron, Cynthia turned to re enter Jacks room, and walked slowly to his bedside. She bent to put the worn photo album back into Jacks hand, and walked silently out of the room.
Cynthia looked Matron in the eye, those non descript coloured eyes, not brown, not hazel, not even green, somewhere in between. The Grey plaited bun on the top of her head, was suited well to her personality.
“Singing to the patients just upsets them for the next shift, and it’s not you that has to deal with their difficult ways, you should have more respect for your fellow workers. Matron spoke, Cynthia noticed a slight crackle in the ageing voice.
“I reserve my respect for the people in my care, and if I can put a smile on their faces with a song from their past then I will continue to do so” Cynthia had given that little speech many times before. But it never seemed to make a difference. Matron was a sour character, one of those that you felt would never be changed, by any of life’s sad events. Cynthia was convinced she would die being unaffected by a single thing. She was possibly in just the right job then!!
“You are dismissed early, you may leave now, your pay will be adjusted accordingly. I suggest you go home and learn by that.”
Cynthia looked at her watch, she still had five hours of her eight hour shift to go, while she stood there thinking of the unfairness of it all, Matron had already picked up the phone and put a call in to the nursing agency for someone to replace her.
None of this made any sense, Cynthia knew for such short notice the rate of pay was doubled, and it made her wonder who was learning the lesson here?
Having ignored orders Cynthia sat next to Jacks bed, She knew he was close, his breathing was laboured, she took his hand in hers, his grip tightened and his frightened stare pierced at her heart. She continued to sing, with a tremble in her voice this time.
“Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave to one another for the way we were”
“You are supposed to be at home learning a lesson”
Cynthia’s heart thumped against her chest as she realised she had been caught out again. Very slowly she rose from her chair, looked the matron in the eye, put her finger to her lips in a hushing action, and motioned with the other hand for her to leave the room. As she followed she knew the exact words that would pass her lips. Cynthia closed Jacks door gently and took a deep breath, before raising her whisper.
“I am in there learning one of the most valuable lessons that nature could bestow upon humanity, I am making a lonely old man very happy. The lesson that is teaching me is far greater than any lesson you could teach me. And it really wouldn’t hurt you to learn the same lesson” Cynthia took another deep breath.
“ I hope that when it is your turn, when you are in exactly the same position as that darling old man in there, and it will be you one day. Only the loneliness will be for a different reason. I hope that on that day, somebody will sing to you”
Cynthia couldn’t ever remember feeling so strong as the Matron stood there speechless.
“Sadly” she continued, “It won’t be me, I no longer wish to work for you. However you won’t stop me doing what I do, I will be here every day in a voluntary capacity singing to ‘my family’”
With that said, Cynthia turned and crept back into Jacks room. As she returned to her position, Jack opened his eyes, one last time. Cynthia wondered with some hope if there was just a spark of recognition within those beautiful blue eyes. As she gazed into them, she noticed the fear was gone, replaced with a look of peace.
Cynthia took hold of his hand again, only this time it didn’t grip hers. There was no strength left, she stroked the back of the frail old hand, with her thumb, and noticed for the first time how similar their hands were, the length of the fingers, the pattern of wrinkles on the knuckles, the lines on the palms. She did have some of the Dawson traits, in fact, she thought to herself with a smile on her face, she had the very best of them. The fact she was here, sitting by this bed, confirmed that firmly in her mind.
She watched as Jack William Dawson closed his eyes and took his last breath.
And as a single tear rolled down her cheek, Cynthia felt great peace within herself. At peace with her decision not to reveal the truth, the real reason she chose Clarendon Grange as her final place of employment before retiring.
As she dabbed with a tissue at her own blue eyes, she picked up the well worn leather bound album of memories and pressed it close to her heart, after all it would be hers now. Cynthia closed her eyes, to take the opportunity to reflect on years gone by. Most of the years were filled with happiness, just the last few, when Jack no longer recognized his only daughter, his only remaining child.
Cynthia’s tears started falling faster now, She felt a warm embrace and turned to see Chris, her husband of 30 years. “What, how” He pressed a finger to her lips to hush her. “Annie called me, Cynth, why didn’t you call me? I would have been here for you both, I loved Jack like I loved my own father”
“Chris”, said Cynthia, “please understand, I had to do to this alone” Chris bent to place a gentle kiss upon her lips. “ I am so proud of you Cynthia Mulvaney”
As they both turned to walk out of room 18, Cynthia already wondered, who would be moving in there tomorrow. As that was the way of these places.
And ………………Life goes on.