< strong>An elderly woman in her eighties is desperately lonely as she watches her friends pass away one by one, then her grandson reminds her that there is still joy in life.
Maureen Wallace was very upset when she heard that Rose Nesbitt was dead. Not that Maureen was particularly fond of Rose — she wasn’t. But Rose was the last person of her generation left in the neighborhood.
At 81, Maureen was coming to the bitter realization that she was all alone, even though her daughter Kate was alive and well. Maureen and Kate had never gotten along. After her father’s death, Kate ignored Maureen completely.
People said they were afraid to die alone, but Maureen was afraid she was going to carry on living for years and years — living completely and utterly alone.
Maureen wanted someone to look at her, know her to recognize her. So she called a taxi and asked the driver to take her to Kate’s house unannounced.
She didn’t call because she knew that if she did Kate would just put her off with excuses, and Maureen needed her daughter. Sure enough, when Kate opened the door and saw it was Maureen she looked upset.
Living alone is the hardest thing to do.
“What are you doing here, mother?” Kate asked her abruptly.
“Hello Kate,” Maureen said. “I…I wanted to see you. I miss you…”
“I have people over, mother,” Kate said coldly. “I told you to always call me first.”
“If I did I’d never see you!” Maureen cried passionately. “It’s like you buried me already! All I want is a little attention!”
“I give you what you gave me,” Kate said bitterly. “What you deserve!”
“Oh, Kate,” Maureen sobbed. “I’ve apologized so many times…”
Kate shrugged and a shadow of an old paid moved across her face. “I’ve forgiven you, mother,” she said. “I just can’t forget. Goodbye.”
Kate slammed the door shut, but Maureen could hear her crying on the other side. She knew Kate was right and that she had made some terrible mistakes.
Kate hadn’t been an only child. When she was three, Maureen had given birth to Sean — beautiful little Sean who had been so very fragile.
Having a special needs child had consumed Maureen. She had focused on Sean to the exclusion of all else. He husband had alerted her several times: “You have more than one child, Maureen!”
But Maureen had replied: “Kate is strong and healthy, she doesn’t need me the way Sean does.” She’d been wrong, and she’d been paying for her mistake for decades now.
By the time Sean had died at the age of thirteen, Kate’s need for her mother’s attention had congealed into terrible anger that time hadn’t softened.
Maureen sat on the porch steps and sobbed bitterly. Then she felt a gentle hand on her hair. “Gran? Is that you?”
She raised tear-clouded eyes to see her grandson Kyle standing there, looking down at her with concern. She hadn’t seen Kyle since his grandfather’s funeral seven years before. That was when Kate had stopped visiting.
“Kyle?” Maureen gasped. “Oh, you’re a young man now! And so handsome…”
Kyle grinned and Maureen caught a glimpse of her beloved husband. “You look so much like your grandfather!” she exclaimed.
The boy looked pleased. “Mom says that all the time,” he said.
“It’s true,” Maureen confirmed. “How old are you now? Seventeen? Your grandfather was nineteen when I met him.”
“Cool,” Kyle said. “Hey, are you having lunch with us? Mom is having a party…”
Maureen shook her head and sighed: “No, Kyle. The last of my old acquaintances died and I was feeling alone. I was very foolish and I came over uninvited. I’m afraid your mom is very upset with me.”
Kyle was shaking his head. “I don’t get it” he complained. “Why is she like this with you?”
Maureen got to her feet. “She has her reasons, Kyle,” she said quietly. “And in my heart I know she’s right. It’s just hard to know I’m all alone.”
“You’re not alone,” Kyle exclaimed. “You have me.”
Maureen smiled and kissed Kyle gently on the cheek. “Of course I do!” she said. “I’m a very lucky woman!” Maureen went home and she never expected to hear from her grandson again, but she was in for a surprise. Three days later her phone rang.
“Hey, gran,” Kyle said.”Are you busy?”
“Honey,” Maureen said. “I’m eighty-one years old. I’m NEVER busy!”
“Go put on something pretty,” Kyle said. “I’m coming over with some friends to pick you up!”
Sure enough, an hour later Kyle drove up in a big old red convertible with the top down and he had two other boys with him. “Hey gran!” he said. “We’re going to the amusement park!”
“The amusement park?” gasped Maureen. “I haven’t been there since…” The last time Maureen had been to an amusement park had been as a young girl.
She climbed into the car (the boys gave her the front seat) and Kyle buckled her in carefully, then they were off! The music was on too loud, the wind was messing her hair and it was wonderful!
“Gran,” Kyle shouted. “This is Terry and Mikey. They’re my best friends.”
“Hello, boys!” Maureen shouted to be heard over the music, engine, and wind. She felt young and silly! Maureen grinned and snapped her fingers. “I like this song!”
They arrived at the amusement park, and the four of them went on all the radical rides. When they were buying tickets for a huge roller coaster called The Excrucionator the ticket vendor balked.
“You’re taking this old lady on the ride?” he protested to Kyle. “What if her heart gives out?”
“If it does, then I die happy, young man,” Maureen cried. “It’s my right!” The Excrucionator really got her heart going and she screamed when it turned her upside down and Maureen loved it.
Afterward, they ate hotdogs and cotton candy and Maureen giggled as she told them some stories about the mischief she and her brothers had gotten into back in the day.
As the sun went down, a thousand sparkling lights went on in the midway, and a band started to play. Maureen and the boys wandered over to watch the couples dancing, and a blushing Terry asked her to dance.
Maureen danced with the boys under the lights and her loneliness seemed very far away. When the evening ended and they dropped her off, Kyle asked: “Listen, gran, is it OK if we come by again?”
“Yes,” Mikey cried, “You promised me to tell me that story about the March on Washington!”
“And I want more dance lessons,” Terry added.
Maureen smiled. “Come by anytime boys. My door is always open!”
That night Maureen went to sleep very, very tired, but there was a smile on her face. Kyle and his friends became regular visitors, sometimes picking her up for adventures, but most often just stopping by for long conversations.
Life was good when it wasn’t lived alone.
What can we learn from this story?
Living alone is the hardest thing to do. Maureen wasn’t afraid of dying, she was afraid she would live what was left of her life alone.
The mistakes of the past can haunt us until the day we die. Maureen knew she had failed her daughter, and no matter how much she tried Kate couldn’t forget her pain.
Family is our greatest treasure. Kyle learned to cherish his grandmother and enjoy her company.
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