Friday, October 23, 2015

The Silent Years

The Silent Years

They sit in familiar chairs, on cushions creased just so. To one side, you might find a spoiled cat, grey or black or orange like marmalade, and a little too fat. Or at their feet, you might find a small dog, a Yorkie or a Lhasa Apso perhaps, sleeping partially on one of their slippered feet. Or you might find nothing at all.

They wake in the morning, earlier than most, and they move through the same ritual, day after day — a warm bath, time in front of the mirror, the men scraping away grey whiskers, the women applying dabs of make-up over discoloured spots, some rouge, and the reddest lipstick. Then, more time dressing in the best of their visiting clothes, in the pressed-shiny pants and frayed white shirt or in the red dress adorned with a simple broach, the uniform of just-in-case, just in case someone should stop by and visit. An ancient brush combs its way through thinning white hair, and once satisfied that they look their best, they allow themselves the comfort of a cup of weak tea with maybe a flaky biscuit or a stale scone.

It hardly matters.

They spend the day alone in that same familiar chair. They watch television shows that they don't understand, or they read a book, a thick and worn novel, or more often, The Bible, the familiar words jumping out at them through thick reading glasses. And there they remain until dinner hour has past, and it is time for bed, the worst time of their day because they despise sleep, but they fear sleeplessness more.

So they limp past a wall of faded faces in distant places, photographs of the dead and pictures of the uncaring, all hung slightly askew, all in plain black frames, except for one, the one in a gilded frame that they touch softly as they pass. Some will whisper, "I love you," maybe just to hear the words again.

They slip out of their visiting clothes, the pressed-shiny pants or the red dress folded neatly on a chair or returned to padded clothes hangers in scented closets, there to wait with the hopes and expectations that tomorrow someone might come by.

No one ever does. They are alone in their old age, despite the children they raised, despite the friends they helped time and time again through the course of a lifetime. Where once, they sang and danced and shared the brightest and most incredible thoughts, now they live in shadows where they have learned not to be a bother.

They are not the forgotten; they are the forsaken.

At day's end, they lie in bed and hope, and as that hope fades into sleep, they say a silent prayer, close their eyes, and wait.



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