‘Well, juggling chainsaws is obviously out,’ thought Flo as the colourful beanbags plopped at her feet.
‘For both of us, I reckon,’ chuckled the obviously novice juggler next to her. She was also awkwardly retrieving beanbags.
Flo realised she had, once again, voiced her thoughts. She’d been doing that ever since this pressure from her children. The three of them cheerfully bandied around suggestions like: you’re not getting any younger; downsize; the new retirement village looks lovely; at least have a look. Which is how she has allowed them to deposit her here at the Open Day, having “fun”.
‘Is it just an old age thing, or stress I wonder?’ Flo thought as she glumly returned the beanbags to the basket.
‘What, voicing your thoughts?’ Came the reply. ‘Stress, I reckon.’
Damn, another thought, aloud.
‘Now, and this is real speech by the way, I need you to explain why you think that …stress, I mean. Do you want to give this juggling lark away and go get a cuppa?’
‘Yes, most definitely. And I think tea’s the strongest stuff on offer, so that’ll have to do. I’m Meg, by the way.’
‘Nice to meet you.’ Flo really meant that. ‘I’m Flo.’
As they picked up their coats and bags they both spoke at once, ‘My children are saying…’
They looked at each other with surprise. ‘You first.’ Said Meg
‘They think it’s time I “downsize”…’ she shocked herself by using air quotes. ‘I know they mean well.’
‘Same’ giggled Meg, ‘but…’
‘I’m not ready,’ they chorused, laughing.
That felt so good. It was such a long time since Flo had laughed so easily. She knew her children were right to be concerned about her but maybe a good laugh is the tonic she needs.
Children become independent, grandchildren grow up and they all shift their focus. Partners and old friends pass on. Or they do this, downsize and move into a retirement village on the other side of town. You lose touch and aloneness turns into loneliness. This gradual, inevitable, change has left Flo weary. She despaired as her legs got heavy and her walk became more of a shuffle.
As they strolled to the dining hall, Flo and Meg remarked on the beautifully manicured garden. Not a leaf out of place.
‘Nice looking,’ observed Meg, ‘but too manicured. I love…’
‘…wild gardens,’ again they chorused the same idea.
As they neared the dining hall they heard it; ‘Clickety clicks – 66; Legs eleven…’ they looked at each other and read their mirrored horror.
‘Bingo?’ they whispered. ‘Not yet.’
‘Did you notice that Café outside the gates? Let’s go there instead.’ Meg suggested.
As they slowly walked along the pristine path they discussed their various ailments – Flo’s dodgy shoulder, Meg’s dodgy knee. Flo’s failing hearing, Meg’s failing eyesight. Their heart, their lungs, their hair – until breathless with laughter, they came to the conclusion that, together, they actually make up one very functional human being. That’s the answer. Let’s do something about this together, we don’t have to obey our children. They excitedly discussed possibilities in their newly discovered dual-thinking fashion.
Walking out the gate felt like freedom. And despite the wear and tear, Flo felt her steps become decidedly jaunty.
Award – Port Phillip Writes 2020