2/26/2011

Old Age Has Sprung


She put on her apron and surveyed the area from her spot up on the hill by an old oak tree. It was spring and the church was having their annual family fun day, complete with an afternoon of games for the kids and a picnic dinner. The event, Spring has Sprung, was always held when the flowers were in full bloom.

Suzie was thrilled her mom had remembered to bring her easel and canvas so she could paint this year. She was too old to want to play with the younger children, being close to graduating now. She marveled at the gamut of colors on the hillside, so many shades of blues, yellows, reds and pales pinks as far as the eye could see. She could not even imagine how, with her limited colors of paints she could begin to capture all the colors before her on that blank canvas. But she knew she would have fun trying. And with that, she picked up her brush and began dabbling.

Suzie set to work, working diligently, with no comprehension whatsoever of the time she spent working on the painting. When she was immersed in painting, time stood still. This was a special place for her. She brought blots of color to life on that blank canvas with her skillful deft movements of the artist brush, just a flick here and there with her wrist and presto, form took place and the fleck of paint became life like. She slowly but surely caught the beauty of her surrounding that day in a way she was never able to capture before on any other spring day she had attempted. Perhaps, at some level, maybe she knew she would never return here. After this year, when she went away to college, she would never again return, as going to college would be followed with career days, then marriage and children and then the days of church festivals here in her hometown would be long gone and forgotten.

Suzie decided this time she would do more than sign her painting, she would name it, aptly name it the after annual event. She bent down and picked up her pen she used for calligraphy and started writing on the base of the image when she felt, rather than saw her younger sister’s presence behind her. Without turning she said, “Sissy, come out from behind that tree, I know you are there. You can look at my picture. It is almost done now anyways. Tell me what you think.”

Sissy came out, quickly actually and for once was not interested in the least in the picture. She talked quickly in a flurry of activity and Suzie had a hard time following her quick flow of chatter. She launched into a recounting of what she had overhead her momma and her aunt talking about over tea by the kitchen where the women were preparing the meal. She said it was about Grandma Tressa. They had not seen Grandma in ages and did not know why. Every time they asked what had happened they were told it was best to not bring it up around daddy as it upset him and that it was best to forget Grandma Tressa. But neither sister understood it because when they asked momma if she had died they were told no. What on earth had happened to her that was so horrible no one could talk about it or see her?

Finally Sissy blurted out the final comment she heard, “Grandma Tressa is in a home Suzie. They said her memory is totally gone now and she remembers nothing at all. It is best that she be left that way alone and be undisturbed.” They both looked at each other and hugged holding back their tears. Somehow the thought of their grandmother being alone, with or without her memory was too hard to bear. They told each other, in hushed tones, no matter what happened to either of them, if their memories ever failed them, they would never abandon each other like that, no matter what. For who knows for sure that one’s mind is ever truly gone. What if momma was wrong and grandma did remember some things and wondered why no one came to see her anymore?

Off Sissy ran to go chase some boy she was fond off and Suzzy when back to finishing the title of her painting. She stood back and looked at her final finished piece with admiration. All of the sudden, she felt someone shaking her shoulder. Gently at first, then more rigorously. Then she heard a slight muffled sound saying her name which steadily grew louder saying repeatedly Ms. Suzie. She yelled “Quit shaking me, you are going to knock me over and bump my painting’ but the voice paid her no attention. Finally she realized her eyes were glued shut and she opened them. As she did, she realized someone was peering down over her and she was lying flat down, on a bed. The woman over top of her had a nurse’s outfit on and the place smelled like a hospital, no actually more like an old folk’s home.

Now the voice, the nurse was saying’s. Suzie, you are getting harder and harder to wake up sweetie. I am sorry if I frighten you but I need you to take your medicine now. You always seem to forget to take it.” Suzie held out her hand instinctively for the pills to be placed in her palm. As she did so, she gazed down at the pills. Funny, she could not help but notice, for some reason, the gamut of colors the pills were, shades of pales colors, similar to the colors one would use to paint walls in a new home or to use to paint colors in a picture of pale sea shells. What a nice thought that was to her.

The nurse fluffed her pillow and told Suzie what day of the week it was and then asked her if she needed anything to drink. She half responded and muttered something back. As she went to lay back on her pillow, she saw a picture straight ahead from her. She asked the nurse “Where did that picture come from?” The nurse simply said “Someone mailed that to you and asked us to put it up directly across from your bed and so we hung it there while you were sleeping. Do you like it?” Suzzy said not a word as she stared at the picture. She simply leaned back on her pillow and let a tear slip out of her right eye.

The nurse closed the door quietly and Suzie stared at that picture with her fuzzy memory. She could barely read that inscription on the base of the image, Spring Has Sprung and she closed her eyes. She recalled bits and pieces of that day with joy. She saw the color, and could not help but smile at the thought of it. She thought she even felt that presence again, at one point, of her sister near her, just like in the old days. When she opened her eyes, realizing it was just a dream and time had slipped away, she was over come with a sense of sadness. She knew the memory would pass and one day, the memory of what the picture stood for might be gone. Who could help her remember when no one was there anymore in her life that knew about the festivals?

She decided it is best to put her mind on other thoughts when she again felt that prescence in the room again. Now she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, someone in the room. The stranger moved closer to her. It was a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to her, but a few years younger and in much better health. She was smiling down at her and just sat on the bed with no hesitation and said simply said “I could never stay away from your beautiful paintings for long Suzy, remember?”
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