All the Birds

You may know that, in the US, women were once referred to as Chicks.  To be fair, I don’t know if people still use the term Chick in the US.  It could have fallen out of favour or it could have been considered inappropriate with the PC brigade.  Well, here in the UK, women are still occasionally referred to as Birds.  At one point, one of the first times we met in person, he was surrounded  by a group of ladies and I couldn’t help but laugh: all the birds love Troy.  Why wouldn’t they?  

On our honeymoon we went to the Farne Islands on a blustery showery summer day to see the Puffins and Arctic Terns.  Puffins build nests into the ground so I would see one, turn to grab Troy to get his attention and the Puffin was gone!  Not into the air – just gone.  Finally I saw one, beak full of fishes, dash into its burrow.  From that point we knew to keep an eye on one so that we could see the adorable waddle into burrows.  The Arctic Terns that summer on the Farne Islands build a nest, lay eggs and raise young.  We arrived to find beautiful 6-8 inch balls of white fluff with an eager beak, and their angry parents dive-bombing Troy.  At one point he said:

Stop attacking me!  Don’t you know I’m a member of the RSPB?

After the Great Tit Rescue and our fluttery honeymoon, I decided to give Troy a great holiday experience at Birdworld. Birdworld is a zoo-type place just for birds. His experience started before the place officially opened and he spent the morning preparing and feeding the birds. I tootled off to the nearest town and had an expensive coffee at one of the many usual shops. Troy prepared food for the many types of birds under the supervision of a guide. At one point a laughing thrush pressed herself against the fence while Troy gave her a tickle on her breast while asking, Do you like it there? Or there? and she is practically saying to him Give it to me Big Boy! He fed the penguins and, because one of the adults didn’t like Troy getting so close to her chicks, she pecked him and for over a month later, he had a red blister which he pointed at and said with a kicking motion

That was nearly the first penguin in space!

When we met for lunch, he told me that I had competition: Tallulah was a pink and grey parrot who – according to the guide – just might take a banana chip from Troy.  The guide was only partly right: Tallulah hopped onto Troy’s hand, marched up his arm, settled onto his shoulder and whispered sweet nothings into his ear.  The guide was astounded!  Tallulah had never done anything like that – she normally shunned attention.  Troy became a Birdworld sensation and one of the guides said:

Your wife will be surprised!

No. No, she won’t. All the birds love me.

Not quite as expected

Although I was born and raised in the US, I have lived in the UK for the past 20 – 25 years or so.  Over the years, I have welcomed a number of family members for visits and lead a number of expeditions into London.  This particular day, my mother and I went along South Bank, to the Tate Modern, across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s.  After a beatific tour of St Paul’s, we were on the steps outside.  It had been a long day but, as it was Rush Hour, I suggested we go somewhere to eat and pointed to a number of restaurants within a short walking distance but Mom, clumsy at the best of times, missed a step and fell forwards down the steps, landing on her hands, knees and chin.  Mom fell in slow motion like a tree and I was too late, too slow, too careful to get underneath her!  When she struggled to move upright, a kind foreigner rushed to the rescue and wrestled her to her feet.  I assured him that I would look after her and I went into triage mode:

OK.  First things first: Nothing was broken.  Unsurprisingly she was in shock and shaking.  I wanted her to decide what she wanted to do next.  She seemed hesitant with the idea of staying in London and wanted to go back home.  Hmmmm.  It’s Rush Hour.  For those of us with claustrophobia, the prospect of travelling during the Rush Hour in London leaves me struggling to breathe! However, Mom gets what Mom wants.  I guided her gently to the Underground and we stuffed ourselves onto a Tube.  I was surprised when someone offered his seat to Mom.  I made sure to stand near her so that she felt secure, but after a few minutes, we were chatting with the group: they had just left an Indian wedding and the ladies had gorgeous henna tattoos on their hands!  They kindly explained what and how they made the markings and how long they would last.  By the time we got to our stop, I was relieved that Mom didn’t seem so unravelled.  

Waterloo is one of the busiest train stations in the country.  So you can only imagine the heaving mass of humanity that awaited us.  Once again, we managed to force ourselves onto a train and even though it was standing room only, a kind soul gave up his seat for Mom.  I then entertained a sweating mass of people with my bird stories – initially to bring Mom out of her shock.  These are the stories I told her:

I was in the first of my first husband’s houses.  I had been in the UK for about a year or so – a long time ago!  I had spent the morning doing DIY. The weather was glorious – sun was streaming in. The windows were open. The clean clothes were on the line. I nipped upstairs to have a quick shower and then maybe a sandwich for lunch? Picture it: I’m in the bathroom, in the shower. I’m naked and defenceless when I hear:

FLAPFLAPFLAP FLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAP

The sound went across the bathroom and into the bedroom.  I remind you that I was defenceless!  I hunched down and peeked around the shower curtain but couldn’t see anything…  Did I just imagine that?  I have terrible eyesight without the glasses/contacts so my not seeing anything doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  I finished my shower, grabbed a towel and that’s when I saw the red-eyed proud pigeon.  Yikes!  How did that get into the house?  Is this the sort of thing that happens in England?  I decided to leave it for about 10 minutes to see if, like a wasp, it would just find its own way out.

Which didn’t work.  OK.  Plan B: this must happen reasonably often enough that I can ask someone?  I rang my husband who laughed at me.  When he realised that I wasn’t joking, he said to leave it alone for 10 minutes and see if it flies out the window by itself…  So this isn’t the sort of thing that just happens in England?  No.  OK.

I nip back upstairs to the bird, who was strutting around and acting rather proud of himself.  He waddled over to me and seemed to demand a treat.  That’s when I see a ring around his ankle.  He’s a homing pigeon!  So now all I have to do is figure out where he’s come from.  There are some huts in the back garden of one of the neighbours – maybe they might be missing one?

From the bathroom window I counted how many houses away the pigeons were and then set off. When I got there I had to explain: Hello.  I’m your local Mad American and I have a pigeon in my house.  Is it yours?  There was a bird missing! The pigeon expert clapped and shooed the pigeon out and slammed the window closed, apologised profusely and left as fast as a tornado.  I presume she needed to track down where else the bloody bird went before she got the thing to go back home.  The worst thing about the fowl visit (see what I did there?) was the poop.

Speaking of poop!  I told the pigeon story to some friends while, unbeknownst to me, I was sitting in a huge pile of bird poop.  Thanks to the first husband for not pointing that out to me!  

You know how bad things come in threes?  Well, I was again telling the bird poop story in a next-door neighbour’s garden when I felt a splot on my head.  You guessed it.  I had been dive-bombed by another bird.  Even though I knew what it was, I stayed in the garden and proceeded to get thoroughly inebriated.  I found out later that English people say that it’s good luck when a bird poops on your head.  I say that anyone who believes that has never needed to wash bird poop out of their hair!  

While my day with Mom didn’t end as planned, she still loved that trip!

Showed you?!!? Where???

I worked for the McHaggis firm of solicitors – which is a Law Firm if you’re speaking American – in the Probate department. Although, as an English person I am loath to use the word “quaint”, the village is painfully quaint – the buildings along the High Street (which is like Main Street – every village has one!) are lined with Tudor buildings but some frontages have been damaged by Georgian vandals so there are generally two architectural styles. Unlike many more urban areas, the architecture has not been punctuated with 1960s monstrosities plugging the holes left by the Luftwaffe. In the summer there are baskets of pendulous flowers along every light post and the winters are not nearly as dreadful as the Midwest of the United States. I tell my mother regularly that I have come to a civilised country.

One of the hardest things I had to accustomed myself to was the lack of personal space in the UK.  Even the largest mall in my old hometown was busy at Christmastime but that is nothing compared to a Midwestern winter.  England, in some ways, is like Illinois: England is roughly 1.7 times the size of Illinois but has roughly 5 times the people.  The usual consequences accompany this concentration of people: the price of property is high, any green space is either transformed into car parking or a tidy garden.  I remember I found the lack of space made me a little claustrophobic for the first few years in the UK and I sometimes had to stay home of a weekend so that I wouldn’t feel the need to escape.  

Mr McHaggis had a sizeable office in the Tudor building beside the church on Church Street.  His room was lined in genuine old oak; he sat at a large antique desk and would regularly say that computers were nothing but Complicated Paper Weights.  In his office were situated a row of dull metal filing cabinets and on the other side a smaller antique desk for his Articled Clerk (which even then was old terminology for a trainee solicitor).  I adored most of his trainees: we all seemed to have something in common even if it was something different for each trainee.  Trainees obtain their “theory” qualifications and then do two years of “practice” before they can call themselves qualified solicitors.  Each crop of trainees was required to do six months in each of a number of departments – usually probate, real estate, litigation and then a choice of whatever the trainee hoped to specialise in – such as commercial, matrimonial, medical negligence, etc.

In this instance, Elizabeth was a devout and kind girl who went to church several times a week.  As someone with a secular outlook, I found her to be something of a curiosity and we got along like a house on fire. 

McHaggis had a great sense of humour but also a hopping-mad temper if you weren’t careful.  The best thing about his temper was that when it was done, it was done.  When McHaggis was in a foul mood he would go around looking for things that someone had done incorrectly so that he could bring that someone to heel.  In particular, he thought that Foolscap paper was the correct size for Wills because it was bigger and therefore saved on paper.  

The partners always started their day opening the post and distributing it.  One day when he came into his room he was already in a mood, he was going on and on about a letter that an estate received from a car dealership saying

Dear Dead Person

Wouldn’t you like to buy a car?  We have a sale on at the moment that you might find hard to turn down!

McHaggis was blustering about it being a complete waste of paper and that he couldn’t possibly charge the estate for such rubbish.  I was still in his office – finishing off the filing and chuckled to myself.  

McHaggis: Whatareyoulaughingat?

Nothing really.  Sometimes I have evil thoughts….

McHaggis with the hint of a sparkle in his eye: What?

Well, you could say that letter is an exercise in autofellatio.

McHaggis exploded with laughter, pounded on his desk with his fist and left the room to distribute the rest of the day’s post.  After he left, in almost a whisper, Elizabeth asked:

What does autofellatio mean?

Well, if auto means this, and fellatio means that…

GASP!  I cannot believe that you said that!

Well, it put him in a better mood.  I should get a medal!

Later in the afternoon, and after printing a large wedge of letters, I was back in McHaggis’ office quickly shoving signed letters into envelopes while McHaggis was telling Elizabeth how great he was and he shot her another 10p word.  Then he said 

There’s another one for you to look up tonight, Liz!

Don’t worry Mr McHaggis, Jade showed me what it was.

Showed you?!!?  Where???

Elizabeth became the shade of a beautifully cooked lobster and I nearly died of embarrassment and laughter.

I shave it!!

I first met Julie when I climbed through the window at the old-fashioned firm in the village. The office is next door to the church on Church Street and was erected in the Tudor period. The large oak staircases on the ground floor hid the usual nooks and crannies that can be found in a genuine Tudor building. The staircase to the attic, only accessible to those who worked there, required balletic balance and flexibility to traverse: it was narrow, uneven and not quite tall enough for a fully-grown adult. I found the attic to be creepy. Because the lower floors were better insulated, the attic was biting cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer. I’d like to think that this was the reason I felt the attic was haunted but I expect I felt it was haunted because it was dust-covered and full of history.

One day, when I was working with three other secretaries in the library, a book pulled itself out of the case and, after pausing in the air for a moment, fell to the floor.  I thought it was hilarious at first but the lady sitting across from me went pale and insisted that the book hovered in the air for a moment.  However, after that I was sure to address the phantom in the office so that no other scary stunts frightened us. 

The day I met Julie was rainy: the annex had a flat roof and needed the drains to be cleared. I pulled on my Wellington boots, climbed through the window to the flat roof and I scooped up the leaves. Once the water was nearly gone from the roof, I climbed back through the window to see Jeanette walking through to her interview at the firm. She was originally from Peru and had been a secretary but because English was not her native tongue, she would need some assistance. I, of course, fell in love with her almost immediately. She must have been so brave to come to England without knowing the language. Her accent, in particular, made for some laughs:

“What do you do when your sheet makes the balls?!”

Um what?

“What do you do when your sheet makes the balls?!”

Aside: Julie never spoke without an exclamation mark at the end. Once she came off the phone with her husband where she shouted and gesticulated with great emotion. I asked her – Are you OK? She said “yes. Why?” I said that she was talking as if she was angry…. She chuckled. “No. I have the hot American blood. I was telling my husband that I wanted him to take the clothes out of the washer and into the dryer.”

Um, what?

“What do you do when your sheet makes the balls?!”

Honey, I know what you’re saying but you will need to use different words because we don’t understand you.

“Your sheet.”

Yes

“On the bed!”

Ah!  Your bedsheets!

“Yes, it makes balls!”

Her bedsheets were bobbling. We gave her some suggestions – buy new ones, flip them over, etc. Julie said:

“I shave it!”

I compared her with the Princess and the Pea and even she laughed.

Internal

As a woman, having an internal examination is never something that I have gone to with a skip in my step.  I was young and first sexually active in the US so I went to Planned Parenthood for my first gynaecological examinations.  It was extremely well organised: I remember the table having stirrups, my bottom was ever so slightly over the edge of the table, there was plenty of light for the person performing the examination, and every item for the examination is close to hand.  The doctor was placed – very much like a baseball catcher – in between the legs and can easily see when the patient becomes nervous (according to the position of the legs!).  It was well organised, quick and painless.  I can say that, although I don’t enjoy internal examinations, it’s a test that I do not mind nor miss.

I therefore had a certain expectation when I moved and settled in the UK: I thought the examination would be the same. In one way it is: it’s a retrieval of cells on the cervix. In almost every other way, it’s a bit different. For instance, possibly because doctor’s offices are small, tables are against the wall lengthways and don’t have stirrups. Patients are expected to lay on the table with feet together – I liken it to a strange yoga position – while doctors move a light to the lady-garden area and then the doctor performs an act of contortion over the bent knee and dumping the brain onto the table in order to see where the examination contraptions are going. In this position, it is difficult/impossible to grasp the implements without growing an extra hand or two. In fact I have offered to hold the speculum in place while a doctor aimlessly grasped across the room for implements! Keeping the accoutrements nearer, say on the table, is not an option due to the placement of the feet. You can only imagine how I stood by the table the first time wondering where my feet went! I hopped up and slid towards one end of the table, kicking like an upside-down frog, kicking to find the non-existent stirrups.

The worst internal examination I’ve had was with a training doctor: he put the speculum in but tried to crank it open in parallel with the table, which of course didn’t work. If he’d have taken it out and tried again gently it wouldn’t have been so bad but he wrenched it around to the perpendicular. I shouted and my arms shot out! In an ideal world, I would have caught hold of his testes as I said “Don’t EVER do that again!” but I didn’t get his jewels. Shame. However, he was so shocked that I shouted at him that I’m sure he’s never done it again. I was sore for a few days but wasn’t traumatised. Having said that, I do wish I could have the tests done in the US just for the ease and speed for which these things are done.

Childhood Interludes

With the divorce colouring how I saw everything as a child, you may think that I have no happy memories. But you would be mistaken.

I was visiting my dad’s brother and his family. One of my cousins was 4 months older than me, so she and I were almost sisters at one point. Well, it was summertime and we stayed in a tent one night… sneaking out of the tent and walking along the disused train tracks to meet up with a couple of boys. I was of an age when a boy kissing me was a Seriously Big Deal so, looking back as an adult, it seems all very innocent. The worst part about that evening? I could not stop passing wind! Some tall, tanned and rugged boy tried to kiss me and I would have to keep moving because I just couldn’t stop emitting terrible smells. How fast do farts travel? Faster than romance, that’s for sure!

My cousin developed diabetes and died just a few days before my baby sister got married so, although I missed my cousin’s funeral, I was able to console her family. Now I’m older than she will ever be and, when I allow myself to think about it, I steep in melancholy like a teabag in hot water. If you were to draw me, sad wavy lines would emit from my tearful eyes.

Summer weekends with Dad were spent on a lake with a couple of his brothers and their families. The Hammer Entourage would descend upon lakeside in campervan and Winnebago. The children would be turned out to play; the brothers would grab some suds and go fishing and the ladies would sit together giggling.

I spent summer breaks with Dad going to/from Ohio and seeing the whole of the Hammer family. We would stay with Dad’s Aunt and Uncle (It didn’t occur to me to ask why Dad called them Aunt and Uncle until I was older and I discovered that these people were official my Great Aunt and Great Uncle.) and I loved visiting them every summer. Everything about that time was a sweet relief – from the hills that tickled my stomach as I was driven at speed from relative to relative, to the gentle mocking that everyone engaged in. The summer evenings were spent on their screened porch listening to the crickets and cicadas. They had an above-ground pool and, as I got older, I “worked on my tan” in order to try to catch the eye of some unsuspecting but cute boy. When I stood outside Aunt Josephine’s house, I would look across the hills and see fields in a variety of greens spread like a favourite quilt before the bed is made… I always loved visiting because I had no real expectations. If I wanted to hide in the basement from the heat of the day, I could. We all had what my friends now call “a drawl”. The men would talk about hunting, guns, cars and women; and because I hated to feel left out, I listened in and learned how men communicate.

For me, the two visits that Mom and I took to California have become an amalgam in my mind. I was young and remember the sorts of things that a child would remember: calling Koi Carp Kiss-Fish because I thought they were kissing the sides of their pond, my cousins shouting “Mallard!” and then smacking me in the back of the head. (Ouch! I should have ducked!) I made a mental note of where all the doorways were and how quickly I could get to them in case of earthquake. Grandma driving through Los Gatos and, every time, she looked at me and said “Los Gatos means The Cats in Spanish.” Music Box Dancer was on the radio and, as Grandma drove along the beautiful green mountains, I imagined a horse prancing along the mountains around us.

Summers with Mom were spent with Mom, Grandma and Iris until Grandma died and Iris got Alzheimers. Louise was born after Grandma died, but I like to think that Grandma came to see her last and youngest grandchild sometime after Lou-Lou was born.

On one of their visits, they took me to Allerton Park – an English styled Manor House and Garden outside a sleepy village called Monticello. We wandered through the shade around the lake. Grandma was already on great terms with her oncologist- not that I knew what that was at the time. She had been invited to a Halloween party and she threatened to go as a Wood Nymph. I think Grandma and Iris must have thought I was in my own little world but I had been listening and I asked what a wood nymph was. Our poured a nervous laugh! How do you tell a child that you threatened to go to a Halloween party in your birthday suit?! I cannot remember how the told me and I don’t really remember my reaction but it must have been Eewwwwww! Grandma!

Christian or Buddhist ?

When I left DJ I was determined to become a devout Christian. I went to church once a week. I carried my New Testament with me and read it regularly. If I’m honest though, without the push I was getting from DJ, I took a more relaxed view of religion. I knew God loved me and I loved Him. That was all I needed. What gave me the philosophical push away from Christianity was – well. There’s a story there.

I can remember being, oh I want to say I was 10 or 11 when Dad first started shaking. At first it was localised in his left thumb (which I didn’t notice) and then moved to his left hand (which was hard to miss). In an age before Google, Dad went from specialist to specialist to find a diagnosis. He went to a chiropractor because he’d been told he had a trapped nerve. He went to a psychologist because it was all in his head. He had more and more random tests – including a Spinal Tap – without any clue as to why the shaking was creeping through his limbs. From one hand, it spread to another. Then it moved to his feet. His body trembled.

Finally he went to Mayo Clinic when they took one look at him and said, “Parkinson’s Disease”. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death of nerve cells in the substantia nigra – which is part of the brain. How and why this happens is still not known. There is a genetic factor which increases a person’s risk of developing the disease but there may be environmental or other reasons why a person develops the disease – including cerebrovascular disease where a series of small strokes cause several parts of the brain to die. Treatment back when Dad was first diagnosed (the early 1980s) was some tablets to help manage his symptoms. Tablets which have distressing side effects: confusion, hallucinations, involuntary movements and memory loss. Looking at the Parkinson’s UK Website, I can see that treatments have moved on since Dad’s time – but there is no cure and, although Dad had a number of health problems by the time he died at the tender age of 64, he really started his downward turn in his 30s with Parkinson’s. By the time I finished high school, Dad had moved from his job inside the factory to being a security guard (for health reasons) and was on the verge of taking retirement on medical grounds.

Dad was a wonderful man in many respects but when he just kept refusing to believe that he was as sick as he actually was, I found him to be a real handful. Once, he called me up out of the blue and, delirious with happiness, he said that he’d been cured. WOW! That’s fantastic! Have you had a surgery or something that you didn’t tell me about?“No! I’ve been to church and by the Grace of God I have had the demon removed!”Um, ok. So are you still shaking?“Yes but that’s just my body getting rid of the toxins.”OOOookay. And how long will that take?“I don’t know. (pause) Aren’t you happy for me??”Oh, yes. I’m delighted. I just don’t want someone taking advantage of you. What followed was the first of many difficult discussions. Dad was too young to be in a nursing home. Dad went from church to church looking for cures and paying for it with his meagre retirement income. Unfortunately he would still have hallucinations which he interpreted as demons out to get him. He also saw angels. Convincing him to get some real help was a challenge because he didn’t want to believe that he was actually ill.

At one point he got a couple of ladies to come to help by buying his groceries, making him hot meals and keeping house, he fell terribly ill because he wasn’t taking his tablets on time. He would wake up in the mornings and take his tablets and then, 20 minutes later when he was still shaking, he figured he’d forgotten to take his tablets and then both tablets would kick into his system and he would hallucinate. What he really needed was some help to keep him on the right track with the medications. I also had to gently fire the helpers when I found out that they were taking his money and buying their own food with his money. The food that he did have in the house was out of date. More than once, from across an ocean, I authorised treatment for him because he wasn’t compos mentis enough to authorise it for himself. Then, he would be mad at me for not letting him die. The doctors got him straightened out. He wasn’t unwell enough for a nursing home but then wasn’t well enough for an assisted living place… Mainly because he kept insisting that he was too young to have to endure it. He’d been cured. He didn’t deserve it. “Just let me die” he said on more than one occasion. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let him die if there was a way that he could be helped.

Dad was right about not deserving it. But no matter how many times he was told that God didn’t give you anything that you can’t handle, no matter that the Lord’s Prayer says “Thy Will be Done”, Dad just couldn’t accept it. As a consequence of Dad’s disease (which he lived with for more than half his life), how many people took advantage of him and how he died, my heart hardened against Christianity. In particular the church crowd he found himself in – pretending to cure him!

I needed something else to believe in. I was suffering in a way that I didn’t think possible when Dad died. I was profoundly wounded. I needed something that didn’t rely on the whims of a deity. I found Buddhism. From the first moment, when I realised that Buddhists either don’t believe in God or don’t address the question of a God, I felt I could relax. At that point I was suffering and I needed to know how to stop suffering – which is something that I might have been able to feel from Christianity. However, I was so unhappy with the people worshipping God that I couldn’t allow myself to take refuge in the religion. How dare they take advantage of a desperate and sick old man!

The nice thing about Buddhism is that I have also found the ability to forgive and forget these people. Only now I’m not thinking that God will exact revenge, I instead remind myself that everyone is on their own path and Karma, like Gravity, will catch up with them eventually. I’m here on this physical plane to learn life lessons – much the same way a child needs to learn to walk down stairs. No doubt I will take a tumble on my way to being a better person, but I have to keep getting up and trying again.

Paternal Moment

I must have been about 13 or so when Dad was diving along I-74 between Champaign and Mahomet when I Want To Know What Love Is was playing on the radio. I remember there was a high-pitched him coming from the stereo and I associated it with Dolby – which was a new technology all those years ago. I associated it with the hum with the tiny red dot of light to the right of the hole for cassette tapes.

The headlights groped along the highway like a submarine along the ocean floor. The prairie scrub gave me the impression of algae straining towards bleak sunlight. When I looked up, the thick clouds were almost glowing from moonlight but all I saw was the moment where the ocean meets the sky – I was a bottom-dweller cocooned by quiet light and sound.

All the while the song chimed with my sad and lonely soul: I want to know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. Because I’ve never felt it.

Compos mentis

From the front window and in the distance I can see waves frolicking among dark rocks and sand. I can almost smell the ozone. The living room is kissed with yellow light – so much so that the entire living room looks warm and cosy. I like what I’m seeing but don’t recognise it. Someone is here and asking me questions:

“Have you had lunch?  Did you take your tablets?”

My cats are eagerly chasing the visitor through to a mat on the floor.  The visitor bends to place two cat bowls down for the girls. 

“Do you have everything?  The TV is on.”

Who are you?

“I’m your health visitor, Lisa” she’s nearing the front door and throwing her jumper over her shoulders.

But, how did I get here?

“See you in the morning.  Have a lovely evening.”  Lisa clumps the door closed behind her.

I’m without any means to ascertain how I got here.  I look at my hands.  They appear dry but ok.  I pick up some yarn, work out where I am in a pattern from a list in a bag beside the chair and start to knit.

I’m in a white room, laying in a bed.  The sheets are stiff and uncomfortable.  There are machines beeping and chirping around me.  I pull my legs to the side, stand up on wobbly legs and edge to the window.  There are plants and trees outside but nothing so dramatic as the view of the beach. 

How did I get here?

I look at my hands.  They are peppered with spots I don’t recognise but otherwise seem to be in decent shape.

There are people around me.  I’m in a chair with knitting in my hands.  The knitting appears to be doing itself so I’m concentrating on the people around me.  Who are these people?  One of them looks like my little sister but with different coloured eyes.  I’m struggling to hear…

I must be dreaming.  I seem to be skipping between moments in the way that I do when I dream…

Now I’m sitting in front of the TV.  I look around before the darkness skips me along to the next dream.  There are a number of comfy chairs here.  There is a window behind me but I’m struggling to turn around to see.  I stand up but cannot seem to manage a fully-upright position.  There is snow on a pine tree in the garden.  I can hear some noise above my tinnitus in my right ear.  I sit back down.  A woman comes in with a tray of cottage pie. 

“How are you feeling now Jade?”

I’m good.  Hey!  Where am I this time?

A twinkle greets the eye of this woman as she says “You, Ms Hammer, are in the TV room.” She gestured grandly towards the oversized TV. 

Taking the tray, I slump slightly and roll my eyes at her.  Seriously.  Where am I?

“Oh!”  Her eyes exclaimed along with her mouth.  “You are in the Surrey Residential Home with me, Ms Hammer.”

Don’t call me Ms Hammer.  That was my mother’s name.  Jade is fine, sweetie.  How long have I been here?

“Almost three years.”

Why don’t I remember coming here?  I said as the tray landed on my lap.  I picked up the knife and fork and looked at my hands and saw unmistakably old hands – they looked like the gnarled bark of a tree!  

What the bloody hell happened to my hands?! I said as the silverware slipped from my fingers.  Where is Troy?

Dammit.  I seem to have slipped away again.  Am I dreaming?  At first I was in a house by the sea.  Then I was surrounded by people…  Then I was asking for Troy.  What if I’m not dreaming?  What if this is my life now?  

Where is Troy?  Tell me where he is!!

Where is Troy? Where?