Marilyn Eales enjoys writing in her retirement. This is her second story for Deborah’s website.
One Summer evening over twenty years ago. I was collecting washing from the clothesline. The sun was slowly setting. I was enjoying the quiet beauty of the evening when suddenly from behind the bushes, in the next door garden, a little boy all of four years old, appeared with a whoop as children do and gave me one hell of a fright. I screamed. He, not knowing what he had done, just stood there staring at me. I in turn stared back at him. He looked so vulnerable but inquisitive. Instead of scolding him I fell in love! “ What is your name? Where do you live?” I asked.
It was obvious from his replies that he had an intellectual disability but I learned that his name was Michael and that he lived in the house across the empty section next to mine. We talked. I told him what a fright he had given me and that was why I looked scared. I also told him that I liked him and would not be cross again. He replied, ‘I like you, too.‘
Over the next twenty years Michael was a regular visitor at my place especially at weekends. He would unload his worries and I would tell him about my busy working week. He listened. Whilst not understanding the content of my conversation he was quick to catch moods of sadness or happiness. Sometimes he would just sit and observe me doing household chores.
A few years ago I moved from this home. Michael was now in his twenties. We saw each other less regularly but did meet occasionally over lunch at my place. After lunch, remembering that I enjoyed a daily swim he would say
‘Marilyn are you going for your swim now? I shall escort you to the beach.’
And escort me he did. On these occasions I would arrive at the beach with a six foot, good looking male proudly holding my arm. Sadly Michael died suddenly last October. When his parents asked me to read at his funeral I considered it a privilege to do so. To my surprise the chosen reading was from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act 3, Scene 2 where Juliet is talking about her Romeo:
When he shall die
Take him and cut him in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun
And now starlit Summer nights always remind me of this very special friendship.
Marilyn Eales is a retired Medical Laboratory Scientist. She lives in Auckland and enjoys a daily swim at a local beach. In 2010 she attended “ Life Writing” and “ More Life Writing” where she discovered a freedom to express herself in writing stories and memoirs. Prior to this her only writing had been correspondence to family and friends from developing countries in which she lived and worked.
We hardly ever spoke yet I saw her every day for at least seven years. She was in her eighties. We would both arrive at the bathing shed every morning about 8am Winter and Summer, change into our bathing costumes and head off in different directions. Later she would return to the bathing shed, briskly nod and then disappear as quickly as she had arrived on the scene.
In rough weather it was always a comfort to know she was there splashing about in the sea just as I was. There was a bond between us but one unspoken. I had not realised how close this bond was until one day, after a very stormy night I heard on the 7am news bulletin on National Radio that a body had been washed up on our beach. I hoped and prayed that it was not my companion swimmer.
Much to my relief three days later she appeared for her usual morning swim. With a broad smile she looked at me and said, ”I’m so pleased to see you”. The bond between us was further cemented although we continued in our old way and rarely spoke.
Three years later, when she was eighty seven years old and had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, she was unable to swim without assistance. And so for the last five weeks of her life I was privileged to assist her into the water. Observers of this ritual queried why I bothered with that dying woman. “She’s not dying” was my defensive reply “she is living”.
After her death I discovered she had three university degrees (the last conferred on her when she was in her 84th year) and that she had worked as an accountant in a legal firm until a few months before she died. I shall never forget her. Sometimes I wonder about the rich conversations we might have had if only we had taken the time to do so --- but then, our unspoken bond, expressed through our concern, watching out and caring for each other in all weathers, may not have been the same.
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