Sun­day Evening

Ev­ery­one seems to need a dif­fer­ent as­pect of us. Have we lost touch of who we are?

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Sun­day evenings, my sis­ter and I phone. An­other week has come and gone, and we’ve both been too busy to catch up prop­erly. Not quite the leisurely life­style we once en­vis­aged when we con­tem­plated the im­pos­si­bly dis­tant im­age of grand­moth­er­hood.

“Do you feel frag­mented?” Lynne asks.

“All the time,” I ad­mit. “It’s as though I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son with ev­ery­one I meet.”

There’s a com­pan­ion­able lull in our con­ver­sa­tion while we think about this.

Fi­nally, I say, “Do you think it mat­ters?”

“I feel as if it does,” she says. “But it’s un­avoid­able,” I fin­ish for her.

Look at us. Our typ­i­cal week em­braces ev­ery­thing. We can be the un­hur­ried grand­mother with the pa­tience to plant seeds with a young child and wait for them to grow. Next day, we’re an ef­fi­cient em­ployee, of­fer­ing fresh ideas. Wife, sis­ter, neigh­bour… Ev­ery­one seems to need a dif­fer­ent as­pect of us.

“I think I’ve lost sight of who the orig­i­nal me is,” she says.

“Ev­ery­one seems to know one side of me,” I say. “They’d be hor­ri­fied if they ever saw it all.” We laugh.

As young women, we en­vis­aged our six­ties as a time of con­tent­ment, leisure and free­dom. Rac­ing from one task to an­other while also be­ing heav­ily in­volved with grand­chil­dren never crossed our minds. Busy? We thought that’d be a thing of the past.

“What does your week look like?” she asks.

One of us al­ways asks this ques­tion. We may not be able to find the time in the com­ing week to sit down to­gether for cof­fee or tea, but we like to know what’s go­ing on in each other’s lives.

“I’m meet­ing an old friend for lunch to­mor­row,” I tell her. “Do you re­mem­ber Judith? I haven’t seen her since the kids were lit­tle.”

She doesn’t.

“They moved when her hus­band got a job in New­cas­tle. We stayed in touch for a while,” I ex­plain. It was in the days be­fore Facebook and email, when stay­ing in touch usu­ally meant sit­ting down to write a letter.

“That’ll be in­ter­est­ing,” she says. I can tell she’s think­ing we should meet up for lunch soon. It’s al­ready a month since we’ve ac­tu­ally seen each other. The weeks are slip­ping by. It’s a shame we live so far apart. “What about you?” I prompt. “I’m work­ing ev­ery morn­ing, and then pick­ing Har­vey up from school in the after­noons,” she says. “It’s bet­ter now he’s old enough to amuse him­self.”

“I’m still wait­ing for Elsa to reach that stage.”

My grand­daugh­ter is four. I’m wrecked from mind­ing her yes­ter­day so my daugh­ter could work on a univer­sity as­sign­ment. Elsa def­i­nitely needs my full at­ten­tion. As I dis­cov­ered yes­ter­day.

“Elsa likes struc­ture to her days,” I say. “Yes­ter­day we spent the morn­ing mak­ing a choco­late slice.”

“The whole morn­ing?”

“If you count the time it took to wash the choco­late out of her clothes, giv­ing her an ex­tra bath, clean­ing the kitchen…”

I give an ex­ag­ger­ated groan. “At least I got some­thing re­sem­bling a rest. I said if I could lie down for half an hour, we’d make choco­late ic­ing.”

I’d had to lis­ten to an au­dio­book of fairy tales. A row of soft toys was lined up at the bot­tom of the bed to lis­ten, too.

“We vis­ited Adam after it was iced,” I con­tin­ued. “I sat on his front deck drink­ing cof­fee while he gave her a ride on his skate­board.” It’d been re­lax­ing watch­ing my son and grand­daugh­ter to­gether.

“I’ll bet she loved that,” Lynne says.

“Yes. And I loved watch­ing him use up some of her en­ergy.”

“Where did we ever find the en­ergy to bring up ours?”

Nei­ther of us has an an­swer. Nei­ther wants to say we were much younger then. We don’t feel any older inside. But our bod­ies cer­tainly let us know they aren’t de­signed for the hard slog of moth­er­hood. It’s a hard re­al­i­sa­tion. Not one to deal with on a Sun­day evening.

“Thomas bought a puppy this week­end,” she says.

“Have you found an ex­cuse to go and have a look?”

I can al­most feel her smile as she says, “Of course.”

Thomas re­cently left home and is de­ter­mined to be­come in­de­pen­dent. Hav­ing his mother visit so soon doesn’t quite square with this goal.

But a new puppy…

“I’ll find an ex­cuse too,” I say. “What kind of puppy?”

“It’s a cross be­tween a cocker spaniel and a poodle,” she says. “I think it’s called a spoo­dle.”

My phone pings. An im­age of a brown and white puppy gazes back at me from the screen. “Oh, it’s adorable!” I can’t help say­ing.

“I wanted to hear your voice when you saw him,” she says.

I think back to the days of hav­ing to write let­ters to stay in touch. Of tak­ing pho­to­graphic film to be de­vel­oped into prints. Of ex­pen­sive phone bills. Life’s busier now, but the means of stay­ing in touch keep im­prov­ing. The im­me­di­acy al­ways sur­prises me.

“I’ve just no­ticed the time,” Lynne says. “I’ll have to start cook­ing din­ner.”

We say our good­byes, wish­ing each other a happy week. To­gether but apart. That’s what we are. Un­til next Sun­day evening, when it’ll be my turn to phone.

‘We don’t feel any older inside, but our bod­ies let us know oth­er­wise’

THE END

© Gly­nis Scrivens, 2017

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