Short Story Writing and a bit of Musing

In the past I stuck mainly to journal or diary writing, or I tried to come to grips with some of my childhood memories. Only occasionally did I resort to fiction writing in the form of a short story. As far as my reading tastes are concerned I must say, in my younger days I always preferred reading novels: Only occasionally would I read a short story.

These days the time I spend  reading novels seems to be getting less and less, even though I still like novels a lot. Today for instance I spent half an hour reading a short story. It turned out I did very much love this story. It was a story I had been reading many years ago and I could still remember the subject of this story since this is a subject that interests me very much: What happens to a mother when she is suddenly widowed?

Barbara, one of my neighbours, is the author of this story titled “For better or worse”. Many years ago Barbara won a local award for this story. As I said I could still remember having read this story. I asked Barbara the other day, whether she is still writing. I told her how I remembered this story of hers. The mother in the story moves in with the daughter´s family after her husband died. She lives with the daughter, son-in-law and their two children for several months. In the end she decides, it is better to move on. Living together all the time is just not the right thing and brings about serious tensions in the family.

In the story we learn that the daughter is not at all like the mother. The daughter is more easy going whereas the mother as a very tidy person. This reminds me how all my children are very different from me. I am definitely not a very tidy person. None of my daughters nor my son are extraordinarily tidy either, but they are easy going in lots of different ways, not the way I am, not at all. Living with any one of them I can imagine might lead to frustrations all around. I just cannot imagine to live with any of them indefinitely. Maybe if there was a granny flat, it could work out?!

Well, I am fortunate, that my husband is still alive. God willing, we may still have quite a few years together. We live in a three bedroom house, called a villa, for it is in a corporate housing complex. There is a master bedroom, a guest bedroom and the third one is a computer room but can also be made into a bedroom. Our living room has an extension sofa for overnight guests. I always love to have family staying overnight at our place. We call ourselves lucky that we can make room like this for overnight guests.

Several women who used to live in our complex, eventually moved away after their husbands died.  They live now in retirement villages. Another neighbour, who was recently widowed, keeps thinking that she might want to move too. She is a very tidy person. She feels, the effort to keep her place and surroundings in the condition that she is used to, might become too much for her with advancing age.

Some years ago I wrote a fictional short story about a hostel for the aged. I used to have a friend in a hostel like this. This hostel was a very beautiful place on top of a hill with terrific views towards the ocean. In the beginning my friend loved her stay there. She was still mobile enough to go on outings with some of the other residents. Over the years she aged a lot and did not feel like going out any more. It turned out the people in that hostel who ended up needing nursing care, could often not be transferred to a nursing home because of bed shortages there. It was sad to see residents, who required constant nursing care, struggle on in the hostel where it became more and more difficult for the staff to look after all these feeble residents. In the hostel was not enough staff for nursing care. A lot of the residents were just sitting around all day, half dazed and not being able to participate in the life that was going on around them!

Originally I thought I would not mind spending my final days in a hostel like this with my own room and private facilities. But a nursing home? Oh, I hope it will not come to this. I hope that I can die before I need a nursing home. On the other hand, a person who is that far gone, maybe does not really mind too much to have to stay in a nursing home.

 

A Story set in the Year 2017

Uta in a Hostel in 2017
(An imaginary Story)

Uta awoke at five o’clock in the morning. She sat down at her computer intending to write a bit more about her life. She reflected it had been some time since she had written anything. She wondered why she found it so difficult to get into the mood for writing.
When her husband was still sleeping next to her, she would sometimes sneak away early in the morning to do some work at the computer. Quite often he would wake up soon after and come looking for her. Finding her, he would say in an irritated voice: ‘What do you have to get up this early for?’ More often then not she then went back to bed with him.
Uta thought she should enjoy writing early in the morning since she could do it now without having to worry about interruptions. Instead she thought back to when her husband was still alive. How they always found time to talk about a lot of things. When he read an interesting book, he would tell her all about it. She would do the same, if something that she had been reading, had fascinated her.
Who was there to discuss things with now, she thought to herself as she looked at his photo, that stood in front of her on the table. Uta lived with another forty people in a hostel. She was friendly with a lot of them. But none of them had the same interests that she had. Most of the TV programs they watched, did not interest her. And none of the residents would take an interest in the books that she read.
Today was Wednesday. This meant Martha was to come visiting her. As always they were to play Scrabble. They both loved to play this game. Uta was going to tell Martha about Lily Brett’s novel, that she had just finished reading. It was called: ‘You gotta have Balls!’ Uta knew that Martha had read the book already. So they would discuss it together. Uta thought it was good, to be able to talk with someone about a book she had enjoyed reading very much. Martha usually arrived at the hostel around nine o’clock and stayed with Uta till lunch.
Reflecting on all the residents, Uta thought, it was such a pity, that she did not have more in common with them. Uta still loved to talk to all of them. But it was mostly small-talk. And it was mostly about the newest sickness that one or the other resident had come up with.
Uta was eighty-two years old. There were a lot of residents younger than her. However their interest in life was extremely limited. This was so sad. A lot of the residents liked to talk about the past, about the families they had had; they constantly complained that these days they had seldom any visitors. There were even some residents who never did get any family visiting them!
People were so grateful when you sat down and listened to them for a while. Often they responded with a lovely smile, being happy someone showed an interest in what they wanted to talk about. Uta was very fond of all these people who would respond with a smile. It warmed her heart. She was so happy, that most of the residents seemed to like her. Even the few really grumpy residents seemed to like her a bit. These grumpy residents could not help being grumpy, she thought.
Uta contemplated how lucky she was, to live in a comfortable room with her own toilet facilities. She also had her own TV set, radio and of course her computer. To reach the dining-room, she had to walk down a long passageway to a connecting building. All meals were served in the dining-room.
Not far from Uta’s room was a large lounge-room.The hostel was situated at the top of a hill. This East facing lounge-room had magnificent large windows. With the morning sun coming in, you could see all the way to the Pacific ocean. Plenty of comfortable big chairs were placed around the room. There were also a number of tables with four smaller chairs to each table. Uta and Martha usually played Scrabble sitting at one of these tables. To finish three games of Scrabble took them only about two hours. Around ten o’clock they had a tea-break. Uta loved to make cups of tea in the little kitchen adjoining the lounge-room. The staff served tea at the other end of the hostel in the comfortable room next to the dining-room. Sometimes Uta went down there for her morning tea.
There were laundry rooms in two different parts of the hostel with a number of washing machines and dryers. Uta felt fortunate, that she was still able to do her own washing. But she knew, if she was struck by a sickness, the staff would willingly do the washing for her. She never had to do her bedlinen. That was seen to by the hostel staff. The hostel also provided cleaning personal to clean all the rooms. Uta’s room would usually be cleaned Tuesdays.
A lot of the residents did not like the food that was being served at the hostel. They complained day in day out how horrible the food was. Uta thought to herself it was splendid that three cooked meals were being served every day. She usually did eat everything that was served, except for the meat, because she did not like to eat a lot of meat; never had liked it.
Uta looked at the clock and saw it was already past seven o’clock. So she had missed the seven o’clock news on TV. Instead of the TV she turned on the radio: ABC Classic FM. The room was bathed in some exquisitely soothing music. She loved this music. Taking another look at Peter’s photo, she was reminded, how much Peter had loved music like this.
Slowly, Uta got ready to get showered and dressed . She had not written anything, instead she had spent the time just thinking about her life. At ten to eight she arrived at the dining-room. Breakfast was to be served at eight.

My Friend Eva

My Friend Eva

I did get to know her when I was forty and Eva was sixty-three. She died thirty years later. I was able to keep in touch with her right to the end. When Eva was nearly eighty, she moved to a hostel. Before that she had lived at home with her estranged husband and had frequent bouts of depression. She had wanted to separate from her husband for a long time. Her husband didn’t want to let her go. He also prevented her from getting an age pension. For years and years she was stranded not being able to buy anything for herself.

Finally, through the intervention of a caring social worker, she was able to get her age pension. Another caring person, namely a Catholic sister, who lived in the neighborhood, saw to it that she could move into the hostel. She was nearly eighty at the time.

For many years I visited Eva in her home. Whenever I visited we played several games of Scrabble. Even when Eva was in a depressive state, she always loved to play Scrabble! Once she had some pension money, she developed an interest in shopping again. When I took her out for a bit of shopping, she also liked to have a cup of coffee with me in a shopping center. Sometimes I took her to my place for some games of Scrabble and to have lunch with me and Peter.

After having moved to the hostel, Eva liked to be taken for visits to a hairdresser. She also started choosing with great care what to wear for the day. It was really important to her to look good! Sometimes I took her with me to visit some friends of mine. They were all fond of Eva. I was her confidante. I think I was probably the only person she liked to open up to. I saw her only about once a week or once a fortnight. She always liked to spend a few minutes to let me know what had been going on with her since I last saw her. She also never forgot to inquire about me and my family.

The hostel provided for outings in their community bus. In the beginning Eva had been keen on going to all these outings. However, as she got older she lost interest in it. There came a time when she just didn’t want to go out anymore. Even with me she wanted to go out less and less. She still liked playing Scrabble though whenever I visited her. I think it was when Eva was about ninety when she started losing interest in playing Scrabble. However right to the end she was always looking forward to my visits.

Eva died in 2005. I was seventy at the time. In 2007 I wrote an imaaginary story about my being in a hostel as an eighty-two year old. In five years from now I will be eighty-two! Hopefully my husband is still going to be alive by then and I won’t have the need for a place in a hostel. But what if? I plan on publishing this imaginary story that I wrote five years ago. I also have some photos of Eva. Maybe a couple of these I can soon publish as well.