A short story based on real life that explores various layers of relationships, by Anumita, our Managing Editor, exclusively for Different Truths.
Kathy watched the bony fingers holding her arm and smiled at the twinkling eyes looking at her. Those eyes were surrounded with wrinkles yet a vibrancy emitted from this person. She was new in this agency and Monika was her first client. Monika was in her early 70s and slim built yet her structure showed strength. Her hair was long a mix of salt and pepper, more of salt. She had a neat long braid with a stubborn lock which escaped from the binding and fell on her temple. She had a sweet feminine charm, which became apparent when she tucked that lock behind her ears, now and then.
She was here to talk to her and introduce herself as her new case manager. But before she moved forward with the simple introduction, Monika was rambling her life story to her. Her every word was punctuated with a nod and lopsided smile.
Monika has a few grown-up children, who lived in different states and are well established. She and her husband lived and had a small business of their own. A few years back, after a long bout of illness, she lost her husband. The love of her life and her only reason to feel happy. The shock of losing her soulmate sent her into depression.
Kathy patted the hand on her arm and asked about the current situation of Monika’s finances and her health issues. At the back of her mind, Kathy could not see this woman suffering from depression.
Monika stood up suddenly, holding her hands together she seemed apologetic and asked if Kathy wanted tea or coffee? Kathy, could not help but smile and said she was fine. But, this only made Monika insistent, as she believed that a person who has come to help her with her life in her home needs to be given something. She felt like a terrible person. Kathy said coffee would be fine and continued her question about Monica’s health requirements.
While Monika fumbled in the kitchen, Kathy’s phone vibrated. She picked it up and saw it was a text message from her kid. He needed some money to pay for his camp.
The night before they had a long discussion, rather an argument about the camp. Kathy wanted Aiden to do an extra credit class in the summer instead of the camp this year. Aiden was not in the mood to do school work in the summer. The discussion led to a heated argument and Aiden blurted out that he hated to spend summer with her. He would rather live with his father. This sent Kathy staggering. She had tried her best to be a good mother and provide for her son in every way possible, and that man who has taken no responsibility gets all the good thoughts. This was so unfair.
She put the phone down and looked up to find Monika looking at her with eyes full of concern.
After an hour of setting things up for her medical visit and her food supply, Kathy got into the car and reached home. Aiden was not home, so she took out the grocery she had picked up on the way home and started to get dinner ready.
Food on the table, Kathy was getting worried about Aiden. She picked up the phone and looked at the messages, nothing.
After two hours, she was worried and called her son’s number. Aiden usually sends a message if he was late or if he is staying back at a friend’s house. This is not a usual thing.
The phone kept ringing but no one answered.
Kathy picked up the car keys and walked outside and found Aiden’s bike was not in the shed. She backed her car and pulled out. She decided to scan the neighborhood and kept calling all of Aiden’s friends on her phone list.
After four of them said they had not talked or seen Aiden, one said that Aiden had stopped at his house for a match on the latest video game he had bought. But, he had left almost three hours ago.
Panic stirred in. Kathy felt her fingers go numb. Where was Aiden and what had happened to him? She called Susan, her closest friend.
Susan reassured her and said that she and her husband would be taking their car out and scan through the place and increase the perimeter of search.
In the next two hours, there were volunteers searching through the area. One of them suggested calling the police. Kathy felt blood leave her body and fell down limp. Susan placed the call and a few policemen came down to ask questions. They bought in a sniffer dog so the search could be done quickly. The police knew that the volunteers had done a thorough job of searching the neighborhood and the adjacent areas.
In an hour’s time, a policeman came to Kathy to inform her that Aiden was found. He had been knocked down into the riverside ravine by a passing car. That road was prohibited for Aiden to ride his bike. She could not speak and dreaded to ask the question. Looking at her stricken face the policeman smiled and said that he was alive but in a bad state. He has sustained multiple fractures and is in surgery.
Susan picked up her bag and took Kathy to the hospital.
A few days later Aiden was back home. He needed a crutch to walk as his right ankle had broken at three places and his left arm had a pulled tendon. Aiden’s father had called and sent in some get-well gifts. He did not deem it necessary to come and see his son, who had a life-threatening accident.
Next morning, Kathy got everything ready and left instructions for Aiden, and called Susan. Susan assured her that she will check in during the afternoon just to see everything was okay.
Kathy was to take Monika to her doctor’s visit. Monika had a well-checkup and her hearing aid was bothering her for the last few months. There was some confusion about its fitting which the ENT specialist said only the original provider could take care of it.
As Kathy pulled up at Monika’s house she found the elderly waiting near the door. She locked and came out dressed in a cardigan over her full shirt. Kathy looked at her and asked if she was feeling ok?
Monika just smiled and said, a few layers make her feel as if someone is hugging her. Kathy could only imagine it, as looking at her just made feel hot in the 96F temperature.
At the doctor’s office, Kathy realised how Monika’s lively charm kept the whole office smiling. The nurses the doctors who had ever treated her even once, was mentioned and thanked by her. Monika’s constant chirp seemed a bit over the top for Kathy.
She felt the urge to check her phone from time to time to see if there was a message from Aiden or Susan.
Monika was losing weight and the doctor was saying something, for a split-second Kathy lost track of the speech as her mind had drifted to the phone and Aiden back home. What did she just miss? She felt Monika’s hand on her arm and looked at her. Her eyes were wrinkled into a smile.
Kathy felt at ease and asked the doctor to repeat what she just said and she got her notes down about meeting with a dietitian and getting Monika’s food plan working. Monika may have developed lactose intolerance so her diet must be checked and reset.
After taking the required appointments and setting updates for tests and all other procedures they both sat in the car.
Before Kathy could start the ignition, Monika asked if Kathy was alright. Kathy was taken aback.
She was fumbling with the key in the ignition when Monika stopped her hand and held it. She looked up to see that Monika was smiling with those wrinkled eyes and said it is okay to be upset. She said that if Kathy ever needed her, she would be there to help her.
The show of empathy from a stranger was Kathy’s breaking point. She wept and let all her pain out. This had never happened to her. She had been to so many clients and worked with so many elderlies. Kathy had been always able to keep her personal pains separate from those of the suffering elderly people.
Monika was different. Her wrinkled smile was like a balm to the suffering soul. Her own suffering was like manuscripts on her skin, but she used them to heal others.
Throughout Kathy’s work life, she had gained a real friend, and Monika was there to help her through her emotional turmoil, whenever possible, keeping their professional relationship intact.
In other words, the wrinkled smile ironed much of her pain. Life has a strange way to make paradoxes work in complete symphony!
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos from the Internet
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