Growing old

She sat on the waiting couch clutching a biscuit box on her lap. Her grey hair neatly combed, she was dressed in a clean top and slacks, sandals on her feet. She quietly waited her turn. Once inside the consulting room, she looked straight at me, her eyes, very blue and clear, her voice a little uncertain but honest.

Before I could ask her name and age, she blurted out – “I will pay you as soon as they send me my cheque. I am going to be a winner in the sweepstakes. Look, this is the letter from the Readers Digest – my name is in the draw. I asked the matron at the retirement village and she said this is definitely no joke. As soon as I get the cheque I’ll pay  you”.  Her  eyes  were  pleading.  She  desperately  wanted  me  to  understand  that  she  did  not  want  charity  or handouts.  She  was  self-sufficient.  She  had  never  married.  Her  fiancé  was  a  pilot  in  the  First  World  War  and  was shot down.

She  had  taken  care  of  her  parents  till  their  death  and  became  the  recipient  of a  small  pension  while  she devoted her  time  to  the  church.  She  was  now  91  years  old  and  the  church  looked  after  her,  but  that  meant  she  had  no spending  money  as  all  her  income  was  used  to  support  her  at  the  retirement  village.  She  proudly  opened  the biscuit box on her lap. For a brief moment I thought she carried food in the box and wanted to share it. Once the box   was   opened,   with   difficulty   as   her   sight   was   deteriorating,   she   pulled   out   a   little   home-made   creature constructed from cast off empty bottle-tops and pill holders, held together by a piece of elastic. Her face lit up when she put the bottle-top doll in my lap. “I made hundreds of these presents for the children in hospital. They can play with  them  without  hurting  themselves  and  they  cannot  easily  take  them  apart.  I  collect  all  the  bottle  tops  and pillboxes from the old people in the village. At night when it is difficult for me to see, I play music for the old people. I  play  the  piano,  the  ukulele  and  they  love  it.  I  just  have  one  little  problem.  That’s  why  I’ve  come  to  see  you.  The minister  has  a  beard  and  I  find  it  difficult  to  hear  what  he  says  at  service.  Can  you  help  me  to  hear  better?”  The request was earnest.

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