Alone, aware, mind ranging through the thoughts that haunt the night.
How else to reconcile the ways that people meet and interact?
For what else is there?
The shop, the club, the tourist launch, the school, the bank, the residential home
arise from people meeting one another.
The skills are honed by life – some never gained
Destroyed by power, greed or selfish trait.
And who am I?
I am a link between two generations
A factor in the thoughts of other lives.
Who else is more?
They huddled over the small electric heater watching a repeat of an old British comedy on the telly. Outside sleety rain lashing against the windows, audible through the thin curtains that had been drawn to hide the grey dreariness.
They had bought the little house late in the 1960s, before insulation had become a recognised building feature and it leaked heat. When George had retired five years previously , after some thirty years as a cabinet maker with the local furniture manufacturer, they had, on advice, used most of their savings to pay off the final instalments of the mortgage so that they now depended on their benefits.
George had used his skills to maintain the house well and there was a small garden in which George had delighted in growing their own vegetables - he was especially proud of his success with runner beans - but since his stroke, that had not been possible. Now he seldom went into the garden for the sight of the work waiting to be done left him depressed. It had only been a minor stroke - his speech was not noticably impaired and he could look after himself and their affairs - such as they were - but he had lost confidence in his balance and the weakness in his right side made it impossible for him to control the tools.
Peggy had always been rather frail, uninterested in outside work, although she had contributed to their finances for many years by working in the local "Collectibles" shop, now closed as a result of the recession. They had had one child, a son Peter, who had emigrated to Australia, got a job with a contracting firm, married happily and given them two grand-children. In a recent phone call, he had told them that he had been made redundant, leaving his future very uncertain except to say that they did not expect to return to New Zealand. George and Peggy pored over the annual photographs of the two children, usually shown playing on some sun-drenched beach, with a growing sense of unreality that these children were there a a result of their love and an unspoken grief at the unlikelihood that they would ever hug them or be able to play a part in their lives.
Peggy often looked back on the happy years when they had hitched up their caravan for the annual holiday. Peter had always groused that it would be boring, but almost invariably they had found that he quickly made friends with other kids in the various camping grounds and groused equally about going home. For her part, she most remembered standing hand-in-hand with George contemplating a moonlit cove or sparkling forest stream. Those had been good years. They had expected to continue with the caravan travel into their retirement, but the stroke had changed all that and they had swopped the large car and the van for a little run-about that Peggy could manage. The registration letters were ASB so they called it "A Shopping Basket", but there were times when the registration and the insurance made it look like a luxury that they could no longer afford.
Their lives were filled with little things - the Sunday paper and one of the womens' magazines. George pottered, usually, at the end of the day unable to remember how he had filled in his time. They watched a lot of TV on their old telly and that was another worry. Peggy had heard that next year, or was it the year after? the TV signals would change and that their old set would be useless and fit only for the dump. Neither of them really understood the technical details, but the prospect of buying a new set or going without TV hung like a darker cloud in a grey future.
Truth to tell, their wills to live really hung on the need for each of them to look after the other. Peggy could not imagine a life without George while, for George, the habits of a lifetime could not be set aside because of the stroke. They had often discussed the options - widowhood, sheltered care, separation - but nothing mitigated the bleakness of these prospects and so they tried, not always successfully, to put these thoughts out of mind. Spring daffodils were the focus of their hopes.
As the programme ended and the ads came on, Peggy got up to make a cup of tea. Outside, the sleet continued to lash against the window.© Copyright Act 1994