The Last Dance

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Becky leant into the car to help Mrs Fraser fasten her seat belt. The elderly lady grasped the young woman’s arm anxiety tightening her grip.

“I want to go home!” she screeched in Becky’s ear.
“Yes, that’s where we’re going.” The newly qualified Occupational Therapist was patient; she had explained it three times already that morning. “We need to see how you will manage and how we can make it safer for you.”

Becky closed the front passenger door and took her place in the rear of the taxi. “What’s your address Ellen? Can you tell the taxi driver?”
“22, Settle Close” Mrs Fraser replied without hesitation.
“No, I think that’s your old address, Ellen.” Becky replied, “If you remember, you’ve moved recently.”
“Oh yes, of course I remember.” Mrs Fraser hastily tried to cover her mistake, picking at her coat in agitation. “Err…I’m not sure I can think of its name.”
Unruffled Becky instructed the taxi driver as to the correct location.

Mrs Fraser fell silent as they travelled, staring out of the front window with unseeing eyes. Becky chatted quietly to her assistant, Molly, in the back of the car. At intervals Molly or Becky asked Mrs Fraser if she was all right and pointed out landmarks in an attempt to draw the older woman’s interest. Mrs Fraser hardly replied and gave no flicker of recognition as they neared the sheltered complex.

The taxi had stopped and Molly helped Mrs Fraser out of the car and placed her stick in her right hand. Mrs Fraser looked shrunken and frail standing outside the car in her ill-fitting coat. With brusque kindness Molly re-fastened her coat buttons as due to Mrs Fraser’s rush to be ready the buttons were askew and in the wrong button holes. A gust of wind blew the unruly mop of hair from her forehead to reveal an angry bruise in her otherwise ashen face.
Becky thought it cruel to ask Mrs Fraser for further directions and so she indicated the way along the path to number 41.
“We’ll walk beside you to make sure you won’t fall again” Becky’s calm manner failed to reassure Mrs Fraser as she gaped at her surroundings in bewilderment.

She began to shuffle between the two young women carrying her stick several inches above the ground. The door opened ahead of them. A tall elderly man with a stooping posture stood on the threshold, watching their progress. His movement caused Mrs Fraser to glance towards him.

“Harry! How the heck have you got here?” pure delight in her voice. She beamed up at him; her blue eyes sparkled with unshed tears; and as her face lit up, the previous pinched, troubled look lining her features vanished. Even the bruise seemed to fade. She looked like a much younger woman. Practically running she was soon enveloped in his arms, the unused stick clattering to the ground. Everyone was smiling, infected by her joyful surprise.
“Nell, love, of course I’m here! This is your home” the tender tone making his voice low and husky. He disentangled himself from their embrace and gently led her inside “I’ll make us all a nice cup of tea. Come on in ladies.”

Ellen meekly followed her husband into the kitchen, her gaze never leaving his face. The kitchen was narrow with a small table for two in a space near the door. Harry Fraser pulled out a chair for his wife patting the embroidered cushion on which she obediently sat. Becky took the other chair and Molly hovered in the doorway holding the recovered stick.

“It was quite late in life. We had both been married before.We met at a dance… “Harry began as he put the kettle on “and our Nell was the Belle of the Ball. She still is in my book” He lightly kissed her on the top of her head as with deliberation he brushed past her to take the mugs down from the cupboard.

Feeling in the way, Becky glanced around the kitchen and through the open door into the living room. The room was sparsely furnished but neat and tidy. She spotted fresh daffodils in a vase on the window sill. The radio was playing in the background. She had just registered this when Harry reached to turn it up a hint of excitement in his voice.

“Listen, Nell, it’s our song.” With one movement he whisked her up from the chair. Caught in each others arms, their eyes locked, they swayed on the spot softly mouthing the words to the Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for me”.

I first wrote this fictional story a couple of years ago. I was prompted to publish it here after reading Paul’s post:He danced https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/

and Kyohinaa’s post “It made sense”: Thoughts on Existential Fulfilment https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/36499830/

The post is fictional and yet elements are true. It is based on an experience I had when new to my job as an Occupational Therapist 20 plus years ago. The bits that are real is the fact of the home visit, the joyful surprise when the elderly woman recognised her husband in a sea of confusion, and the love displayed between the couple. I hope you feel as touched by the experience as I was.

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About Gentle Breeze

Julia is married to Kevin. They live together in Todmorden with their black and white cat Willow. Todmorden is a small rural town nestling among the Pennine hills in the Upper Calder Valley, on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Julia is a mixture of contradictions. She happily shares her email address with her husband; yet when she married she kept her own surname.
This entry was posted in Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Last Dance

  1. kyohinaa says:

    Beautiful! In a world where one’s mind has been fragmented, it’s moments like these which can anchor and give hope for both individual and family. Thank you for writing this post!

  2. paulfg says:

    Julia, a beautiful story! Thank you.

  3. inmycorner says:

    I so much enjoyed reading this story. Thank-you. You have such a gift at story telling. I love that I could feel the emotions of your characters. How beautiful and yet how sad. The song simply was the icing on the cake.

    • Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed the song and the story. Dementia is a cruel illness, like many illnesses are, and I have met it among my family and the people I am work with to enable them to manage; and yet there are moments even within the illness where suddenly everything makes sense and you glimpse the person as they used to be. These moments are as precious as gold. Thank you too for commending my story telling. It gives me more confidence. I long to write a longer story; I am just not great at getting going and then sticking to it. I hope one day to realise this personal dream. Thanks again.

      • inmycorner says:

        You are most welcome. ANd I think we suffer the same affliction in terms of not sticking to the story. But I get bored if I go on to much – I think I bore myself! grin. You do have talent. So many stories are buried in the minds of those who suffer with dementia. I always feel passionate about unlocking them – almost like finding hidden treasures or , as you would say, gold.

      • Yes. And it is lovely too when there is fun and laughter to be had. My Dad retained his sense of humour despite him becoming ever more silent and only able to live in the present moment. It is still precious to me that he laughed at a silly spat between my husband and me just the Sunday before he died on the early hours of Wednesday morning.We thought he was asleep and he woke up laughing at us. We both laughed too. Julia

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