Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: A Birthday To Remember
By Marlene Bonney
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Pamela Reynolds’ faded eyes rested briefly on each smiling face in front of her. These few friends and family, some of them traveling long distances, had taken time out of their important schedules to celebrate her milestone, and she was grateful. Blinking away tears, Pamela took her time opening each of the presents beside her. Tangible gifts were rather worthless at her age, but the thoughts behind them she treasured in her heart.
“Happy birthday, Pammie,” fellow resident Sarah squealed, a slippered foot inching her wheelchair forward.
Hall call-lights blinked and buzzed sporadically, summoning white-smocked, squeaky-shoed aides from one room to another. Wall-mounted fans circulated antiseptic air, failing to dispel lingering odors of airless rooms housing old and infirm bed patients who were unable to control bodily functions. Carted meal trays, chrome lids clanking, bumped along linoleum floors followed by nurse-pushed meds units gliding in their wakes. Occasionally, a shuffling bath-robed resident wandered along, toothless and chanting, while echoes of “A-22!” Bingo callers trailed from the corner activity room.
But Pamela banished these sights and smells and sounds of her existence far away so she could enjoy what might be her final earthly party.
The retired newspaper photographer professionally snapped quick flashy shots of “the birthday girl,” reminding her of a model’s photo shoot. She smiled at the thought of shocking everyone by striking grotesque poses. Instead, Pamela nibbled away at her piece of cake while her guests chatted . . .
‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I found him at last?’ her annual mantra of unanswered thoughts crowding out the scene before her, ‘I wonder if he knows about his birth . . . If he has had a good life . . . If he hates me . . . If he knows the Lord?’
Every birthday since her thirteenth (the day of his birth) she endured flashbacks of that dark period in her past over eighty-five years ago. The terror of the violation to her body by a drunken family acquaintance had dulled, and the physical pain of giving birth as a young teen had dimmed. But the subsequent heart-wrenching anguish of her mind and soul from the baby being ripped from her loving arms had continued to haunt her. She would never forget him—never! But, please God, he deserves to know the truth: that she had been forbidden to keep him, that she loved him, that she prayed for him every day.
‘Is he still living, I wonder? Why—he would be 86 today!’
She had a good life, albeit sometimes a lonely one. She never married, the effects of her stained reputation having made the decision for her. Rather, she immersed herself in the lives of her siblings and their offspring, her precious nieces and nephews filling her life with joy and meaning.
“Come on, birthday girl, give me one last smile for The Gazette,” the aging hands of the photographer noticeably trembling, “Dang hands, they just don’t work like they used to. Give me a second to get them steady.”
“Tell me about it,” Pamela quipped, “wait until you can’t control your bladder!”
“I’ll bet you have stories you could tell me, living an entire century as you have,” resting the camera on his lap.
“Sonny, you don’t know the half of it! But you’ve got better things to do than to listen to an old lady’s reminiscing.”
“Not really, Miss Pamela,” he confessed, “most of my family are scattered around the country. I decided what better way to celebrate my birthday than to offer my services to celebrate somebody else’s.”
“What a lovely sentiment!” Pamela, touched by his spirit, offered him a piece of birthday cake.
“Well, I truly enjoy getting to know care home residents. I’ll have to confess, though, I have an ulterior motive.”
“Really! You have actually surprised me, Matthew,” reading his I.D. nametag, “a rarity at my age. Are you, perhaps, an ax murderer preying upon helpless victims?”
“Nothing so sinister as that, I’m afraid. You see, I stayed here in Greenhaven instead of relocating because I’m searching for information about my birth mother. I found out at my father’s deathbed a few years ago, that I was adopted . . .”
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