“She’s a brittle old thing.”
The words followed me from the hospital ward and into my home. Cheeky young whippersnappers, I thought as the nurse helped me into bed. What do they know about being eighty?
The next morning I looked up brittle in the dictionary; having little elasticity, hence easily cracked or fractured or snapped: lacking warmth and generosity of spirit. Well it was true enough. I pictured my hip bone on the x-ray – a dull shadow with ghostly streaks where it had split. As for warmth and generosity of spirit, they deserted me decades ago. The world is a harsh place and it was years since anything surprised me in a positive way.
I hated depending on people but the doctor released me on the condition that I had help at home. That help was a bunch of do-gooders from the church down the road. They came in every day to cook and clean and follow instructions from the nurse. They irritated the jingoes out of me, especially with their smiles and expressions of concern. “Just do what you have to.” I snapped. “No point in wasting your time or mine.”
They tried very hard to engage me in conversation. “What did you do in your younger years, Mrs Rodgers?” None of your business. “Do you have family in the area?” Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. “Would you like us to fetch you for church on Sunday?” It’s enough seeing you here every day.
There were ten of them in total, ranging from fresh-faced teenagers to women in their sixties, and they were a persistent bunch. They noticed a photo in my bedroom; a faded colour image of my garden at its best. “Do you like gardening, Mrs Rodgers?” Wouldn’t matter if I did. I’m stuck in a wheelchair and haven’t seen out back for months. Truth be told, gardening had been one of my greatest passions and I regretted I could no longer do it. In years past, the back of my home had been a profusion of flower beds and shrubs with velvet petals.
A few days later, I heard the buzz of a lawnmower. “We recruited some extra help.” said one of the church ladies. “The grass was really long so we asked a few people to come and tidy things up a little.”
I waved my hand and quoted one of my teenager helpers, “Whatever.”
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and slowly my brittle bones healed. The x-rays showed the hip had knit together and the doctor said I could start walking with a cane. I thought I’d be glad to be rid of the do-gooders but felt quite down as one of them drove me home. “We’ll still be checking up on you, Mrs Rodgers,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind?”
I cranked out a typical reply. “I wouldn’t waste my time if I were you.”
“And we’ve arranged a morning tea to celebrate your recovery.” she continued. “The others will be waiting for us.”
I was mildly surprised but spent the morning dispensing my usual acerbic comments. It was just before noon when I announced I was tired. “Off with you now. Enough is enough.”
One of the ladies stood and walked over to me. “We’ll be out of here soon, Mrs Rodgers, but first we have something to show you.” She smiled. “Call it a gift from our hearts.”
I struggled out of my seat and followed her to the back door. Two of the teenagers put their arms under mine and helped me down the step. Testing my balance, I looked up and in spite of my cynical ways, my mouth formed a perfect circle. “Ohhh! Ohhhh!”
The garden was neat, the shrubs trimmed and the lawns mowed but what grabbed me was the central circular flower bed. It was planted with masses of tiny white daisies and rich red tulips. The result was a magnificent red heart within a white border. A painted sign peeped out of the blooms - “We love you Mrs Rodgers.”
It was at that moment that I realised my brittle heart had been healing along with my bones. These people were genuine and their commitment and concern had massaged love into my soul. I dashed a tear away and allowed a smile to crease my lips. “Then it’s about time one of you offered me a ride to church on Sunday.”
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