the old woman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story looks at the life of an old woman whose husband dies and her married children abandon her.

Submitted: March 12, 2016

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Submitted: March 12, 2016

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An old woman sat all alone in the lounge watching television. At first glance, she looked like a very frail creature indeed. With a head of flowing white hair, with piercing green eyes, and wrinkles and creases lining her face, the wizened old lady was consciously trying to keep herself alert and busy. Every now and then she would start coughing. This terrible bout of coughing shook her inside out and strained every part of her frail body. Sitting next to her was her maid; her sole companion in a life marked with intense solitude and loneliness.

There had been a time when she would have scoffed at the very notion of her every facing such a fate. However the truth of the matter was that her dear husband was now buried dead under the ground and her two sons were now married and settled in faraway lands. She had been happy when her sons had been wedded but her life was marked with tragedy when her husband did not wake up one morning. Her companion of twenty five years; the source of her joy and happiness lay lifeless. She had wailed, screamed and cried out not wanting to believe that her husband was no more. However she has watched with tears in her eyes as the dead body had been lowered into the depths of the earth. Relatives and friends had tried their best to console her. Her own two sons arrived two days later. She had secretly hoped that they would offer to take her with them but they did not. The old lady had a fair deal of dignity and self-respect within her. She had been too proud and too afraid to ask them. Neither one of them exhibited any interest in looking after her or caring for her even though she was now a widow and had no one to look after her. She had searched for love and compassion within their eyes but had found none. A week later, both her sons left and she was left all alone to fend for herself.

Did she cry, wail and moan? Yes the old woman did all of this but there was no one to console her except for her servants. The very children for whom she and her husband had provided for and cared for had abandoned her. At least this is how the old woman felt. Now she was left all alone within the confines of her large house. Only memories, painful memories of her children and her husband lingered on. The old woman had carefully preserved all the clothes and belongings of her dead husband. She even had some clothes that her sons wore when they had been very young. Apart from that the house, was dark and empty. It was silent, dark and at times quite forbidding. The old woman was struck hard by the pangs of loneliness and overwhelmed by the depression that she felt. However she realized that she risked becoming a mental patient if she did not keep herself busy. So she decided to start a medical dispensary where she would treat patients. Soon she was deeply immersed in her work tending to patients and caring for them. It was the love that she received from her patients and the satisfaction derived from the work that she did that motivated her to move on in life. Busy from nine in the morning till seven in the evening, the old woman steadily overcame her loneliness and depression.

After coming home from work, the old lady would be tired and her relief lay in watching television or talking to her servants. Sometimes she would flop on the sofa and pull out picture albums. Pictures of her husband and her children with her seemed to pull out old memories; many of them which were heartwarming for her and a constant source of pleasure and relief. In her mind, their voices would often echo and reverberate. Quite often she would be pulled out in a world of fantasy where her husband and children were still with her. It often became difficult for her to bear the fact that her husband had passed away and that her two sons did not care for her.

However the old woman was spiritually strong and when she felt that she needed solace, peace, and strength, she would turn to God. With age, her vigor and vitality had decreased. At night she would suffer from awful bouts of cough that left her breathless and gasping. Many a time, aching muscles and pains throughout her body would keep her awake at night for a while. Very often, her female servant would press her aching limbs till she descended into a peaceful slumber.

She would often sleep with her bedroom windows left open for fresh air to circulate. A bedroom light would always be left on when she slept. Since childhood she had never gotten over her fear of the dark. Psychologically, the light translated into a source of warmth and security for the old lady. On weekends, the old woman made it a point to head to the meat and vegetable markets for shopping. Sometimes a friend or relative would pop over to her place out of the blue. It was such moments that she cherished for she was able to feel that someone cared for her and loved her.

Time seemed to stand still when she was at home. General boredom was often accompanied by a lack of interaction with people which made life gloomy and miserable for her at times. To pass her time, she would often wander into her garden where she would wander in between trees which bore oranges and apples. She had also grown cauliflower, brinjal and ladyfinger plants in her garden. When she was not in the garden, she would often retreat into her study which was full of shelves lined with books on politics, fantasy and religion.

Of course the library had been setup by her husband who had worked as the chief editor for a major newspaper in the country. It had been his ‘baby’. In the corner of the study lay a desk with a lamp on it. Her husband had often sat behind the desk reading books or doing his work. As the old lady rummaged through the drawers of the desk, her eyes fell upon a piece of paper with neat writing scrawled over it. It was a poem which her late husband had written for her. Of course, her husband had been terribly romantic and she remembered him reading out the poem to her. She had been pleasantly surprised.

Her husband had been a workaholic but would regularly take out time for his wife and children. Infact his idea of enjoyment would mean going up in the nearby hills and hill stations. His idea of relaxation meant spending time in the company of nature or going on long walks. On regular days, he had been frequently locked up in his study sipping coffee as he did his work. He had never liked being disturbed. It made him irritable and cranky and when he was irritable there were increased chances of him losing his temper. Therefore the old woman and her children had learnt never to cross him when he was working.

It was only when he was free and relaxed that he would venture out into the lounge and take time out for family time. He adored his sons though he was a little bit strict with them. In his books, pampering children meant spoiling them. He had been very keen on disciplining them. It wasn’t something that she approved but her husband had been adamant and inflexible on that issue. However both of them were committed to the education of their children.

Both husband and wife had worked hard to put their children through school, college and university. Day and night, year after year, they worked towards the singular goal and objective of educating them. At home, from a very young age, the children were reared up in an environment which facilitated the seeking of knowledge, the management of time and physical exercise. Everything that the children did was monitored and supervised by their parents. It even included controlling the type of friends that they made and screening the television programmes that they could see.

Many of their family friends admired the dedication that they were infusing into raising their children. However time passed swiftly by. The children grew into adults. And with the passage of time, the two sons had been married off and they had promptly left for the faraway lands where they were employed.

Now the old woman sat all alone by herself tending to her memories. The phone bell rang. She had not been expecting any call. Slowly she got up and shuffled upto the nearby placed telephone. When she picked the phone up, it was her younger son at the other end of the line. He excitedly told her that the American company where he worked was posting him back home to manage the operations of a subsidiary operating in Pakistan. Therefore he would be coming over to Pakistan in a months’ time.

It was news that made her heart sing and she could have danced and danced. Only she was too old. As she lay in her bed, she had an odd squeezing sensation in her chest. Sharp pains rippled through her back and then there was a terrible shortness of breath and then she lost consciousness. But the old woman never awoke again. She had passed away.


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