Mary looked at the clock above the mantelpiece. It had an extra large face and her daughter, Louisa had given it to her on her 85th birthday, when it had become obvious that Mary was not seeing as well as she used to. It was 4.35, that much she knew but what day it was she had no idea. She could not remember what happened yesterday, let alone what day of the week it had been; maybe it had been Sunday for she could not remember the postman calling. But then he might have come, or was that the day before? It was all so very frustrating.
She was sure that she used to have such a good memory but now found the greatest difficulty in recalling the simplest things. Even daily routine procedures were fraught with problems and many times during the day she was unsure whether she had done what needed to be done or not. Sometimes she would look at the pictures of her son and daughter and struggle to recognise who they were.
It was time to have a cup of tea. She eased herself out of the chair wincing as the pain shot through her joints; that was one thing she could remember without effort, the constant pain. "Have I taken my pills today?" she asked aloud. It was no good she could not remember. Picking up her stick, she walked slowly to the table and looked down at the pill tray. It was all laid out day by day, seven lines with three sections to each day. Staring hard at the tray, she saw that five of the lines were empty and the next had two sections full and one empty. "That must be today," she said. Then looking back at the clock, now showing 4.45 added, "I must have forgotten my lunchtime pills again, I ought to have them now. Better have them with a cup of tea though." Turning her back to the table she made her way carefully to the kitchen.
The kitchen was full of steam, which was pouring constantly from the spout of the old kettle. Louisa had given her a shiny new kettle that played a tune to tell her when it was boiling but she never remembered to use it. She turned the kettle off and went back into the dining room where she wondered to herself what she had been intending to do a few minutes before. Then, after switching on the television, she nodded off in her chair.
She was only eight years old and was playing in the field at the back of her house; it was late summer and the grass was almost as tall as she was. She loved to push her way through and disturb the insects so that they flew up and circled above her head, then she would jump up as high as she could and try to catch them. She heard a bell ring in the distance, which puzzled her as she was sure that there was no bell in the field. It rang again and the grass and the insects began to fade.
Mary opened her eyes and tried to refocus on the room around her. There was that bell again; she sat up with a start realising that someone was at the front door.
She undid the chain and slid back the bolt before pulling the door open. The young man had a broad smile on his face, "Hello Auntie, it is lovely to see you again." Mary looked puzzled. Obviously she must know him but she could not remember who on earth he was. He was not very tall and dressed in jeans and a blue open-necked shirt.
"What's the matter, Auntie, don't you remember me?" He gave an embarrassed laugh, "I know I should have come to see you more often and it has been a little while since I was here, but it hasn't been that long!"
The name Michael came into her mind but she wasn't sure why. "Is it Michael?"
He laughed again and smoothed back his dark hair with his hand, "Of course it is Auntie. May I come in?"
"Oh sorry, Michael. Yes, come in, come in." She led the way into the dining room and moved her knitting from a chair. "Please sit down, won't you? I am so sorry I did not recognise you at first but my memory is not as good as it used to be."
He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, "It happens, Auntie. Don't worry, I won't take offence."
"It is Michael, isn't it?" She asked, still a little unsure.
"Yes Auntie, it really is Michael."
She put her head on one side and repeated his name trying to recall where he fitted into the family. "Michael, Michael. Tell me, dear boy, whose son are you?"
"Oh come now Auntie, I am your sister's only son."
"Why of course you are. I am so sorry." She paused, then asked, "My sister you say? Now why can't I remember my sister's name? Oh dear, my memory is so bad."
He was still smiling. "Now don't you worry about it Auntie, it really doesn't matter. But how about making me a nice cup of tea while I am here?"
"Oh tea! That's what I was going to do just now. Thank you for reminding me, I'll go and make right away."
While she was in the kitchen, she forced herself to concentrate on the job in hand and managed to remember to put some biscuits on a plate. Then, after putting two cups and saucers on the tray next to the teapot, she placed the tray on the wheeled trolley and pushed it back to the dining room. "There," she said, "That didn't take long did it and I remembered everything as well. Now, tell me how you have been keeping."
There was no reply, for the room was empty. She looked around her puzzled at finding herself alone and was beginning to wonder if Michael had really been there just now or if it had been yesterday when he came. Maybe her imagination was playing her up. She was still thinking about it when the doorbell rang again.
"Oh," she said with relief. "He must have just popped out to his car for a few minutes. I am so glad, I don't want his tea to get cold."
The bell rang again and she went to the door and opened it. "Hello Mum."
"Louisa! I thought it was Michael coming back."
Louisa came into the hall and said slowly, "Michael? Who's Michael?"
"My sister's boy. He was here just now."
"But you haven't got a sister Mum and Michael was your husband, my Dad, and he passed away five years ago. Are you sure someone was here just now, or is your memory playing tricks on you?"
"Of course, I'm sure," Mary replied irritably. "I've just made him a cup of tea." She led the way into the dining room.
Her worried daughter followed close behind. "How long ago was he here, Mum?"
"Oh not long Louisa but I do hope he will come back soon; his tea is getting cold."
Louisa stared around the room, trying to work out the situation. Then a thought struck her. "Did you collect your pension this morning?"
Her mother smiled, "Now that is something that I can remember. I write it down on the calendar so that I never forget."
"Where did you put the money when you came home?"
"It's still in my purse, I haven't had to spend anything yet today."
Louisa looked around the room until she saw her mother's handbag beside the armchair. It was open. She looked inside, then opened the two compartments but it was no use."
"Oh Mum," she said. "He must have been a conman; your purse has gone!"
If you enjoyed reading this story, you may be interested to know that Jack Windsor has published an anthology of 40 of his stories. It is called 'Secret of the Lake'. Published by Braiswick you can order it from your local bookstore or buy online from Amazon.com
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