BY JAN BRIGHT
Copyright is held by the author.
SUNSET MANOR. Why? Why would they call it that? Original? There are probably a hundred named the same thing in Ontario alone.
I hate the place. Always have. They think I don’t know how long I’ve been here but I do — eight years. Eight years of bells, eight years of smiling faces, professional smiles — a Botox smile where the pleasure doesn’t show in the eyes.
Eight years of gurneys taking away the dead. Yes, they try to hide the fact that the inmates die. The ambulances don’t fire up their sirens, what would be the, point — the dead are in no hurry. Down they go, the dead, down they go in the back elevator. Gone and barely remembered, the name on their door changing almost immediately to that of another poor old sod whose family persuaded them to come. The family who believed what the brochure said: “Sunset Manor, modern, all amenities, professional staff, recreation programs and meals prepared by a professional chef.” All hogwash and if I wasn’t a 100 years old I’d use a stronger word, a word that the young generation use as both a noun and a verb.
Yes, 100 years old. Do I look it? I’ve lost all objectivity. But I do have my teeth, my hair and strong lenses let me see my surroundings.
But I was once a looker, oh my yes. I was one of 12 children born to working class parents. Twelve kids — all scattered now, mostly dead.
My mother was a beauty, a real Irish Colleen, dark hair, green eyes, and white smooth skin. I was named after her. You would think that having all those children would have ruined her looks, but no, she only got more beautiful as the years went on. I miss her still. You’re never too old to miss your Mammy.
I never married, strange for someone of my generation. Women then got married, and married young. A spinster was a gal to be pitied. But I never pitied myself. I led my own life and I was the star in it. I didn’t need a bucket to put a list in. I got on a ship and road the ocean to a new world, to a new life when I was but a slip of a girl. I saw the mountains, I saw the vast rivers and I saw the bears.
But I have one regret — Daniel. Daniel was a boy I knew from the village. He was, as we liked to say then, a real heart throb. A dark haired, dark eyed, cock-of-the-walk, big Irishman who turned all the women’s heads including the married ones. But he made the play for me. I lay with him and, God, if this was a sin then a sin it would have to be for I can feel the hardness and the softness of him still. And was I to know that these would be the happiest moments of my long life.
Daniel left for America pledging his love and promising to send the fare. I never heard from him, nor did I ever see him again.
The Queen wrote to me and the Prime Minister did too. 100 years old. Well done they all said. Congratulations, like I had climbed the bloody Alps.
Parties are hugely popular here in God’s waiting room. Today there is to be a party for me. I tell myself I can’t be bothered, but I got dressed in my best dress, the navy one and my single strand of pearls. I left off the pantyhose, too much bother who, in hell’s name, invented them?
The dining room was filled with people, balloons, a cake, presents even. A band played. “Do you have a request, Colleen?
I never hesitated “Will you play Danny Boy?” And they did.