[Guest Post] Waiting to be Collected by Dorit Oliver-Wolff BEM
Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the May Short Story Contest. The 1st selected featured entry is:
Waiting to be Collected by Dorit Oliver-Wolff BEM
Dorit Oliver-Wolff is a Serbian Holocaust survivor. She was nine years old when she was liberated at the end of the Second World War. She later became a successful international recording artist and public figure. Today she is an author and motivational speaker as well as a recipient of the British Empire Medal for her dedication to Holocaust education.
Visit her website: http://www.doritoliverwolff.online.
Waiting to be Collected
Betty has her eyes firmly fixed onto the footpath that leads to the front door of The Happy Valley Residential Home for the Elderly.
Her big chair is placed near the window, as it always is. Not only is it in a prime position to spot when her son would be coming to visit her, but it had a most wonderful view of this palm tree. The front garden had been very cleverly landscaped to make you feel as if you were in the Mediterranean. Betty was never sure if the red flowers in the palm tree, were real or plastic. This is BETTY’S CHAIR! No one, but no one, is every permitted to sit in it. Never, ever.
MY CHAIR, MY PLACE. All residents have a personal chair. It’s a taboo to sit in anyone else’s chair.
Residents had had bitter fights over THEIR chair – even physical fights with the perpetrator if anyone dared to use the wrong chair.
The chair is the only thing that the resident can call their own – MY chair.
Betty is a small, immaculately clean, frail lady. She likes her clothes to be colour coded to match her white hair. She has a perm every six weeks and her toe and fingernails are manicured at the same time.
Betty is friendly – but not too friendly. She doesn’t want to get too close to others. She likes to exchange small talk but believes she is only here for a short time, so doesn’t want to get too involved or make friends during her short stay in this residential home.
Betty has six grown up children. Her husband, Charlie, was in the Army and was killed during the Second World War.
Her eldest son, Fred, was 14 and the youngest, Charlie Junior, was just 2.
She had four daughters, Margaret (Maggie for short), Mary, Doris and Kate.
She married Charlie when she was just 18 years old and he was 22. Charlie had a good job as a local postman and was paid regular wages and he also worked at the local butcher shop in the afternoon. This gave them a good income so they could put down a deposit on a small cottage with a small garden where Betty planted plenty of vegetables and she had two hens which gave them fresh eggs every day.
Betty was busying herself knitting baby clothes and preparing for the big day when Fred would arrive. She was an excellent cook and could bake too, which she learned from her mother’s sister, Ellie, who brought Betty up as her mother died when she was just 10 years old.
Betty had three older brothers who were each taken in by different members of the family, all over the country. They all lost touch.
Not much was known about Betty’s father. Every time she asked Auntie Ellie about him, she was told, “Best not to mention him. He was no good. My poor sister, she had to bring up you and three hungry boys all on her own. Your Mum went into service and they provided a small cottage in the grounds. That is where she looked after you lot.”
Auntie Ellie was kind to Betty. She never had any children of her own. Her husband, Tom, was a clerk in a factory. They were well off. Betty learned all that she needed to know about how to bring up a family.
Betty went to school and became a nurse. She was petite with dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. She was an accomplished seamstress and made her own clothes. This came in handy when she moved into her first home. She made all the curtains and covers for the furniture and clothed her daughters, which she enjoyed.
When the war ended and Charlie sadly didn’t return, she had a small Widow’s Pension from the Army. The children went to local schools and stayed out of trouble, which made life easier as it’s very difficult to bring up six children without a father.
After the children left home, Betty went back to nursing in a local hospital. This meant that she could keep her little cottage, which she loved, as the mortgage had been paid off and she could afford to live comfortably.
Her children and grandchildren visited her regularly and at Christmas and Easter she always had a full house, which reminded her of the times when they were all living happily together.
All the children had good jobs and married well so they were all independent and financially secure.
Except for Charlie Junior, who found it difficult to manage on the commission he received as an estate agent. His wife worked as a waitress and they had two teenage boys.
Charlie was a very loving son who would pop in regularly to see his Mum for a cuppa.
Betty was now 86 years old, fit for her age and active. Charlie suggested that she should sell her little cottage so he could buy a bigger house where she could have her own accommodation and could also be part of the family. This would make sense as he would make sure that she would be looked after as she got older and might need help.
The rest of the family agreed that this was a good idea because most of them lived too far away to help if needed.
Betty agreed to sell her beautiful little cottage and it was sold within no time at all.
There was a delay with the purchase of the house that Charlie and his wife wanted to buy so they all agreed that Betty would go into a residential home until the house was ready for them all to move into.
Betty had a basic room in the residential home but she didn’t mind as this was supposed to be for just a few weeks. Charlie would come regularly to visit her and would check with her about what kind of decoration she wanted in her part of the house. He brought in the house plan which she would constantly show everybody and tell them how lucky she felt to be moving in with her son and his family.
Betty positioned herself in her favourite chair, as usual, her eyes fixed on the footpath to the front door waiting for Charlie to appear but all she had was a message from one of the carers saying that Charlie was sorry that he couldn’t come today because he was too busy.
Days turned to weeks; weeks turned to months. Even the telephone messages seemed to have stopped.
As time passed, everyone noticed that Betty had lost the spring in her step.
Many months had passed, Betty had stopped counting. It could even be years by now. She often fell asleep in her chair after her eyes became heavy, looking into the distance, hoping to see Charlie coming down the path again.
When people asked her how she was her reply would be, “Fine. I’m waiting to be collected.”
Now Accepting Short Story Submissions
I’d like to thank all who have entered the short story contest over the past year and a half. We’re going to take a brief break from the monthly contest. Instead, I am accepting short story submissions for publication. Visit Contests for guidelines.
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