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The Silent Ones Who Change A Life
We hear a lot these days about the courage and sacrifice of our key workers forefront in the fight against Covid-19. It is right and proper to applaud them with hearts of gratitude.
And we do.
But what of those who work tirelessly, silently, and behind the scenes for years. A lifetime? Unpaid carers we don’t notice so much, taken for granted, thanked by few?
Some years ago, I worked as a legal secretary for a law firm in the high street of a small, Dorset town. One client, an elderly gentleman, would pop in for a chat before heading off for lunch at The British Legion. He enjoyed regaling us with stories of “The War” and his two wives, both sadly deceased.
He also lamented the absence of visits from his stepdaughter, sad that she seemed so busy. All the time.
But he raved about his “companion”. The woman, his neighbour, though busy with her own family, cooked, cleaned and shopped regularly for him. She even took him out for drives. ‘I’d like to pay her,’ he would say, ‘but she won’t hear of it.’
The dear old gentleman, upon his death, left his house to his stepdaughter but he didn’t forget his companion and left her a generous legacy. I could be cynical. Working in probate does that. Nothing swivels the neck faster than the whiff of money.
But not this time.
A sweet old man who lived a quiet, honest life enjoyed the simple joy of friendship in his last, otherwise lonely, years.
His neighbour, his friend, gave him that.
My maternal grandmother, Madeline Dorothy (“Granny” to me, “Maddie” to others), lived a carer’s life without fanfare or material reward. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Maddie was expected to stay home and look after her mother, Ethel.
But Maddie was a rebel with a cause.
She heard the call and answered: at seventeen, she ran off to London and trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It took Ethel twenty years to talk to her daughter again.
Maddie carried on nursing until she married and had children. By the time my mother was a teenager, both Ethel and her sister, Carrie, widowed and unmarried respectively and both of reduced means, moved in to the family home.
Many years later, my grandfather, a gifted but complicated soul, left Maddie for her best friend. Maddie lost her beautiful home and moved to a flat in Chichester with Ethel and Carrie, whereupon she looked after them both until their dying days.
I could not even contemplate how life must have been for Maddie at that time. I only saw her through my little-girl eyes as the playful, wonderful Granny I knew and adored. But even as I entered adulthood, I never heard one word of complaint or bitterness from her.
She got on with her day, chatted with everyone and kept up with current affairs. She loved people.
Through her seventies and eighties, she joined a flower club, attended church, and pedalled like the clappers through Chichester’s bustling streets on her adult-sized tricycle.
Maddie travelled to Canada to visit her brother and at eighty, she visited me and my family in California, her first and only time in America.
And she made the best lemon curd in the world.
Maddie also loved to iron. I called her “Mrs Tiggywinkle” for her love of linen and starch. Above all, she owned a trouser press.
‘Why are you ironing men’s trousers, Granny?’ I would ask on my visits, perplexed by her massive pile of ironing.
‘They’re for Frank’.
‘He lives down the road and can’t manage with such things. I offered, poor man…’
There were others. Not just Frank, but men, women, neighbours, friends. Elderly. Housebound. Alone. Maddie, by then in her 80s, was older than them all.
The only time I heard Maddie mutter annoyance was in her kitchen. It was narrow and cramped with old-fashioned cupboards hung unevenly on the wall. She used a pressure cooker for everything which blew like a steam train. What went on in that kitchen I could only guess.
Mealtime arrived but before she served ours, she would dash off with a covered plate in hand.
‘Back in a minute, dear’, she would call as she disappeared down the road with Frank’s supper. He couldn’t cook.
Frank asked for Maddie’s hand in marriage.
‘Why don’t you marry him?’ I teased, already knowing the answer.
‘Oh my dear,’ she said, her face alight with the humour that kept her young. ‘He only wants me as a nurse maid! I don’t mind cooking his meals, but to share his bed too? Never!’ Then she leaned in and smiled conspiratorially. ‘There’s only ever been one man for me.’
Maddie wanted to drive a sports car. She mused about being a farmer’s wife. She wished she could dance like Ginger Rogers. Maddie wanted to do a lot of things, but she never wavered in her call to serve others. And she loved my grandfather until the day she died at ninety-four, forgiving him everything, regretting nothing.
These are the Silent Ones who change our lives.
Thank You, Maddie. Thank you all.
I would like to thank Ann Edall-Robson’s Quiet Spirits and our resulting discussion that inspired this post.
Sherri is a writer and photographer bringing her memoir, Stranger In A White Dress, A True Story of Broken Dreams, Being Brave and Beginning Again, to publication. She is published in a collection of national magazines and anthologies. Sherri blogs at A View From My Summerhouse and contributes as a columnist to Carrot Ranch, an online literary community. In another life, Sherri lived in California for twenty years. Today she lives in England, weaving stories from yesterday, making sense of today, bringing hope for tomorrow.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com
All-Around Best of Show
From Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills
The dust has settled, and the bulls are back out to pasture after the first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. From idea to event, this was no solo endeavor. It took a community to dream, organize, support, promote and engage.
To all of you who wrangle words at the Ranch, to those of you who quietly read from the other side of your screen to all who dared to make this contest their “first rodeo,” thank you!
Our Flash Fiction Rodeo consisted of eight unique events that differed in length, prompt and form. Each leader devised their own contest and rules for participation. We worked together as a team to shape the Rodeo, and each leader worked with a partnership of judges. We allowed leaders and judges to enter any contest they were not judging. We also allowed writers to participate as challengers if they did not want to enter as contestants.
A toss of hats in the air to the Rodeo Leaders who showed leadership on and behind the page. Not only did they work diligently to make each event fun and fair, they also rode hard to keep pace with an event that spanned three months. Their counsel, creativity, and camaraderie have kept it all rolling at Carrot Ranch. Thank you, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin, JulesPaige, Sherri Matthews, D. Avery, Irene Waters and C. Jai Ferry. You all earned your spurs!
And a huge Rodeo Thank You to all our judges: Robbie Cheadle, Anne Goodwin, Barb Taub, Lucy Brazier, Susan Zutautas, Susan Budig, Angie Oakley, Sharon Bonin-Pratt, Mardra Sikora, Lisa Kovanda, Hugh Roberts, Mike from the UK, two anonymous judges in the US, and Sarah Brentyn. Your tasks were not easy, and I appreciate the regard you gave to all who entered.
Thank you to all who rodeoed!
Garth Brooks sings an edgy song in tribute to rodeos. He croons, “It’s the ropes and the reins, the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo.” To me, it’s like the calling to write and be read.
A literary artist has something in common with rodeo’s biggest hero: tenacity. You write, revise, polish, submit, wait for — all in hopes to win that gold in the buckle. The gold might differ from writer to writer. Maybe you want to publish, maybe you want validation, maybe you just want to give your words wings and let them fly. The Flash Fiction Rodeo honors all the sweat, tears, mud and blood writers put into their craft. All who rode the Rodeo in 2017, you got grit!
We hope you’ll stop by the Ranch for some good reading and writing. Keep working your skills, wrangling words and roping stories. Keep on the path you’ve set for yourself. Write on!
See ya’ll next Rodeo in October 2018.
From All-Around Judge, Sarah Brentyn
This was a whopper of a job.
Initially, there was a panel of judges. And then there was one. It was supposed to be three and wound up being little ol’ me. But I took up the challenge, happy at heart!
Choosing a winner for this final contest was extraordinarily difficult because let’s face it, they were all winners. Literally. They had all won their respective contests. Also, they are different in genre, form, and length. I was comparing apples to oranges to turnips.
Alas, this is an ‘overall winner’ contest, and an overall winner there must be.
During the past few months, I distanced myself from the contests. I popped in to say ‘Congrats’ then snuck away. Names were removed when I received the final entries.
It was delightful to read these. They are well-written, fantastic pieces. Thank you to everyone who entered the Carrot Ranch Rodeo contests and to the winners who gave me wonderful stories to read. I am honored and humbled to help announce the winner of this collection of contests.
2017 Flash Fiction Winners include:
- Rodeo #1: When I Grow Up (“Father Christmas” by Hugh Roberts)
- Rodeo #2: Little & Laugh (“The Bus Stop” by Colleen Chesebro)
- Rodeo #3: Septolet in Motion (“Practical Magic, Or Even Best Efforts Need a Push Sometimes” by Deborah Lee)
- Rodeo #4: Scars (“Galatea” by D. Wallace Peach)
- Rodeo #5: TwitterFlash (Winning Tweets by D. Avery)
- Rodeo #6: Bucking Bull Go-Round (“Like Retribution” by Kerry E.B. Black)
- Rodeo #7: Murderous Musings (“Mr Blamey” by Marjorie Mallon)
- Rodeo #8: TUFF (“The Sun Shines on the Half-Moon Café” by Liz Huseby Hartmann)
The All-Around Best of Show goes to:
Rodeo #4: Scars (“Galatea” by D. Wallace Peach)
That concludes the Flash Fiction Rodeo for 2017. However, that is not the last word. Carrot Ranch is completing an e-book collection that includes the winning entries, honorable mentions, entries, challenges and a few new pieces from our judges and leaders. Stay tuned later this month!
Please give our Rough Writer’s a debut anthology Vol. 1 a look-see. If you’d like to support our efforts as a literary community you can purchase our book online at Amazon. Soon to be available through other locations (officially launches January 19, 2018).
Author Bio For All-Around Judge Sarah Brentyn
Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.
She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.
When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.
She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.
Books by Sarah Brentyn
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