Mrs. Vinnie was an old widow who lived in an old cottage matted with moss and creeping vines which gave it the look of a haunted house. The neighbours who lived there called Mrs. Vinnie a mad old owl behind her back. She lived alone, her son and daughter had grown up hale and healthy, received good education, got jobs and married at a young age and moved far away. They seemed to have forgotten their poor old mother. Mrs. Vinnie lived on her husband’s pension which was only enough to provide her with two meals a day. As days went on, her bones were growing weak and her body as fragile and she looked more like a crumpled piece of paper.
She was a lonely soul and her only companion was a black cat she called Claudia whose golden yellow eyes were now set on the milk pot on the table of Mrs. Vinnie’s Dining room. It moved swiftly without making a bit of noise as it crept nearer, leaping from the chair to the table. And then the pot was empty. Mrs. Vinnie didn’t drink any milk, she had kept it there for Claudia. The cat, however thought it had outsmarted the old widow once again.
Mrs. Vinnie sat on her favourite chair, reading an old book from the many she had. This one by far was her favourite. She read slowly, carefully, pronouncing each word so that she wouldn’t miss any. A knock on the door, broke her from the spell of the book. Her walking stick lied beside her, holding it for support, she trudged slowly towards the door.
Outside stood a man she’d never seen. Smiling, he handed her a letter and off he was gone saying a short goodbye. Claudia sat on the sofa staring at her questioningly. The letter was from her son. Surprised she was, more was the anxiousness to know what was inside. She tore the letter slowly and unfolding read it out:
I’m doing good. I hope you are doing good as well. My letter to you may come as a surprise. I’m not writing it to talk to you about yourself or about me. I’ll be direct with my point. The house as it is getting old and rusty or so I have heard. And I haven’t minded it. But now that a buyer has offered me a very good price. I must sell it. The property is rightfully mine, as you know. As for you, you’ll be very happy to go to an old age home where you’ll be able to stay better than where you are now. I hope you don’t contradict my choice. If you are not willing to leave, I’ll be sorry to do anything that will hurt you. You have to be out of the house by the end of this month. And mother, it is for your own good and don’t worry, you’ll be just fine, anywhere you are.
Mrs. Vinnie sat there for a long time taking in the letter as for what it meant. And cried her heart out till her eyes were blank with no more tears to be shed. Her body became rigid and her heart beat slow, her heart cried in agony and the pain causing a stroke, she crumpled to the floor, knocking out the vase that rested on the table. Sailing in and out of her consciousness she watched Claudia come leaping from the sofa and stand beside her as if asking what she could do to help her. Then her eyes closed. And Claudia’s wide open.
Mrs. Vinnie woke up next day, to find herself sleeping on the floor and remembered how her emotions and the old age claimed her a victim. She stood up, holding the dear table for support. Her bones seemed to be broken, just like the broken vase whose pieces were spread on the floor.
Mrs. Vinnie had a son eager for her to move out and sell the house without second thoughts about her and was more than willing for her to go into an old age home. She wished so much to see her grandsons and granddaughters, both her own children had forgotten, murked in the routine life of the modern world. She couldn’t understand what had made them abandon her when her love had held both of them close to her heart, she thought sadly. Was this all just a dream or some way of an illusion, the old age. Was it just a cage for pain before freedom came in a way, possibly death. When one has no one to live for, death is a welcome thing.
Later, Mrs. Vinnie brewed some tea for her clouded mind. Every move was a struggle, her body was slowly losing its power to do the least of the work.
A thudding sound from outside, made Mrs. Vinnie move towards the door. Outside it was raining, she saw a football, it rolled and came to a stop in front of her. She took it in with her, in a hope of returning it to the person it belonged to. For half an hour, nothing happened except that Claudia drank another pot of milk.
Knock, Knock! The sound from the door came. She walked towards it, none came to visit her on other days. As she opened, a small little plumpy boy, whose clothes were soaked with water, stood staring at her with great awe. Tom was his name, she learned. He asked her why she hadn’t eaten him as soon as she had opened the door, Mrs. Vinnie laughed and told him, she didn’t eat anything with bones and the matter of eating a nice little boy or any other human, was not going to happen in a hundred years, she said. Tom was surprised and it was clear from his expression.
Some boys stood at the gate watching the interaction between Mrs. Vinnie and the little boy Tom. She asked Tom if they were his friends, he said they were, so she waved at them and every single of them disappeared without a word. She asked Tom, why they had run, he said, they thought that she ate little children.
Mrs. Vinnie called him into the house and asked him if he’d like a cup of milk with some cookies. Little Tom accepted the offer gladly. After he had eaten and drunk some milk, she asked Little Tom, who his parents were? He replied saying his father was a mechanic and his mother a doctor. Mrs. Vinnie had heard of her and also his father. Both were respectable and honest people. She smiled a lot as she continued to talk to him and Tom smiled his cute little toothy smile. Mrs. Vinnie didn’t know who was more happy talking, she herself or the little boy.
Little Tom sat upright on the chair, wearing a nice little cap. He showed a great deal of politeness and manners. Still Mrs. Vinnie felt something was sad about him, she couldn’t place on what it was.
When it was time for Little Tom to go, Mrs. Vinnie told him to wait and hurried to get the bag of toys from her room. She held them out to the little boy who was really thrilled to see so many of them. He asked her, why she had so many toys and whether she played with them? For that she sadly told him that the toys were not hers but the ones were bought by her in a hope of presenting them to her grandchildren someday. He asked her why she hadn’t? Some times people don’t always turn out to be what they were in the childhood, like her own children, she said. Little Tom asked her, if she’d give them to him. She smiled widely and said they were all his if he promised to come and talk to her everyday. Little Tom was more than happy to say yes and went home with a bagful of toys.
Next day, Mrs. Vinnie waited for Tom moving back and forth in her living room. Little Tom did come and the first thing he asked her was about the small garden of roses in front of her house and this is what she said, “Many years ago, the time when I was a young girl like you, I used to see my mother watering a dozen of rose plants everyday, I didn’t think roses as much then. Long after when I was in my youth. A young man used to pass by our house, he’d always bring me a deep red rose. I didn’t know at that time why he did that, but I was happy to receive them, weeks and months passed and the roses kept coming, but one day all this stopped.”
“Why granny?”, asked Tom.
“I’ll tell you. Well, as days passed, his absence bothered me and the dried roses were the only reminder of him. I kept them carefully inside the pages of my diary. I asked the town folk on where the young man was, they said he’d gone to serve the army, this was during the second world war and it was very likely that he would not return. When I reached home that night, I cried and cried for hours. I admired that young man. From that day onwards, I had great love for roses, and started to grow them in a small garden of my own.”
“Did he come back?”, asked Little Tom anxiously.
Being asked the question, she smiled a hearty smile and said, “We married and had two children, a stout boy and a naughty girl.”
“But what happened during the war? How did he come back? You said he wouldn’t return.”
“That’s what surprised me”, she said. “Two months had passed, one evening when our door bell rang, I opened the door to find this young man with a few cuts and bruises, but this time he didn’t carry a single rose but a bouquet of them. The first thing he said was, “Will you marry me?”. I did say ‘yes’ with all my heart. My dreams were his and his mine from then on. As for the war, he’d survived, his friend had died protecting him and told him to go back to his town rather than be on that cursed battleground. So he’d returned.”
“Where is he now?”, he asked.
“He died of a heart attack three years ago. After his death I started growing roses again. The garden of roses reminds me of him and his love for me. It keeps him alive in my old mind. I live alone now and I don’t think I’ll be able stay in this house any longer than this month, my son is selling it and sending me to an old age home.”, Mrs Vinnie said with a sad smile on her face.
Little Tom replied, “I wouldn’t do that to my parents in a million, billion, zillion years! And I promise you, that I will always take care of them.”
Mrs. Vinnie patted his head and thought sadly, how much time remained before the cruel world took him prey to the modern life.
As Tom was about to leave, she plucked the most beautiful rose from her garden and gave it to him. Tom thanked her for that and went home. He continued to come for the days to come.
But just like the young man Mrs. Vinnie had married, Little Tom stopped coming, she was sure that his parents were keeping him home for his own sake, she was sad that Tom’s parents also thought of her in the same way like the rest of the neighbourhood did.
Mrs. Vinnie cried and cried, for her dear husband who was no longer there, her children who had forgotten her and most of all Little Tom. Nothing could’ve hurt her more. She shooed away Claudia every time she came near her.
Only a day remained before the time line set by her son ended and she was to be deported to the old age home.
Next day, when Mrs. Vinnie woke up. Claudia was nowhere to be seen, she searched the whole house which was the toughest thing she had ever done at this age. Claudia had disappeared. She must’ve been really angry with Mrs. Vinnie to have run away.
Someone outside knocked on the door urgently. As she pushed the door, a spectacled man stood beside a woman with a spotted umbrella. The man was holding her dear cat Claudia, who seemed to really like the man. Of course she knew both of them, they were both Little Tom’s parents. But judging their solemn expression, she knew she would be scolded by these young couple on how she had spoiled their little boy and his habits. But they were silent and Tom’s father asked, “May we come in?”. Mrs. Vinnie let them in without a word. She brought them to the living room and made them sit on the sofa and asked them if they’d like some tea. Both of them said a polite ‘no’.
Tom’s father began, “Mrs. Vinnie, You seemed to know our son very well, he seemed to have loved you a lot too. So its our duty to tell you that, sadly, he is no more.”
Mrs. Vinnie felt like Tom’s parents were playing a harsh joke on her but why would they? The realization shocked her in a way that would’ve been same as that, if a building was about to fall on her. She didn’t utter a word and sat frozen like a lifeless statue.
Tom’s mother then said, “We know tomorrow you’ll be leaving your house to make room for the buyer of this beautiful house. Our son as he lay on his death bed made a request that we are here to honour. His death was written long ago, the doctors say its a miracle he survived this long. He had a hole in his heart and had a very short lifetime. And I think my husband and I owe it all to your kindness and love for him. We couldn’t make him happy while he was at home, but one day he returned home from a game of football with a smile and a bagful of toys. When we asked, who he had got them from? He said it was from Mrs. Vinnie, the sweetest granny he’d ever met. These were his exact words. It was you, Mrs. Vinnie who made him smile when all of his own family failed. We were happy and let him visit you everyday, like he had promised you. As days passed, he used to come home and tell us stories he’d heard from you and almost everything. But the happiness was short lived. He became sick and we couldn’t let him visit you, he insisted we do. But we couldn’t. Then on the day before he died as we tucked him under his blankets he said “I’ll never ever abandon you and my father and I will always keep you happy and never once will you both have an occasion to cry” and the next morning he’d died peacefully in his sleep”. At this she burst into tears and held her husband for support.
Tom’s dad had a hard time controlling his wife and continued where she had left, “As for your knowledge, We are the ones who were to buy this house and the one who lived here, you, gave us too much that we will never be able to repay. We were going to buy the house and return it to you for our son’s sake. But our son’s request was a huge hearted and a different one.”
Finally Mrs. Vinnie asked shakily, “What was his last request for me?”.
“That we take you into our own family as a member of our family and take care of you and give you everything you need and may want. We really loved our son. This is the least we can do for him and for your kindness to him. You may agree to live with us or not, we’ll both always love you for our son. But my humble request is we would be really really happy to have you as part of our family. My wife’s and my, mother are both long gone. Will you be our second mother?”, he asked with tears in his spectacled eyes. Mrs. Vinnie’s own eyes were filled with tears.
“Please let our son’s wish be fulfilled!”, Tom’s mother pleaded.
When Mrs. Vinnie said, “Yes”, her heart leaped for the one last time.
Love has a nature of healing the deepest and the darkest wounds. Love creates miracles. Let old people not be ignored. There is hope for the people in the darkest corners, there is hope for everyone. Hope is a good thing, maybe it is the best of all.