Sunday, 16 December 2018
Stories to warm the cockles of your heart. Listening to Ken
It was such a pleasure to have someone wanting to hear what he had to say. Someone completely focused on him, gazing at him as though he was the most fascinating man in the world.
Sally was giving him all her attention. She looked rapt, eager, totally enthralled.
He noticed how her beautiful green eyes were speckled with gold. She was looking at him with such kindness he felt a shiver go down his spine.
Sally took hold of his hand. Her voice was low and full of care when she spoke,
‘It’s wonderful to be with you on your birthday Ken. I can’t believe you’re eighty- eight. You must have been a real heartbreaker. Believe me you’ve still got what it takes.’
Ken gulped. He felt himself redden. He wasn’t used to compliments and he’d never been a talker. Always kept himself to himself.
Ken had always been the listener in the family.
'Oh Ken is such a good listener, you can always rely on him to listen to you.'
Marjorie was very fond of telling her friends this.
Right from the beginning of their marriage they had chosen their roles, Marjorie was the talker and Ken was the listener.
Often though Ken wasn't listening at all. He heard Marjorie ask him if she looked better in the green skirt or the black trousers and would say they both looked nice. Then he would hear her talk about the W.I and the old man who fell over in the car park and the man with his bonfire that made her friend Barbara's washing smell of smoke. She’d natter away about the price of things in the supermarket and who she’d seen in the hairdressers and he would smile at her, happy to hear her voice.He heard everything she said but he wasn't listening, he was thinking and worrying about his job or his health or the bills, and lately he was thinking a lot about their daughter Jessie.
He realized that Sally was still looking at him and smiling.
'Ken you look so handsome today, your blue tie matches your eyes perfectly.'
Ken felt himself blush again and hoped she hadn’t noticed.
Jessie had blue eyes just like him, and dark curly hair like Marjorie. People used to stop and admire Jessie when they pushed her around in her pram as a baby. She had grown up into such a beautiful young woman, apart from her colouring taking after neither of her parents. People often remarked how incredible it was that Ken and Marjorie had got such a beautiful, bright daughter. Ken and Marjorie were too proud of Jessie to ever take offence. Jessie was the sunshine in their lives. What might have been quite a dull and ordinary marriage blossomed with their love for their daughter.
Then in the Spring Jessie had announced that she was going to Australia for a year with a scholarship from the university where she worked. Ken and Marjorie stared at each other in dismay, anxiety all over their faces. What would they do without the weekly visits, the phone calls and the Sunday lunches.
What if she met someone there and settled all the way on the other side of the world?
Sally was handing him a cup of tea and held his hand. He realized that a tear was falling from his eye. He must give Sally his full attention.
Ken and Marjorie had taken Jessie to the airport and waved until she disappeared, neither daring to look at the other in case they broke down. It felt like a light had been switched off in their lives.
They tried to learn to use the Skype and the Facebook and all the other gadgets that Jessie had left them. It helped, but it wasn't the same. They both longed to hear her key in the door, her cheerful 'It's me, I'm home, ' that had been music to their ears all these years.
Then in the Summer she told them that she'd met someone, a doctor working on her research team. He was Australian and she felt like he was the one. She'd bring him with her in the Spring when she came back for a short holiday. Ken and Marjorie's friends thought this was very exciting and told them they should organize a holiday to Australia, it wasn't far away really, lots of people went to live there, it was nothing. It didn't feel like nothing to Ken and Marjorie.
Ken became aware that Sally was stroking his arm, looking at him with pleading eyes.
'Come on Ken, tell me something, something I'd like to hear. It's nearly Christmas. It's your birthday.'
Ken took a deep breath, then his words came out in a rush. A tumbling of hard to distinguish sounds, at first incoherent and then crystal clear ringing out around the room.
'My daughter's coming home for Christmas.'
Everyone in the room clapped and beamed at Ken. Sally stood up and cheered.
They all knew what an effort that was. The speech therapy sessions for stroke victims was the best place for Ken to make his announcement.