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Clement's Corner: Sylvia's Dilemma

Sylvia has been given just one week to make the most important decision of her career. She’s been offered a job in Singapore. But what will happen to her mother? Owen Clement writes of a family dilemma.

Sylvia had been given just one week to make the most important decision of her career. She knew that she would need every bit of her organizing skills to make it possible.

She instructed her secretary to prepare a list of all retirement and nursing home complexes in the area and to have them on her desk by the time she got back from lunch.

She ate alone at her regular café nearby as she needed to think.

The list in a fresh manilla folder was ready for her when she returned.

She left instructions that she was to be contacted only for emergencies before driving home on automatic pilot, you might say, her mind racing.

Pulling into her carport she sat for a few minutes trying to decide on a plan of action.

“You took your time coming in.”

“Hello Mother dear. Did the Blue Cross nurse bath you today?” Sylvia quickly interjected sidestepping her mother’s provocative remark.

“Yes, and she washed my hair.” Her mother said in sheer joy.

“I’ll just have a quick shower and I’ll be right with you.” Coward, she thought, putting off the difficult moment.

Sylvia returned wearing a floor-length housedress and slippers, teasing her damp stylishly cut auburn curls.

“How about a really nice cuppa?” Not waiting for an answer she swept past her mother’s chair to the kitchen.

A few minutes later Sylvia pushed in a trolley loaded with tea things.

“You seem very cheerful today, dear. Did you get a raise?”

She was handed the perfect opening.

“Yes, in a way.”

“How do you mean, in a way?”

Sylvia sat down, sipped her tea and looked deeply into her mother’s intent blue eyes.

“I was called into Mr. Underwood’s office this morning, He’s the managing director, if you remember. ‘Sylvia’, he said, ‘we want you to open a new branch,’ Opening a new branch is nothing new to me Mum, as you know. He continued by saying, ‘This one is in Singapore.’ Singapore, I thought, how fantastic. You know how much I’ve always wanted to travel Mother.”

Sylvia’s excitement was cut short when she saw her mother’s expression. “Don’t worry Mum I haven’t forgotten about you”.

“I don’t want you worrying about me,” she said brusquely fighting off tears.

Sylvia was familiar with her mother saying, “Don’t you worry about me,” she sometimes added, “I have my Arthur to keep me company.” She always referred to her late husband’s spirit as being with her.

“Let’s not be too hasty, Mother. I haven’t decided anything yet.”

“You must not let me spoil your future plans darling, Heaven knows you’ve earned them. Your father left me well provided for. So, I can afford to make my own arrangements”.

“Look Mum, I am not going to abandon you so let’s try and be rational shall we?”

“I am trying.” The tears welled up again.

Sylvia rose and put her arm around her mother’s bony shoulders. “Come on now dear no more tears, you will only get yourself all churned up. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. Hmm!”

Sylvia baked a mushroom fritata one of her mother’s favourite meals for their dinner, which they ate in virtual in silence.

After settling her mother down, Sylvia also decided to retire early. She propped herself up in bed with her list, underlining the most likely places to visit. She spent a restless night waking much too early.

Being Saturday, she set off early saying to her mother that she was off to do some shopping. She called into a retirement village, two hostels and a nursing home. The managers were all helpful and kind but Sylvia knew that putting her mother into any of them unwillingly would kill her. She had yet to speak to her brother to see if he could come up with any ideas.

When she returned home, she discovered her mother lying fully clothed on top of her bed fast asleep.

Moving to the kitchen she poured herself a glass of red wine and began to prepare lunch.

That done she sat at the table contemplating the sight of her frail vulnerable mother stretched out on the bed. This brought back the vivid memory of her beloved father laid out in his coffin. She had been too busy lately to give him much thought. Since his death just over two years ago, her job had been virtually all consuming. She had also taken on the task of caring for her mother. Up to this moment, she had not truly understood what she was going through. She had lost her husband, she had suffered a debilitating stroke, she rarely saw her son and his family and now, there was the very real prospect of losing her daughter. Sylvia was overwhelmed with love and compassion for her mother.

She looked up to find her mother standing in the doorway watching her.

“Are you all right darling?” Her mother’s voice was full of concern.

Sylvia went over. hugged her mother and helped her to a chair.

“I’m just fine, Mum.”

”Come and sit down,” Her mother said indicating the chair beside her, “I have been busy too. “

Sylvia, who had not seen her mother so animated for some time, pulled out a chair and sat.

“I rang your brother just after you left this morning. We had a long talk. He was very concerned about you missing out on your opportunity and asked for some time to think. He was back on the phone a little later after talking it over with his family and suggested that they build a granny flat in their back yard for me with the money from the sale of this place. And, as he is due for holidays, the whole family is coming down to help me with the sale, to pack and move up there. And so my darling you are free to go whenever you like.”

Instead of joy, to her dismay, she saw Sylvia become inconsolable with grief.

© Clement 2006

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