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Open Features: Great'ma - Part Nine

A man has died in the garden. And now Great'ma, still at the hub of family life though old and failing, hears a great secret.

To read earlier chapters of Jackie Wearing's novel about aging and family ties please type her name in the menu on this page.

David came round the side of the house, to see the dog and Great'ma quietly contemplating the garden. He said, "I am very woried about Hilda. I didn't realise that this person was so important to her. I suggested that she should come and talk to you, but that had a bad effect. I think she needs some comforting."

"Perhaps she thinks I will be too sharp with her. I know I have been. But then she sometimes was such a ditherer that seemed all one could do, just get her going in some way."

At that moment there was movement in the patio room behind them. They both turned at the same time and saw Hilda standing rubbing her hands in her usual nervous way.

"Come here," Great'ma ordered and Hilda walked slowly out to them. "David is going to make us a cup of something - tea? And we are going to sit and if you want to tell me anything you can - and if not, not."

The dog at this command got up and repositioned himself on the grass in front of the patio. He put his head down of his paws and watched the scene.

Hilda had nodded at the suggestion of tea, at which point David quickly went into the room to get a chair for her. After placing it he then went back round the side of the house, giving Great'ma an appreciative look as he went.

Seeing the agitation on her daughter's face, she said, "Just sit here for a while and relax. It is understandable that you should be very upset. We all realise that."

Hilda, in a complete flurry, stood up, then sat down and started wringing her hands. Then standing up once again she began, "No, You don't understand...." She looked out into the garden. The seat that the man had been sitting on could not be seen from where they were, but Great'ma thought her concentration was on that area of the garden. She was just about to talk again when Hilda swung round, staring at her in a very distressed way.

"What is it?" she quickly said.

The dog's head came up, his attention suddenly focused.

With a gasp, Hilda replied, "He was Margaret's father."

She continued to stare but was not now concentrating. Her thoughts filled with memories. At last she sat down again and wondered that her mother had not reacted in any way.

"Dotty had made me promise never to tell anyone. He was there when Dotty got married, keeping well into the background. He wouldn't leave his children you see, but he cared very much for Dotty. She made me promise. He wanted to meet her.
Margaret that is. She doesn't know. I didn't... It was my promise... Now
What should I do? I wish I had told you before... my promise..."

Hilda sat down again, "I'll leave it to you, shall I? My promise."

The dog resettled himself.

Great'ma nodded. She was thinking that it was strange that her first thought had been that the man was Jeffrey's grandfather, rather than connecting with him as Margaret's father.

David appeared once again, this time with the tea tray, looked at Great'ma indicating that he should leave and she murmured, "Yes."

"Let's have this tea now it's here, shall we. We don't need to make any rash decisions."

She was thinking that David would be a good person to consult, but how would it be for others to know before Margaret? How would it appear to her if she found that it had all been talked over behind her back? Though not having the closest of relationship with her, the knowledge she did have made her think that that would not be acceptable. She also realised that she was holding off any personal response, thinking there was anger way down there somewhere. Better not dwell on 'he couldn't leave his children.' It was opening the pain of Dotty again.

"What would Margaret want? That is what we have to discover. And I'll think about it."

Hilda had poured their tea and put Great'ma's in front of her on the table. She picked it up at the same moment that Hilda picked up hers. They smiled at each other.

"Delphine said you had secrets. Who else have you given your promise to?"

"That was the only time... I don't... The family tell me what is happening.... I just think it isn't of interest to anyone else. Dotty's confidence made me always
nervous of blurting out something. Keeping the promise was awful.... In the early
days even more so. When Patrick, that's the man, turned up it all became dreadful. I
couldn't sleep. I just kept cooking things. You were ill... not to be.... "

There was a pause. "Can I go now?" Hilda asked, much to Great'ma's amusement.

"Yes, of course you can."

"I'll take my tea with me," was the reply as she went back through the Patio room.
She was such a comfortable looking woman. Usually smiling and not really bustling so much as slightly awkward in her movements. Great'ma thought that she had not asked her how long it had been since Patrick had turned up.

Sitting back in her chair the thought once again came that everything was eating everything else in the garden and that consciousness was not always so beneficial.
Dotty was again with her. Had she seen Margaret's father at her wedding? What had she thought? The memory of her hugging her daughter - what would she have been, six, seven? He couldn't leave his children, she was sobbing. Of course she had been drinking and Margaret was very confused.

Judith did such a good job, bringing her up. Albert making her his angel, and spoiling her - laughing with her. I remember so well her saying as she danced about that she loved her Uncle Albert the best in he world. And they left her very well provided for.

"Now Margaret, what would you have me do? I must just think of you and judge accordingly."

She leaned back in the chair so that she was more comfortable as she realised that she again needed some sleep. She had been so restless during the night. "This is the life," she thought, "I will tell Margaret. It is best."

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