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Open Features: Great'ma – Part 13

Great’ma, now spending most of her time in bed, derives amusement and pleasure from her storehouse of memories.

Jackie Mallinson continues her novel of family relationships and secrets.

That evening, when Delphine brought in a little supper for Great'ma, they discussed what had been revealed through that day. It had become apparent to everyone that Hilda was now very happy and relaxed. They were all amused that she now referred to Great'ma as Mummy.

"Yes, she always seemed to be wanting to escape back through the door even before she had managed to get in,’’ Great'ma said.

"Oh, you felt that did you? I thought she just didn't like being out of the kitchen. Meeting her anywhere else in the house it was as if she felt out of place. But now she is all smiles and quite a different person."

There was a pause before Delphine got up from the chair to leave. "See you in the morning? Goodnight." she said.
The next morning Great'ma woke up and, after a minute or two, began to laugh. Her thoughts had immediately gone back to Alice and the birth of the baby. It was late in coming and everyone was getting anxious about it. Edward and Albert kept saying it would come when it was ready, but that didn't convince David. He worried all the time and then when she did go into labour he became completely useless.

Judith was out shopping and had Amelia with her. I was quite prepared to help having already been through it all and thought Alice was being very brave, but then she suddenly swore at us and told me to get Albert. I knew he was at the showrooms, but couldn't manage to contact him. Alice started swearing at me again and I rushed off in the car that was always kept at the house in a bid to find him. As I swung out of the drive he had to swerve in his car to avoid me.

"You are all bloody panicking are you.?" where his first words to me when I had managed to turn the car and get back into the house. But he didn't give me time to deny this, having already washed his hands and was leaping up the stairs.

When I arrived in the Alice's bedroom he was telling her not to be bashful and let him help her.

"Too bloody right I will," she said. We had never heard her swear before. The doctor arrived and a midwife. I was banished at this point and went down and had tea in the kitchen out of the way. That was where Judith found me.
"Isn't it exciting, just like when Amelia arrived. I've put her down for a nap now," she said. "I think it is all going alright."
And though it seemed a long time to me, the baby was born and we were all full of things to say and then quiet, listening. Then I began laughing. It was partly relief, but also a feeling of sheer joy. Judith was in tears and everyone not quite as they usually were.

There was suddenly a clattering out in the hall and we quickly went to see what was happening. Both looking a bit worried.
"Why are you two looking so glum? Everything's fine now. She will take a bit of time to recover but the baby is fine. A bit big for her to have carried, but all's well that ends well. Lets get the champagne out - or should we wait for Edward? Yes that's a better idea. A family party."

He was pleased at this and I said I would go up and knock and see if it was convenient to see the baby.

Great'ma was at this point back in the present as Delphine looked in to see all was well, leaving with a wave of her hand and not long after Hilda arrived with her breakfast. She helped Great'ma into the patio room to her table, telling her at the same time that Margaret had told Jeffrey about his grandfather, but that she hadn't seen him to know how he had reacted.

Even while this was going on Great'ma was aware that Albert seemed to be still present. Eating her breakfast she let the time drift back and sat with him one Sunday morning. He stretched in his chair and said, "I have the feeling that though you are with me, there is a silent part of you that... well I 'm not sure how to put it into words. It's as if asked you would know all the answers, but...."

I was startled. Judith had once said to me that I gave the impression that I knew more than anyone else. I just stared at Albert who gave a grunt and left me to think about it.
He then came back and said that he had not meant any criticism and went away again.

And Margaret calls me the sphinx.

There was that in me that I had to concentrate to not be always looking out at the world. If I was sitting on a settee, I would have to make myself be part of the scene. That first came to me when I saw, out of a car window, a woman walking with a dog. Looking at the view as a whole it evoked an atmosphere. If I had been walking the dog I realised I would not have felt that. There was a separation. I started there and then to practice being "in" wherever I was. The most difficult times were when I was with people. Perhaps that was what Albert was registering.

Her next thoughts were all with Jeffrey. How had he reacted to this sudden knowledge of his grandfather? Would he be upset that he had not been able to meet him?

He had not been in to see her since he must have learnt about his grandfather and apart from Hilda continuing in a cheerful way to carry on looking after her she saw no one until Delphine brought in her supper and sat for a while as they both again talked over the recent events. After which she settled once more to sleep.


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