By: Terree L. Klaes
Jamie and Rick raced along the river’s edge. The grass was lush and green. The blossoming flowers were giving off their sweet spring scent, which tickled their noses and made them laugh in their childish way. It was that time of year when everybody forgets their responsibilities and puts their minds on the great outdoors.
As Jamie and Rick reached town, they looked back at the beauty and pleasantness of the colorful field and the long, silvery river. Slowly, they walked along what every town has, a Main Street. They passed all of the Victorian-style homes with their bright gardens and neatly mowed lawns. The older couples rocking on their porch swings waved and gave the two children happy smiles. Jamie and Rick smiled back, as their mother had taught them for good manners.
At last Jamie and Rick had reached the home of the elderly Mrs. Peach. It was a fitting name, as she was a bright and cheerful woman with a peachy complexion. The only things to give away her old age were her thinning gray hair and a slump to her walk. Mrs. Peach was the one Jamie and Rick went to visit every day after school, and of course, during the summer. They brought her everlasting happiness, and in return she made them cookies, cupcakes, or brownies every day. This had been Jamie’s last day of fifth grade, and Rick’s last of third. They had both been anxious to tell Mrs. Peach all about their last day and why their smiles seemed to sing songs of all good things.
As always, Mrs. Peach led the kids into her cozy white and baby blue kitchen to the breakfast nook for their treats. They both wanted to talk at the same time, which made Mrs. Peach laugh about their enthusiasm. It was like any other day at Mrs. Peach’s apricot-colored house with the white picket fence. She talked of her two children whom she missed very much. They didn’t visit her often. “Michael and Allison have such busy schedules. I wouldn’t want to be a burden to either of them,” she always said.
She talked about how much joy a grandchild would bring her. Jamie thought it would be a sweet and polite gesture if she and Rick called Mrs. Peach ‘Grandmother’. Mrs. Peach loved the idea and had to give them each a kiss on their foreheads.
One odd day when Jamie and Rick went off through the field to visit Mrs. Peach, they arrived to see a tall man with a shiny bald spot on top of his head step out from his car and walk up the front lawn to the large oak door. This strange man didn’t knock; he just walked right in! Jamie and Rick both thought it would be best to come back later, but their childish curiosity led them up to the full length porch, decorated with its many different plants.
The door was left open, so Jamie and Rick made no hesitation of entering, it being, they felt, a way of invitation. Just as they had stepped into the brilliant, happy living-room, the balding man appeared, and walking right behind him was Mrs. Peach. They both carried suitcases. When Mrs. Peach glanced down at Jamie and Rick, she smiled, but the man kept his lips in a straight narrow line, using his eyes to give them a semi-cold look. Mrs. Peach put down her suitcase and reached out to hug them both to her sides. Then she bent down to plant soft kisses on the tops of their heads where their light brown hair was neatly combed.
“Dear children,” Mrs. Peach said. “I will not be living here anymore. As of today, I will be living at Willow Groves Nursing Home. It is just outside town, so it is not a far walk from your home. You can still visit me every day. You will, won’t you?”
“Yes, Mrs. Peach. Of course we will. But why are you moving there?” asked Jamie innocently.
“Well children, Michael has decided I am getting too feeble to live on my own in this house, and he thinks it best if I am taken care of 24 hours a day. Not that I agree, but maybe he does have a point. I am having more trouble getting around. As long as you two come visit me often, I’m sure it will be all right. I love both of you as if you really were my grandchildren.”
“Oh, we love you too, Grandmother. We will come every day. You’ll never get lonely.” Jamie reached out to hug Mrs. Peach, and Rick joined too. Then Jamie glanced up to see Michael staring at them as if he were witnessing something repulsive. She couldn’t help but stare at the man who was taking Mrs. Peach away from her beautiful apricot-colored home, decorated with pastels on the inside to make her days cheery and joyful. It wasn’t fair not to visit even once in three years, and then take her off to a place where she would surely become aware of her age, give up all of her youthful chatter, and wallow in a pool of unhappiness so that she would have no freedom.
Mrs. Peach gave Jamie and Rick each another kiss. Then she picked her suitcase up and walked out the front door, followed by Michael, who turned back to tell them to leave his house instantly. He gave a quick glare, and then was out the door helping Mrs. Peach into the car.
“His house! Does he mean he’s going to live in Mrs. Peach’ house? He just can’t. He’ll ruin it,” Jamie said miserably as she and Rick shuffled out of the house, turning to look at all of the special touches Mrs. Peach had put into her home, like the birdfeeders in the front lawn, and the floral door knocker. Michael was truly an evil man to do something so terrible to his own mother, who had so much heart to give if he would just let her. Jamie hated the thought of visiting Mrs. Peach in that terrible, lonely place with so many unhealthy old people. Nevertheless, she had promised that she and Rick would visit.
That summer Jamie and Rick learned a lot about what being given and denied love could do to a person. They learned a lesson never to be forgotten.
Jamie and Rick went to see Mrs. Peach in Willow Groves for the first time since she was dragged from her spicy-smelling home which had all the comforts she deserved. It was an interesting, yet sad place; all of the elderly people seemed to be rotting away. Most of them were by alone. The home wasn’t a complete loss though. There was entertainment in the recreation room: Scrabble, checkers, books, TV, and occasionally, live music were the choices of what to do.
When Jamie and Rick asked a passing nurse where they could find Mrs. Peach, the friendly-looking nurse smiled and directed them down the hallway. “She’s been very lonely the last few days. I’m so glad someone has come to visit her. She needs company. What did you say your names were?”
“I’m Jamie, and this is my little brother, Rick.”
“Oh, perfect! Mrs. Peach has been talking a great deal about you two,” the nurse said as she opened the white door which led into a small room with only a bed, a dresser, and a closet. There was only one window to let in Mrs. Peach’s beloved sunlight, only it was facing south. How could Michael lock up his own mother in a terrible place like this? Didn’t he have any feelings?
Every day, Jamie, Rick, and Mrs. Peach all played Scrabble and checkers in the recreation room. That was until one specific day when things went a little differently than usual.
It was bright and sunny. Jamie and Rick were on their way to see Mrs. Peach. They wanted to get there for lunch.
When they arrived, Jamie asked the friendly nurse to show them to Mrs. Peach. The nurse, who had been smiling, took on a different look; a sad, unsmiling look that made her seem almost pathetic. “All right, children. But I’m warning you now, Mrs. Peach is acting a little differently. Please don’t get too impatient or upset. She doesn’t realize… Please.”
Jamie and Rick turned puzzled looks at each other, and then hurried to catch up with the nurse. They reached Mrs. Peach’s room, and the nurse slowly creaked open the door to let Jamie and Rick in, then left.
“Hello, Mrs. Peach. Are you ready to go play checkers?” asked Jamie.
Mrs. Peach turned to Rick. “Michael, would you please push Allison on the swing? I’d like to get a picture.”
“I’m Rick, not Michael! Remember?”
“Allison, take your brother for a walk.”
“Mrs. Peach, I’m not Allison, and that isn’t Michael. We are Jamie and Rick. Don’t you know us anymore?”
Just then the nurse arrived back at the room. “Children, I think it’s time you went home.”
“What’s the matter with her? Why doesn’t she know who we are?” asked Jamie.
“She is old and not as healthy as she used to be.”
“But she looks healthy. She’s not dying, is she? Please don’t tell us Mrs. Peach is dying!”
“Not exactly. Yes, she does look healthy, but it’s not a physical health problem. She has a mental disease which runs in older people. She has become senile. Mrs. Peach does not always see things as they really are. She sees things as the way they were. It’s sad, but I’m afraid there is little more to do for her. Children, I hate to say it, but I’m going to have to ask you not to come back again. I fear it will just hurt you to see much of her in this condition. You can write, and she’ll write back, when she is up to it. You may not agree now, but it really is the best idea for you to just leave her alone. I’m sorry.
“But we’re going to miss her so much!” cried Jamie.
“I know you will, sweety. Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of her. Now, would you like to say good-bye?
“Yeah.” With that, Jamie and Rick ran back to hug Mrs. Peach.
“I love you too Allison, honey. I love you too.”
Jamie and Rick wrote three letters before they got one from Mrs. Peach. Usually she called them Allison and Michael, but once in a while she remembered who they were and what they had meant to her. They wrote back and forth for almost a year before, finally, there were no returning letters.
Jamie went by herself on day to Willow Groves. She found the friendly nurse and asked her about Mrs. Peach. Jamie was not at all surprised to learn she had died in her sleep two months earlier. It did hurt her, though. To Jamie, Mrs. Peach really had been a grandmother.
That afternoon Jamie and Rick went for a walk by the river. The soft grass was still damp from the rain the day before. They entered Main Street and walked by all the fragrant flowers and green lawns. Soon they approached a familiar apricot house with the little white picket fence. The sign in the yard which had said “For Sale” now said “Sold.”
The front door opened and out stepped a little old lady. She was fragile-looking, with the sweetest blue eyes Jamie and Rick had ever seen. The old lady beckoned with her hands for them to come to the porch with all the well-kept plants, and have some cookies with her. They were hesitant at first, but she gave a pleading look with her beautiful, charming blue eyes, and they were faithful to her call. Jamie and Rick had so much love to give. How could they possibly deny anyone?