A Christmas Moment in a Rest Home
Smiling wistfully she paused and then said,
– It was a moment.
I knew exactly what she meant. I looked into the distance and imagined the moment perfectly.
An elderly Chilean woman installed in a NZ rest home muttering in sibilant Spanish and spitting out blobs of non-descript greyish food. Enter Yuletide cheer on shaky, spindly legs. A vision of a Christmas angel in the hallway or perhaps what’s left of Mrs Hartley shrouded in her white nightgown on one of her nightly raids, deft as a bulldozer’s shadow. But hark! What have we here? A band of carolling miscreants arrived just in time for the trifle. What could that be on the wall? Jesus awaiting?
– Noche de paz. Noche de amor.
Julio sings to his mother. The lone chorister capable of singing in Spanish. The rest of choir sways in time, faces frozen in sagging empathy that seeps down into khaki and maroon carpet with the spittle, crumbs and urine. But Julio’s mother’s dark current like eyes are fixed on the wall and nothing penetrates that misshapen skull. Finally, she turns, who is this, this little man singing in Spanish? …. Ah! …… Determinedly Mr Fraser heaves and jerks his walking frame, dragging brittle bones after it, slowly, shakily, surely, he passes between the singer and the singer’s mother, just like a tortoise crossing the road, fixedly unaware.
An unforgettable moment.