“Are you sleeping Grandma?” they ask when they visit. “Are you tired Mum?”
I close my eyes when they come, these people, these funny adults that were once children.
For 86 years I have played the part of a girl, a woman, a mother and a grandmother and now I am tired. Since I arrived in this strange, sterile place I have been tired all the time. Talking to these people is exhausting so I just shut my eyes.
When I was a little girl I was never tired. I ran through the sun-spattered garden playing cowboys and indians with my brothers and I never wanted the day to end. When mother called us in, I hid in the long grass until she came to find me. Lying in bed, golden light still streaming through the window, I raged at the unfairness of it as I heard voices of other children still outside playing.
At boarding school during the war, sleep was stolen from us by German bombers. The air raid sirens dragged us shivering from our beds and we grabbed the little ones, so warm and sleepy, and rushed down to the cold, dusty cellar. We were supposed to be scared but the truth was we loved every second of it.
Then I became a mother and sleep escaped me once again. What I wouldn’t have given in those early days for a few hours in this quiet bed. Oh but they were the happiest of times. I remember watching Edward sitting up in the middle of the night, feeding a baby in the half light, falling further in love with him and the child with each gulp of milk. I had never excelled at anything before but now I understood why I was here and I soared.
As the children grew I lost sleep through their fevers and sicknesses, then with worry as they became their own people with their own problems. I fretted as they lost friends, dealt with bullies, passed exams, failed exams and I laid awake watching the clock as they missed their curfews.
Then so many grandchildren arrived and my worries multiplied. The list for my prayers at the end of each day seemed never ending and there was so much to protect them from in this dangerous new world that I no longer understood.
Then, one perfectly normal morning, I found myself in an ambulance and I was tired.
The visitors have gone now and I’m alone. I can hear the nurses doing the rounds, the steady rhythm of a heart monitor and somewhere, deep in the hospital, a baby cries. It’s night-time yet I can feel the sun shining on my cheek through the curtain drawn around my bed. As I start to drift off I think I hear children playing. I smile. Perhaps mine has been an ordinary life but it was such a good life. And yes Mother, now I am tired, and now I will sleep.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?More information about these and the Day itself available at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.