Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who's Anna?

Have you got a spare moment?
I've just had a phone call from Tina and . . . no, let's start at the beginning. I think you’re going to enjoy this.

I'm sure I've mentioned Tina, she is a very dear friend. She’s been a friend for more years than I can remember. Tina is eighty-seven - although, in spirit, I often think of her as being considerably younger than some of my more careworn friends in their thirties. We make each other laugh - and we share our lives by means of long, weekly 'phone calls.

Tina lives on her own, something made possible by the fact that she’s greatly loved in the neighbourhood of her home town in Surrey. Friends regularly invite themselves to meals (she is an excellent cook), bring fuel for her open fire, or just drop in for a chat. There’s never a day when an unexpected caller doesn't ring the doorbell and set the dogs barking. Despite increasing short-sightedness, she continues to drive (a somewhat nerve-wracking exercise as far as the local police are concerned!) and, with her walking stick to support her, resolutely goes out each morning to exercise her two exuberant dogs.

As I said, Tina receives constant phone calls from friends who want to visit her. They come to share anxieties, to seek advice or just to enjoy her open fire and good company. Apart from a sister who lives in Chichester, a sister whom she rarely sees, Tina has no relations. Her friends are her life.

Then, last week, the phone rang and Tina found herself listening to an unfamiliar voice.
"Hello, is that you Tina?” said the voice, “This is Anna. I was wondering . . . I'm in your district this afternoon, could I come to tea and bring Mother?"
Tina thought quickly. The name 'Anna' meant nothing, but clearly Anna knew her.
"Of course," she said brightly, hoping that her moment of hesitation had passed unnoticed, "I look forward to seeing you both."
At four o'clock an unfamiliar car drew up in her drive. An unfamiliar woman got out of the driving seat. Standing in the doorway, Tina saw this stranger help the passenger, presumably her mother, out of the car. She was an old woman walking with difficulty on two sticks. Tina stepped back out of the doorway to allow her visitors to come in.
"The lounge is the first door on the left," she said as the two strangers progressed through the hall.
The conversation, as Tina poured out the tea, was a little stilted. It was clear that these two women knew her, it was also clear that they had visited her before. . . but who on earth were they? She tried hard to conceal her confusion, but was afraid that the younger one suspected the truth.
Then, as she held out the tea-cup to the older woman - who had been sitting silently, head bent, eyes downcast - the old lady lifted her head and looked directly at her.
Tina did a double-take.
Surely not? Could it be . . . was it . . . was it her sister? Her brain began to whirr . . . of course . . . her sister's son had married a girl named Anna . . . this must be her niece-in-law who, together with her ageing sister (who looked and behaved in a manner so very much older than Tina had ever felt) had unexpectedly travelled up from Chichester and invited therselves to tea!

So, the moral of the story? Oh, a very reassuring one!
Quite simply, it’s only the body that ages. The mind and spirit remain youthful as long as you wish them to.
Mind you, it can be quite a shock, when you consider yourself to be still in the youthful stage of life’s journey, to encounter a decrepit old woman who turns out to be your sister!