• I'm Jesse
      • My Birthday?
      • You Remembered!
• Pool? Animal Style!
      • Dumplings w/Neptune
• Sicilian Sculptor
• The Golden Years
• Human Hangers
• Just a Barista
• I Need to Dance
• Can't Stop Looking Up
• Be Careful What...
• The Collection
• Into the Light
• A Perfect Interview
• The Abbey
• Who You Know?
• What's This Life For?
• Unexpected Talent
• Just a Dog's Day
• Chester
• Darren
      • Darren and the Circus
• Voice of God
• Aaron
• 5350

Shorts
• Resurrection
• Private Dancer
• Eye Contact
• Bullying
• The Surreality of It All
• Sound of Silence
• 31 Days of Christmas
• Giant!
• Fear or Comfort?
• You're Different
• Another One Bites...
• Stroll with the Clouds
• Walking with Banshee

The Golden Years (09/24/21)

The first day of high school in the small hamlet in the middle nowhere in the middle of England would have normally been extremely uneventful. As the twelve students in their class took their seats, Charles looked over at Mabel and fell instantly in love.

At the tender age of 14, one would have thought that ‘love’ was more about something stirring in a part of the body other than the heart, but Charles really felt a connection for Mabel—something he couldn’t explain.

Mabel turned and noticed his attention, and experienced the same feeling. By the end of the day they were walking down the street after school, hand-in-hand. Both of them were far too young to understand that ‘love at first sight’ can be a reality, if only for the very fortunate, yet for them they shirked the thoughts that they were only to be star-crossed lovers once Mabel’s father found out.

And yet, it was a pleasant surprise when Charles met Mabel’s family for the first time—her dad approved of their relationship, looking at his wife thinking ‘we met at 15,’ these kids are not much younger.

Charles was only a few months older than Mabel, and shortly after graduation, they were married in a quaint ceremony in the local church. The entire village was in attendance, it was a beautiful wedding, but deep down inside Mabel dreamt of the large, extravagant weddings she saw on television.

Several months later after the wedding, Mabel was pregnant with the first of their three children—two boys and a girl, the daughter being the middle child. It was the perfect family, in a small hamlet, in the middle of nowhere, in England.

For the next several decades Mabel got up each morning, made her family breakfast, got her husband off to work, and took care of the children.

As the children grew old enough to go to school, Mabel was eventually left alone in her house, with nothing to do other than take care of the chores, do the shopping, house work, and all the things that a dutiful wife does.

Once a week, Mabel was blessed by going out to lunch with several of the ladies from the hamlet, who were in the exact situation she was in—taking care of the home, husband and kids.

Eventually all three kids were old enough to leave the hamlet, and attend college in what was seen as an exotic land, leaving the small hamlet in the middle of nowhere in England, and leaving their mother completely alone in the house.

One son became a doctor, the other son became a lawyer, and the daughter in the middle became a professor of literature at an established university. The daughter was always the imaginative one of the kids.

Many years later, all three kids met their perfect spouse, had multiple children each, blessing Mabel and Charles with many grandchildren.

All of their children had moved to far away places to begin their family lives and raise their own children, while pursuing and excelling in their chosen careers. The doctor and his family moved to Sydney, the lawyer practiced corporate law in San Francisco, and the creative daughter, who now had mastered several languages outside of English, had moved with her family to Tokyo.

Raising their families, excelling in their jobs, and the pure distance from England meant that Mabel and Charles rarely saw their children, and had never physically seen their grandchildren.

Technology allowed for video chats, FaceTime, and many texts and email between all of them, yet there was something missing in not being able to hold and hug their distant families.

And though Charles worked hard for a living, he never brought home enough money to allow for any distance traveling for himself and Mabel.

Charles had made a promise that once he retired and was receiving his pension, they would begin to travel the world and make sure they visited their children and grandchildren. In the meantime, online communication was a replacement—there never was a lack of keeping up with the children or the grandchildren, but Charles and Mabel always dreamt of the time when Charles would retire, and they could travel to see their families in person.

During days alone at home, Mabel especially dreamt of the days soon to come when Charles would retire and they could begin traveling. She looked forward to the proverbial ‘Golden Years.’

Though Mabel and Charles laughed about their relationship being nothing more than youthful adventure, 40 years later they were still as much in love as they were the first day they met.

Charles was a little under a year away from retirement.

It had been one of those special days, Mabel woke up, prepared breakfast for her husband, kissed him goodbye as he went off to work, did a few chores around the house, and headed out to lunch with her friends from the hamlet. She enjoyed getting out of the house and gossiping with her friends—it truly was the special day of the week.
Charles came home a couple hours early from work, arrived home immediately after Mabel got home from lunch, saying he was a little under the weather and really just needed an afternoon nap to get his energy back.

He sat in one of the big chairs in the living room, and quickly dozed off to sleep.

Several hours later Mabel came in to ask what Charles wanted for dinner, only to notice he was still asleep. She walked over to him to give him a hug and kiss and gently wake him up from his nap.

Mabel lost her breath when she kissed Charles and realized he was cold, clammy, and lifeless.

She shook him gently to wake him up, and nothing. She felt his hand for a pulse—there was none. As shock set in, she tenderly put her fingers on his neck to again check for a pulse, only to find there was none. Charles has passed in his sleep.

Mabel ran to the phone and called the hamlet doctor who was just a few houses down the street. After a few panicked moments, he arrived, and confirmed Charles was deceased. It appeared he had passed away shortly after going to sleep for his nap.

Mabel sat in the chair next to her husband in shock. She had never been without her high school sweetheart, there had never been a day when they were not together at some point.

For almost 40 years she had raised her children, and ensured that her husband was taken care of so that he could eventually retire, and they could begin to travel - and see their children and grandchildren.

Now the house was empty—and silent.

As the doctor of the small hamlet switched his role to coroner and made arrangements to take the body to the church to prepare for services, Mabel called each of her children to tell them their father had passed away.

And though each of her children was devastated by the loss, each of them said it would be nearly impossible for them to make it back home for the services. Their jobs, and family took precedence, and the distance made the journey prohibitive.

They all promised to keep in touch, sadly apologizing for not being there, then hanging up the phone to leave Mabel alone at home with her silence.

After talking to all of them, Mabel sat down in the chair next to where Charles always sat, and cried. What did she do wrong? All those years of providing for her children, sacrificing everything in her life to ensure they all got through college and into a successful career, and none of them would come to their fathers funeral.

None of them would be there to support her during her time of need. That first night she cried herself to sleep in her chair, going over and over in her mind what she had done wrong to be there all alone.

Mabel woke up the next morning, a bit sore from sleeping the night in a chair that, though comfortable, was not meant for a full night's sleep, nor for supporting the old bones of a maturing lady.

She thought maybe this was all a dream, but her beloved husband was nowhere in sight, and she realized it was just a terrible nightmare of life’s reality.

Now what?

Over the next couple of days she spent her time making preparations for the service, and talking to her friends in the hamlet about her loss. She was now the only widow in the hamlet, and she knew, though her friends would be kind and considerate regarding her loss, being a widow would put her ‘out-of-place’ within her circle of friends.

The doctor had done a quick autopsy and let her know Charles had passed quickly in his sleep from a massive heart attack. Neither Mabel nor the doctor even knew he had heart issues. How had they both missed that?

The day before her husband's service, she got up to prepare breakfast for herself, though as she thought about it, why bother? It had been 40 years of preparing breakfast for her family and husband—she realized she wasn’t even hungry.

She went to her chair, sat down and again started to cry. She’d cried a lot over the last few days, and again wondered what she had done wrong, and what was next.

Mabel and Charles had a very good life insurance policy, so financially everything would be fine for her. But life without her high school sweetheart, and life long partner was anything but fine. She was lost.

A few minutes after sitting down she was startled by a knock on the door. Mabel got up, went to the door and opened it, and was surprised to find all three of her children standing at the door, tears pouring down their faces.

She let them in, and embraced each of them, then embraced all of them at the same time, all crying out loud from their grief. Her children had not abandoned their mother in her time of need.

Each of her children had done what they needed to do to make sure they were present, not only for their father’s service, but to comfort their mom in her time of need. None of them had brought their spouses and the grandchildren, but they each made the long journey to be with their mom.

That day they all reminisced about life, what had happened to their father, and their mom cried about how their plans for their Golden Years had vanished during one quick nap. Now what was she going to do?

They got on FaceTime with their spouses and got to talk to the grandchildren, which was both sorrowful and needed. Her husband would never get the chance to see his grandchildren. Mabel cried a bit more.

The next day they attended the service, and the church was filled with friends from the hamlet there for support. It was a quaint and quick service, filled with Charles’s favorite songs and Bible verses, then everybody hugged at the end, and Mabel and her kids returned to her house.

Mabel and her children spent the next day cleaning up some of her husband's things, and talking more about what she was going to do next, but each of her children needed to get back home to their families.

The following day each of them left for the airport, leaving Mabel once again alone in her home.

Once again she sat down in the chair next to where her husband had sat for decades, and began to cry. This time there were no more tears. What was she to do, sit and wallow in her sorrow? Was she supposed to sit crying in her chair waiting for her own death?

Mabel got up and walked over to an old cedar chest at the foot of the bed in her bedroom, rummaged through the comforters and blankets, and pulled out a notebook.

She returned to her chair and started flipping through the pages of the notebook.

The discolored volume was filled with page after page of pencil drawings of life—everything in life. During moments when her children were at school and her husband was at work, she would draw, and had been doing so for the entire 40 years of their marriage. She had always put away her notebooks before anybody came home—it was the secret she kept to herself.

The drawings brought back beautiful memories of their lives, and at first brought back tears of sorrow and the pain of losing her beloved partner.

Yet the more she looked at her drawings, the more she realized she knew exactly what to do.

She got up from her chair, kicked off her slippers, put on her white walking shoes, and walked down to the general store in town, walking straight to the art section. Mabel had a very noticeable life to her gait. There she picked up an easel, all the oil paint the store had in stock, brushes, palettes, palette knives, linseed oil, and kerosene.

As she was getting ready to leave the store she realized she had bought way more than she could carry, a young kid named Sheridan, who worked at the store offered to help her carry everything home.

They had a great conversation walking back, he had been at the funeral, and expressed to her that he was happy to see her smiling, and pursuing one of her interests. She gave him a big hug, a big tip, and thanked him for his kindness.

She looked around the house, saw that the breakfast nook had the best light, and that it was no longer going to be the place where she would join Charles for breakfast each morning. She tried to move the table, but it was too large and heavy for her to budge.

Mabel quickly ran back out the front door, called to Sheridan who was walking back to the store, and asked if he could help her move some things.

In this small hamlet in the middle of nowhere in England, people were always willing to assist each other. He came inside and spent several minutes helping Mabel move the table and a couple cabinets out of the nook, telling her he had seen the nook and thought it was the best light for painting.

She thanked Sheridan again, and was about to give him another generous tip.

He refused the money, saying he would help her with anything she needed, as long as he could continue to see her smile. She gave him another hug, said she hoped her grandchildren would grow up to be like him, and returned to her newly created ‘studio.’

Mabel set up her easel, put all the supplies on a small table in the room, and put up her first canvas. She had never painted before, but had always dreamed of doing so.

She almost ran back into the bedroom, and grabbed all the notebooks she had from the cedar chest and placed them on the counter in the kitchen.

She flipped through many of the pages and settled on a drawing she had made of an old abbey ruin surrounded by a field of golden flowers that was just down the street from her house.

Though the drawing was black and white only, in pencil, she could see the vivid colors in her mind, could feel the slight warm breeze, and smell the fragrant aroma of the flowers.

She reached for several tubes of colored oil based paint, opened the lids and squeezed several of the colors onto her palette.
She stopped for a second, remembered she had never painted before, but thought “what the hell, just start, I’ll learn as I go.”

As she squeezed the paint onto the palette she smelled the wonderful scent of oil paint. Mabel could not remember where she had smelled it before, but she knew she loved it. And then there was the linseed oil. The small studio was now filled with the wonderful fragrance.

With the paint ready, brush in hand, Mabel looked down and was horrified that she had squeezed some paint onto the hardwood floor of the breakfast nook.

She put down her palette and brushes, ran into the kitchen to get a cloth, and quickly made her way back into the nook, where she leaned down to clean up the paint.

As she reached down, she realized she also had squirted paint onto her white walking shoes. How am I ever going to get the paint out of my favorite shoes?

It was at that moment she felt an energy like she had never felt before. So what if there was paint on the floor, it was her new studio, it would add some character.

And in the good light of the nook, it would look really cool and artsy.

And she realized she was liking the paint on her shoes, she would let the paint fall as it would. If she really needed a new pair of pure white walking shoes, she’d buy another pair. But with her new found energy, pure white was already starting to bore her.

And she began to paint. And paint like a fiend she did. Hours on end, days on end, canvas after canvas, flipping through her sketchbooks to scenes that brought back beautiful memories, and bringing the black and white sketches to life in color with her brush strokes. And who said a palette knife should only be used to mix the paints? She applied the paint in layers and mixed directly on the canvas, reveling in the new colors and wonderful textures.

And though she told herself she couldn’t paint, she really liked her work. She felt the complete lack of skills actually gave her paintings more depth and life than if she was trained and skilled at painting.

Her paintings took on an impressionist, abstract, childlike air about them that ended up being quite whimsical and exciting.

The only interruption in her painting that she had over the next several weeks were calls to her family, making sure they got home safely, FaceTime with the grand kids, and then back to her painting. But she kept her painting secret, something only she knew about.

One day, weeks into her painting adventure, Sheridan came by to check up on her, and though she would not let him see her paintings, she said she was fine, and walked back down to the store to get more supplies, walking back home with his assistance in carrying canvases, and bags of paint and other supplies.

Though she had him leave everything just inside the door so that he could not see her paintings, he caught a glimpse of several of them, and thought “wow, she is prolific, and where did she learn to paint?”

As he left, Sheridan let Mabel know that if she needed anything, just call the store and he’d bring it up to her. He then mentioned he had caught a glimpse of her paintings, and thought her work was incredible.

Mabel was slightly annoyed that he had snuck a peak at her paintings. She was at that point in an artist’s life where the artist has to break the wall of doubt. Mabel shook off that feeling, and invited Sheridan in to see all the rest, and see them in all their color and textured detail.

He was aghast—so much color, beauty, energy, spirit, and in such a free style of painting, like nothing he had ever seen before—and he was an art major at university.

He told her she should bring a couple of them down to the cafe and have them put on the wall so everybody could see what she was doing.

At first, the thought of displaying her art scared her, but after further encouragement from Sheridan, she brought her first piece down to the cafe, and the owner proudly put it up on the wall.

She went home feeling a little nervous. What would her friends think of her new found hobby? She also felt rejuvenated and energized. She walked into her empty house and started to paint, not concentrating on the fact that she was alone. Her memories of her life and husband would have to wait.

Several days, and many paintings later, she received a call from the cafe owner saying there was a couple from London in the cafe who had seen her painting and wondered if it was for sale. The older man was a gallery owner in London and thought a piece such as that would go over really well with his clientele.

He had never seen anything with such color, energy, and was especially fascinated by the vigor and life in her work.

Nervously Mabel walked down to meet him and his wife, and after a few minutes, invited them back up to her house. As she passed the general store, she walked in and asked if Sheridan could come up with them—she wasn’t comfortable with strangers in her house.

The four of them entered the house, and the gallery owner was stunned, asking “how long have you been painting?” “Just a few months,” Mabel answered.

The gallery owner asked if she had attended university or had any formal art training? “No! But I think the training would have cramped my style, don’t you think?” Mabel said laughing.

After several minutes of negotiation, the gallery owner took a dozen of the paintings to display in his London gallery, letting her know how much he felt he could sell each piece for, but that he would push for as much as he could get.

Mabel was astounded, “people would pay that much for these.” she asked herself.

He told her he would keep her work on display for 2 weeks, and they would go from there, depending on how the sales went. But he was confident her paintings would be popular.

Two days later, he called and said he had sold every single painting, for double the original asking price, and wanted to arrange some time with her discussing more paintings, and having a solo show of just her art.

A solo show? That was the stuff of dreams for any artist, and Mabel agreed a solo show would be great. Mabel was unaware of the significance that show would have.

All the arrangements were made, and several weeks later, a van arrived to pick up several dozen of her paintings—having to be especially careful, since the paint on some of them was still wet.

Over the last month, Sheridan had brought over a scanner and was dutifully digitizing all the pages from Mabel’s notebooks - the black and white sketches would be added to each of the paintings associated with them, telling the story of the source of her inspiration.

Several days before the show opened, a limousine and driver arrived to pick up Mabel, and her young escort, Sheridan, and they headed to London to spend several days in the gallery, making final changes and getting everything ready for her show.

The gallery owner’s wife had arranged for several days of ‘touristy’ adventures for Mabel and Sheridan, since neither of them had ever been to London. They both marveled at the frenetic activity, energy, history, and beauty of the big city, and spent much of their time walking the halls of the renowned galleries and museums in London.

As Mabel got ready for her opening reception, she noticed a beautifully wrapped box sitting on a table in her hotel room. She didn’t know where the box came from. She opened the box and it contained a stunning silk scarf. It was made from a shimmering red fabric with black geometric and organic patterns overlaid with stunningly beautiful gold printed characters. The characters were not of a language she recognized, but she reveled in the gift as she wrapped the stunning fabric around her neck.

The evening of the opening reception for Mabel’s show was a resounding success, and all the pieces in the gallery sold during the show, even though the gallery owner had raised the prices ten fold.

That began Mabel’s new life, bringing her black and white notebook sketches to life in vivid color in oil based paint, and going to show after show, traveling from city to city for her exhibitions.

For the next decade, she painted, and traveled the world exhibiting and selling her paintings. Because of her success, she got to spend time with her three kids and all the grandchildren. Every time Mabel left home, she swung by one of her kids' houses to be with the family.

After one rather long art tour through Asia, and a very long exhibit in Hong Kong, Mabel had finally returned to her original home in the small hamlet in the middle of nowhere in England, and sat heavily down into her chair in the living room—the chair next to the one her husband used to sit in.

Nothing much had changed in her house, since she barely had time to paint, nevertheless refurnish or rearrange anything in the house. Plus, she was rarely home, why bother.

The one thing that had changed in the house, the floor of her breakfast nook. It had been replaced multiple times as she had sold the entire floor, covered in paint, to collectors.

She also had a line of brilliantly colored walking shoes, all splattered with paint—they were all the rage in the couture fashion world, especially with her name on them, and with her story behind the art.

Settling into her chair, she realized for the first time, she was exhausted. It had been a whirlwind decade. As she sat in her chair she glanced up, and for the first time in a very long time, looked at the picture of her and her husband on their wedding day—that picture had been on their mantle since their wedding.

She experienced a tinge of sorrow—she missed her high school sweetheart. She felt a bit of guilt, knowing she had not thought much about him over the last decade. She thought he would understand, and as she looked at him in the photo, and tears streamed down her face, she said out loud “I hope you understand how I am feeling. I do miss you!”

The voice of her husband spoke back, “I completely understand my dear. I promised we would have many wonderful adventures during our Golden Years, and we have. You have a wonderful life, filled with friends, family, adventures. A life I could only have given you with my sacrifice. But my dear, I have been with you all this time, watching the smile beaming from your beautiful face.”

By now Mabel was crying rivers of tears, “I would have never asked you for that sacrifice.”

“I know,” said Charles, “but it was my gift to you as thanks for all the wonderful years we spent together, for you sacrificing your life to raise our children and take care of me. When the heart attack hit, I had a choice of staying with you, in ill health, or moving on. I saw the wonderful life you would have after I left, and made that choice.”

“I love you, and miss you.” Mabel said to Charles. Charles smiled “We’ll be together soon enough, make sure you enjoy the remainder of your life to the fullest.” He then blew her a kiss and vanished into the light.

Mabel was startled back to reality by the phone ringing - it was one of her sons. He and his family had just arrived in town and were coming over—with his brother and sister, and their families. It was going to be a family reunion.

The grand kids were now in their late teens, and always greeted their grandmother with the “Grandma, where did you learn to paint?” “Right here in the breakfast nook” was her standard reply, but this time she added “With your grandfather watching over me the entire time. Though he passed on, he never really left.”

As Mabel visited with all her children and grandchildren, there was another knock on the door. It was the gallery owner that had bought her first painting, and his wife—they wanted to come up to the house and say hello, and had seen several of her family at the airport when they landed.

With them was Sheridan, the guy from the general store, his wife, and their new son, who they named Charles. Mabel had not seen Sheridan in some time. She hugged him, and they reminisced about the early days of lugging canvases and painting supplies to her little house.

It truly was a reunion of all those people that were important in Mabel’s life.

Her youngest granddaughter looked up at the photo of Charles and Mabel on their wedding day, and said “Grandpa has always been here watching over you, hasn’t he?” It was like she had been there for the earlier conversation.

“Yes, sometimes it feels like he is right here talking to me.”

Musical reference: Crossing Over, Five Finger Death Punch

 

#art #London #hamlet #England