Remembering Eleanor Rigby, by Dr. Niamh Clune

Since childhood, her habit had been to draw a bristle brush through her long, now silver-grey hair. ‘One hundred strokes every day keeps your hair a healthy way,’ she muttered under her breath as though it were an incantation. She said it rhythmically, keeping time with the brush. Her actions were an instinctive remnant of her mother’s careful conditioning.

She re-placed the brush on the dressing table. As if seeing herself for the first time in a long time, she stared into her grey eyes. Once, they had been filled with light, had danced, and sparkled merrily with the unbridled expectancy of all that life yet held in store. When did she become so old? Her last remnants of beauty had long-since faded. These days, her once lovely face spoke only of tiredness.

She stood up and moved across the darkened room. She liked the room that way. She didn’t like the light. It showed only worn, dirty walls and threadbare carpets. Her movements were graceful still, and lithe. She corrected her posture as if, once again, she heard the ghostly voice of her mother scolding, ‘straighten up!’

Her mother had lived long. This had been her room. Her things were still here. Margaret could not find it within herself to clear them out. After her mother’s passing, Margaret had claimed the room. She had moved into her mother’s things, worn her mother’s clothes, slept between her mother’s sheets, and used her mother’s hairbrush, whilst repeating her mother’s meaningless mantra.

She moved to the window, careful to remain hidden behind the heavy, Edwardian lace curtain. It was snowing outside. Already, thin bicycle tracks appeared and curved precariously.  In this cul-de-sac, the only cars that passed were those driven blindly by misdirected motorists or by those that lived in one of the semis. This was a safe road for children.

Margaret watched them gathering beneath her window. They were excited by the snow. It had not yet fallen sufficiently for the making of snowballs. But they laughed and shrieked none-the-less and made Margaret jump nearly out of her skin. She backed away. Her hands flew up to her ears. She rocked her head from side -to-side. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered. But mummy wasn’t there. No one was. Only the quiet house answered in creaks and groans. She curled up on the bed in a foetal position, drawing her knees up under her chin.

Somehow, the holidays were more unbearable than the usual drawn-out, bland ordinariness of non-holidays. People came, went, bustled, laughed, held hands, and carried bags of shopping destined for splendid family feasts. They passed her opaque windows oblivious to her existence.  ‘Why don’t they know that I am here?’ she screamed inwardly.

All her ranting was inward. That was the safest place to rail against the lonely nights, the lonely days of never-ending emptiness. She did not cry out anymore. It made her feel worse.  Sorrow had become a vicious beast that snarled back and hit her hard with its stark reality. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered again.

‘Mad Woman,’ the children shouted up at the window. It was their favourite street haunt. They loved gathering beneath her window and taunting her – ‘Mad Marge, the old woman who lived in a shoe and didn’t know what to do!’

Once upon a time, she had wanted a daughter of her very own. That man…what was his name, the one who wanted to marry her? She couldn’t remember now. But Mummy had become ill at the thought of it. She had developed a crippling disease and could do nothing for herself.  Margaret couldn’t leave her to go off with the man whom she had loved at the time. Who would brush Mummy’s hair?

Margaret lay staring into the gloom shutting her ears to the sounds of children’s laughter. Why did people think of laughter as being happy? It was a taunt, a shrieking, shrill torment. It reverberated off her loneliness to pierce the uninhabited world in which she existed.

What was that sound? She thought herself mistaken, but was it a knock on the door? She froze. What should she do? And again. There it was again. Someone was trying to break into her world. She was not safe. She must hide. She clambered off the bed and onto the floor. On her belly, she slid beneath the bed. And there she stayed until the gloom turned to night.

Outside, the snow fell. Soon it covered Mrs Jones’ footprints, and covered the plate of mince pies she had left on the doorstep.

Dr. Niamh Clune

Niamh was born in Dublin in 1952 – one of eight children. In 2002, she earned a PhD from Surrey University, UK, in “Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination.” She has been described as a polymath! She is a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs. Niamh has lived and worked in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme, which she describes as one of the defining moments in her life. She is the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ. Her latest publication, Orange Petals in a Storm, is the first in the Skyla McFee series.

Orange Petals in a Storm

Niamh is very active on the internet on Orangeberry Books Collective and blog. She is a featured author at Love a Happy Ending. Niamh has her own blog at Niamh Clune Writes and has a Facebook fan page at Niamh Clune Books. Find her on Twitter. Her novel Orange Petals in a Storm is available here. Listen to Niamh’s enchanting vocal on YouTube.

Opening photo – Photobucket, Carolynt99

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21 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

21 responses to “Remembering Eleanor Rigby, by Dr. Niamh Clune

  1. So sad … and yet sometimes, so true. I can’t imagine being drawn into a world of one, with no one else to converse with, to laugh with, to cry with. A world where a knock on the door brings fear rather than the anticipation of a visiting friend. Makes me want to be sure everyone has a friend this Christmas season! Once again, Niamh, your writing exceeds all expectations!

  2. What a wonderful story! By the end of their lives, so many people have isolated themselves and continue to reject attempts at friendship! I often think it may be, as indicated in your story, the fault of a parent..

  3. Sad, but lovely story. Like Rosie said, it does make one hope everyone has a friend for Christmas.

  4. A beautifully evocative story….Great start to holiday week.

  5. karenselliott

    It makes me want to contact a local retirement community or assisted living. My Aunt Agnes lived in a great place before she passed away, but I know there were a lot of old folks there that had no one. So sad. Perhaps this would be a great time for some of us to reach out!

  6. True Karen. Since September, my kiddo and I have been visiting a woman with dementia. For 30 minutes, she becomes a grandma again. She doesn’t remember us and boy is it a lesson in “being in the moment.” We can’t stay very long or my son begins “exploring” a little too much and she gets tired too.

  7. Loneliness and homelessness and being in the cold is so sad. And definitely something for us all to be aware of particularly at such a time as this.

  8. Thanks for the early Christmas gift Niamh and thanks for wrapping it Karen! A telling short!

  9. Reagan

    Again my dear friend you have moved me with your words. You have such a natural talent with the written word, one I wish I could a least get close to. The letters left on the page moving from right to left really capture the depth of your soul.

  10. A sad and moving story. Unfortunately there are so many lonely people in the world and many people that don’t even care for others. A nice story to think about at a time like this. You have written it so well.

  11. dougjohnson1950

    Loneliness is all too common especially amongst older people. This story brings it home to us what it would be like. Niamh knows how to tell a story so that we feel every drop of emotion involved in a character’s life. Well done Niamh. Not an easy story to tell but important at Christmas when we look to the joys of having family around us.

  12. A brave and courageous lady that I’ve just recently had the pleasure and privilege of coming in contact with and quickly becoming cyber-friends! Her story is one that is hard to liver through and harder to relate to others. My deepest respect!
    DiAnne Ebejer

  13. Niamh never, ever disappoints in all that she writes. From “Remembering Eleanor Rigby” to “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore”, she has the ability to put you right in the very spot of her creation(s), leaving you to experience what it is that her characters are feeling, good or bad, enlightening or sad. “Remembering Eleanor Rigby” brings it all home for us to think about others at this time of year. May no one be alone on this joyous of holidays. If you know someone that is, may you find it in yourself to step out from behind your comfort zone and do what is best by bringing joy to another person. After all, isn’t that what this all about, “giving”. Merry Christmas to those that are here and to those around the world.

  14. theobblog

    Aw! Thank You, all. I love the heartfelt responses to my little story. ‘Tis the season of goodwill. What an important message to remember our Humanity!

  15. karenselliott

    I was inspired by the post and by several other comments. I’ve made a list of the retirement homes and assisted living and nursing homes in Minot (where I am). I’m going to propose a Writing Class. Not only will I be able to use my writing skills, but I’ll be able to give some oldsters (of which I’ll be one soon) something else to do. And it will get me the heck out of the house.

  16. What a sad but thought provoking story, Niamh! I felt so sorry for Margaret. No-one should be alone during the holidays let alone Christmas Day. I can’t imagine being so alone like that & am lucky enough that my family makes sure that I’m not.

    When my family first moved to the area where I now live, we adopted an elderly couple from a nursing home for Christmas Day. Neither of them had absolutely no-one to spend Christmas with. So, they were our grandparents for the day. It made my parents, brothers, sisters & myself feel good since our relations were hundreds of miles away. It also made the elderly couple feel good since they were wanted. Merry Christmas to you & yours.

  17. jennymilch

    Niamh, your prose reaches true heights–I always find gems in it.

  18. We all have so much to be thankful for, stories like this serve to remind us of that! Wonderful!

  19. karenselliott

    Thanks for stopping by, Deb, Jenny, and Linn. Niamh’s writing is inspirational for sure!

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