I could see something was troubling Sandy, my daughter, when she paid an unexpected visit on her day off from work. She would be going on holiday in a few days time and I felt sure she should be sorting her clothes for packing, cancelling milk, papers etcetera.
"Have you heard from Rachel?" I asked after I had served her tea and scones. Rachel is my eighteen year old granddaughter. She is working in a hotel in Torquay whilst waiting for College to start.
"She's home." Sandy said and burst into tears.
My mind immediately raced around all the possible and impossible reason for the tears. Like most mothers and teenage daughters, Sandy and Rachel have their problems. Rachel stays out late, leaves her bedroom a mess and loses things, but mostly they are good friends and I know Sandy has missed having her daughter around.
"Is she ill?"
Sandy shook her head and blew her nose before telling me she was worried about leaving Rachel alone in the house. "She won't tell me what has happened to make her throw up the job and she seems so depressed. I hear her crying in the night.
"She has been home a week now and she hasn't stirred out of the house or contacted any of her old friends. It seems dreadful to go off and leave her like this but Neil won't hear of cancelling."
I agreed with Neil. "Rachel wouldn't thank you. She would feel guilty." I gave out all the platitudes about her daughter being a woman capable of sorting her own problems in her own good time but after she returned home I began to wonder how I could help.
My granddaughter used to be a regular visitor. She often stayed with me when Sandy and Neil needed a baby sitter. I loved having her. My husband used to say it was like 'second time round' for us. We took her with us on holiday to allow Sandy and Neil a break on their own.
That night I took out the photograph album and took a sentimental journey through her baby days. She was with us on holiday when she took her first steps. I brushed back a tear as I recalled the plastic toy we bought. It had a mouse on a turning wheel and Rachel cried until we released the plastic mouse. She hasn't changed she still can't abide to see anything caged.
In all the photos she exuded health and fun...peering between the leaves of the tree she climbed, dancing in the rain in her little bikini, carrying the banner at the Guide Parade, caught mid air on the trampoline. I couldn't bear to think of her being unhappy.
At last I thought of a way of solving the immediate problem. If Sandy was worried about leaving Rachel alone she could stay with me. The only problem was how to get Rachel to agree.
I decided to enlist Neil's help. My son in law and I get along very well together. He jokes that he married my daughter for her mother's cooking. Between us we hatched a plot.
"You want me to tell Rachel that I am worried about leaving you alone?" Neil said in disbelief but she knows we invited you to come with us and you refused.
"I can't stand the heat nowadays and since having the 'flu I have been having dizzy spells. Nothing to worry about but it would be a comfort to have someone near." Rachel came to stay. I soon realised she was deeply unhappy. Normally she has a sunny nature, a lovely smile and sparkling eyes that everyone responds to. I didn't question her, hoping she would confide in me in her own good time.
We had just watched a Police soap on the television when she asked me what was the hardest part of being a widow.
"Not having anyone to share things" I told her. "Most of all I miss dancing. We used to dance three or four times a week." She looked thoughtful.
I tried to cheer her up by asking her to take me to the theatre and the cinema. I gritted my teeth through a musical and shuddered through a horror film. Then had a good laugh at myself when she said, "You've got a weird taste in entertainment Gran."
We were in town having coffee and cakes when we met two of my old dancing group friends. I introduced them and they told Rachel what good dancers Charlie and I were. "Of course this American Line dancing is taking over now," they said.
After we parted Rachel said she had an idea but she wouldn't tell me what it was. I had to wait until the following Saturday when with a flourish she presented me with two tickets for the dance at the parochial hall.
"It's sequence. I would need a partner," I protested.
"Mixed, sequence, line dancing and old time. The leader is a teacher from my old school she says there are other ladies on their own who will be happy to partner you. We can both do the line dances."
It was with some trepidation that I prepared for the dance. I had no real hope of the sequence dances since there must have been two hundred or more new dances since my husband died and I was sure I wouldn't be able to cope with line dancing.
All my good motives had gone wrong. I planned to cheer up my granddaughter and here she was putting herself out to make me happy.
We sat at the dance leader's table and she was as good as her word in introducing other dancers. One was a widow like myself and together we muddle through some of the older dances but best of all the disc jockey was the leader's son. Her regular partner was ill and he was helping out. He and Rachel chatted between dances. Before the night was out he had his arm round her to escort her back to the table after the line dances.
It was quite a relief when she told me she was meeting David for dinner.
"David? Do I know him?"
"The dance, surely you remember. The dance leader's son."
Of course I remembered. I gave her a key and told her to have a good time.
"I shan't be late, but don't wait up."
I didn't although I wanted to. She was home soon after midnight. I pretended to be asleep. Before her parents came home she confided in me that she had been previously taken in by a handsome rogue - the manager of the hotel. She didn't go into details and I didn't pry but she warned me not to build a romance around David. "We are just friends and I am off to College in October. He did say he'd write though."
Romance or not she has bounced back and I heard her chatting on the phone with one of her old friends.
Me? I'm taking up sequence again, my new friend and I will take it in turns to learn the man's steps.
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