It wasn’t long after she started preschool that Sila began to ask questions about Ola. I never hid her mother’s death from her, she deserved the truth but of course Mammy was “in heaven”. I sat her down and explained how much Ola and I loved each other. I told her of how we had met in college and fallen in love. I told her about the times we used to spent together reading and cooking, how we used to dance to the music in elevators and shopping centres, how we used to plan and hope for our future. And I told her so much more about her mother. I explained how she was more beautiful than any woman I had ever seen. How kind and how fiercely intelligent she was. How sweet and caring and gentle she was. And how resilient and daring. I showed her Ola’s photographs and we talked for hours. I could see her brain working in overdrive but she was her mother’s daughter and kept most of her questions to herself, no doubt to churn around and come out with once they had grown into bigger, more complex questions. I knew not to rush her, she would come to me when she was ready, I just reassured her that everything was ok. And that while it was ok to feel sad and to miss Mammy, Sila and Daddy were safe and nobody else was going away.
We were so tired than night that we both slept in late the next morning and while I rushed to get her to preschool we were met by Winnie outside the neighbouring school.
“You must be, Sila,” she smiled. “Running a little late today, are we?”
Sila smiled and waved as I rushed us on and excused us apologetically. To which of course Winnie nodded and waved us on. When I returned to my car I saw Winnie waiting for me and just then I realised that I had hoped she would be. It wasn’t a romantic feeling, just a gladness, an appreciation of acknowledgment.
“Winnie, I want to thank you. When we spoke yesterday it was the first time that I ever opened up about Ola and it had a big effect on me. It really helped.”
“I’m very glad to hear that, Mister. You seem like a very decent man. How are you holding up now?”
“How about this time I buy you a coffee and we’ll talk about it.”
“Em, I should tell you something. My full title is actually Sister Winnie.”
“I know. I don’t look it. But yes, I’m a nun.”
“I’ve never met a nun before. You do still drink coffee, right?”
“That I do, friend. I just wanted to make sure you knew. But I can’t right now, I’m on the clock. How about tomorrow morning? On time, that is, Mister.”
It was the first time that I’d joked with a friend since I could remember and it felt so uplifting. I sailed through my day filled by a comfort that had become all too alien. When I collected Sila and we had dinner and played I didn’t even think about Winnie. It was just nice to have someone be kind to me without pitying me. Winnie was open and I liked that there was no sexual tension. I was just easy.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey