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It Has To Be Red
"She wants to be a singer, have her own band and travel the world" I told my mother as she sat staring out the window of the nursing home. "I have tried talking her out of it of course but she thinks she knows it all, so typical of teenagers today" I sigh. Mum doesn't say anything. "Me and Bill always thought she would be a nurse. Remember mum how she used to bandage up her dolls and teddy bears and line them up as if they were in a hospital?" Mum looks down at her lap where her red care bear lays. I think she believes I am talking about her. How would I know what mum thinks any more. Dementia is a cruel disease. I never know if mum is going to remember who I am from one day to the next. Today she hasn't said a word and I am concerned she has slipped even further away from me. She is caressing the satin rainbow heart on the bears tummy, over and over, back and forth with her thumb, much like a child in need of comfort would do.
I move my chair closer to her and put my arm around her but she shoves me away and becomes agitated. It takes a huge effort to not feel hurt but I know that I am a stranger to her today and that I must not take this personally. I instead reach over and turn her music on, Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits, and mum's foot starts tapping and she begins to hum. A miracle is needed to find a cure for Dementia before my mum's time runs out.
Mum's Favourite Colour
The cure never came and mum's time ran out much too soon. That had been the last day she tapped her foot to a song or lifted her eyes to look at my face. Eventually she stopped caressing the care bear too. Layla sang at the service for mum 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. She insisted on wearing red because that had been her Nan's favourite colour. From the shoes and necklaces she loved to wear to the little car she drove red was, as she often told us, 'the best colour to boost one's confidence'. Layla's aunties had flipped out over her colour choice believing the only colour for a funeral was black. But that was Layla, she loved being individual and unpredictable. Afterwards at the wake she insisted everyone tell a story about mum and eventually the sombre mood lifted and people were laughing about mums sometimes strange and eccentric ways. Like the time she made our older brother John, ask for sanitary napkins at the chemist because we were all laid up with some flu-bug and couldn't leave the house. The silly bugger had asked for napkins and been sold paper ones with Happy Birthday on them. Mum had been furious and made him go back and get the proper ones.
Layla Singing at a Restaurant
Layla's First Love
Layla started dating boys much later than her friends. She was seventeed when she confessed to me there was a guy she would like us to meet, his name was Justin. Justin was polite and very talkative but I saw through his constant chatter. He was nervous around Bill and I. Even after they had been dating for over a year Justin was still nervy. His eyes were constantly darting here and there and he often scratched at the back of his neck. Bill said I was blowing things out of proportion. Bill liked him, but I had my suspicions.
To add to my suspicions I realised I had seen Justin's father Benny before. The large department store I worked for had his picture, among other shoplifters, on the office noticeboard along with a warning to alert security if they were ever seen in the store. Justin's father was a well known shoplifter in the area and this fact did not sit well with me. Benny, and Jill, Justin's step mother both appeared charming when Bill and I were invited to their home for dinner and I knew on being introduced that I recognised his face. It wasn't until I returned to work that I realised who he really was. I struggled with telling Layla what I knew about Benny and Bill was adamant I should say nothing. he said Justin should not be held accountable for his fathers behaviour, and I did agree with that however this was our daughter,after all.
I said nothing. Layla was happy and I didn't want anything to change that. She had entered talent competitions and was even finding some paid work singing at a local restaurant. Always the one who loved being individual, much to her fathers disapproval, she started campaigning for animal rights, gave up eating meat and dairy and managed to persuade many of her friends to do the same. She was loving life, but then one night it all changed.
You'll Never Walk Alone
Love Turns Sour
One night Layla was way past being late home from a date with Justin. I was just about ready to go and look for her when Justin's car screeched to a stop outside and I heard a car door slam. I froze as our front door swung open and in came Layla red eyed from crying. "I know I'm late mum...sorry, please don't ask me questions, I can't deal right now". She raced to her room and closed the door.
The next morning I went to her room to remind her she had an appointment and found her still dressed from the night before, crying into her pillow. I sat with her for a long time and eventually she told me Justin had told her he didn't want to see her any more. I started to say that there would be plenty of opportunity to find Mr Right but she shook her head and said Justin was the love of her life and she was going to get him back.
Weeks passed and Layla's efforts to talk with Justin failed time and again. She had seen him with another girl at the university they both attended and this had upset Layla even further. She became inconsolable and depressed. I booked her in to see our doctor but she refused to go. It seemed there was nothing I could do to help her. Then one morning there was a man being interviewed on television about his upcoming tour as a medium. Layla was on the lounge, her second favourite spot to cocoon herself and said "mum I have to go see this man. I need to get in touch with nan". I knew better than to talk her out of it, she had always shown an interest in the unusual, the spiritual, the eclectic lifestyle. She had lost interest in singing and learning to play guitar and didn't want to see her friends so this seemed to be a good sign. At least she was showing an interest in something again, so I bought tickets for us both.
There were at least two hundred people in the hall, a packed house. I didn't like our chances of being singled out amongst so many people and I worried that Layla emotional state would spiral further downward if Nan refused to play the game.
I believed in the spirit world having had a spiritual visit from my grandfather after he had died. I had woken suddenly in the early hours of the morning to see him sitting on the end of my bed. He held a ring of sentimental value he had given me for my 16th birthday that I had since lost. I was still half asleep when he said "its in the grass under the clothesline" then he was gone. I had crept downstairs, my heart pounding at what had just happened, feeling quite uncertain that my ring would be where he had said. It was still dark so I grabbed a torch and tiptoed across the wet grass to the clothesline. On my hands and knees I shone the torch around the base of the pole where the long grass never connected with the mower blades and to my delight and pure amazement there was my ring.
The crowd hushed as the medium, Stephen DeSilva, we had seen on t.v introduced himself and immediately began telling particular people in the crowd that loved ones had messages for them. Everyone was enthralled, there were people crying with happiness on hearing personal details conveyed to them as proof that their loved ones were still watching over them.
"There is a young girl in the audience tonight who is unhappy...very unhappy..something to do with a boyfriend..um, does the colour red have any significance to anyone here" he asked as he moved closer to our section. Layla didn't give up any information, she was waiting to make certain I think. "I am being directed to this area" he says as he scans the crowd. Then he points to Layla and says "You sang a song at this lady's funeral...something to do with walking...this lady is showing me.... she is walking....oh walking alone? This is your grandmother?" he asks Layla. I glance at her and there are tears rolling down her cheeks and she is nodding her head. "Your grandmother wants you to know that it's okay to be sad but don't be sad for too long. She misses hearing you sing. She also adds you are to say yes when you are asked to sing tomorrow and to wear red" And with that he went to move on to the next message recipient. "Can you ask my nan something?" she boldly asked Stephen. "Can you ask her if Justin loves me?" Stephen paused as if listening or seeing something no one else could. "There is someone else waiting with much more love to give you, she says to open your heart"
The Red Dress
On the way home Layla was bubbling with excitement over having heard from her nan and It was wonderful to see her so happy again. Bill was his usual sceptical self when we told him about out night but Lyla's good mood did not waver. "Oh daddy, lighten up, how could a complete stranger know all of these things, you just don't want to admit there might be some truth to spooks" she laughed. I was relieved that mum had given Layla such good advice about Justin, perhaps she might be able to move forward now.
At work the next day my boss Tracy asked to see me in her office. I wondered fleetingly if it had anything to do with Benny but I soon forgot about that when I opened her office door and saw two strangers there. Tracy introduced them as friends of her son Daniel. Tim and Gavin were about Layla's age and they stood to shake hands with me. "Tim and I were at the show last night and like I know this is a bit off the wall but we have a band that has an important gig on the week-end at some rich dudes party and our lead singer has lost her voice. Tim recognised you from working here and we were wondering....hearing that your daughter can sing,... well actually we recognise her from uni too, and we are kind of desperate" he rambled. "You were there. you heard the message from her nan, I'm certain the answer will be yes but here" I said as I dialled home, "you can ask her yourself" To my disbelief when Gavin handed my phone back they told me the answer from Layla had been no. I told them she had lost a bit of confidence but I would talk to her when I got home from work.
"Please just listen to me Layla and don't say anything till I've finished" I began. "I know why you said no to Gavin's offer, I understand that your confidence hasn't returned since the break-up but it will. Your Nan chose you to give a message to, not me, or any of your aunties, just you! Now she always said that red was for confidence, she also said last night that she missed hearing you sing. Please think about it sweetheart.
The next morning she greeted me with "Can you take me shopping? I'm going to need a new dress" She had phoned Gavin to arrange rehearsals with the band. Standing outside her favourite shop she turned to me with a big smile and said "I hope they have what I'm looking for because you know it has to be red"