Day 20 – This piece was inspired by a dream I had, probably subconciously thinking about the cruise ship in Italy right now, and for some reason, the woman in my dream was Kate Winslet acting… not only are my dreams random but there’s actually actors in them, like my own personal movie; so strange (but pretty cool). Oh, and the story is very close to the dream I had, with only a few tweeks, I didn’t just watch Titanic. Hope you like it…
The year was 2004; a pretty unremarkable year for me personally, well, except for one remarkable lady who entered and vacated my life at this time. Our story as friends is only a piece of flash fiction, rather than several chapters of a novel, but I’ll never forget the wit and wisdom she shared with me, or the pure loveliness of her.
Her name was Ethel. I met her when I was volunteering my spare time at a residential home, helping to entertain and provide companionship to the elderly. It did take her a while to come out of her shell when I would sit with her in her room, but when she did, she regaled me with her stories. Living through World War I, life as an army nurse during World War II, witnessing the moon landings, and multiple presidents being shot; where she was and what she doing during the recent history of the USA and personal stories of her husband and children.
She really opened up to me; the staff there at the home were really pleased that someone had managed to get through to her. She’d never spoken to them like she did with me and I think most of the staff thought she was a lost cause, not bothering to be social, just waiting for death to take her from this earth.
But I know that she wasn’t actually waiting for death. She was holding out, refusing to die. This was because the frail 99 year old that I visited with had something about her that she wanted the world to believe. She felt she was special and wanted someone to see that. I found this out when one day in mid-July, she said to me,
“You know… I was on board the Titanic, on one of the first lifeboats to be launched”
Before I could respond, she continued,
“I was also in the World Trade Centre, the North tower, when it got hit by those planes, I was only on the ground floor at the time, so I left immediately to avoid the chaos, not knowing how events would unfold. I was quite lucky really”
I looked at Ethel, not quite believing what she had just divulged to me, but looking into her eyes, I could tell she was telling the truth.
I asked her many questions about what she remembered of these events. Although it never occurred to ask what a then 96 year old woman was doing at the World Trade Centre.
“You actually believe me?” she asked
“Of course” I replied
“Oh good” she looked relieved, “everybody else I’ve told, didn’t believe me”
I went home that evening imagining what it would have been like on the titanic, you know, before it sank, all the glamour and majesty of it. When I got through my front door, I told my parents about the wonderful, lovely, special person that Ethel was, telling them that she must be the only person that can boast about being involved in two major events in history.
I went back to her the next day, hoping for more stories involving major events, maybe she had some kind of memorabilia or something I could look at.
The day wouldn’t pan out as I hoped though. Upon my arrival at the residential home, the staff at the desk where I signed in told me that Ethel had passed away; going to sleep, to never wake up again, shortly after I had left her. I was shocked and deeply saddened. I immediately left, wanting to be alone, but instead of going back home, I walked to ground zero. I looked around the site, thinking of Ethel being there on that fateful day and it occurred to me; Ethel had finally found someone who believed what she had about being special. With that she finally let go, comforted in knowing that someone on this earth didn’t write her off as just a crazy old woman.
It was then I decided to write a book in memory of this remarkable woman, writing down her stories as she had told them to me; making sure that everybody knew just how special she was.