And there came a time in her twilight years, where she found herself both lonesome and alone. Emily sat day after day in her wheelchair, her red and black checked blanket arranged across her lap. In the stillness of her room, she stared inadvertently out the window, lost in her thoughts, tortured by her memories. The tiny apartment located on the first floor of a senior assisted living building, was filled with but a handful of all the “things” she had acquired through the years; a photo album, a crystal vase, a silver framed photograph of her darling Peter and a few useless knick-knacks scattered about the silent, hollow room. Quite a disappointment she concluded, after a lifetime of chasing the American dream and the almighty dollar.
The snowy, winter days of December seemed to be the hardest to endure. Around her, families celebrated the holidays in warm, cozy homes filled with Christmas, family and tradition. Emily, however, remained in this prison chamber, struggling to recall the days of her youth. She thought she had been in love a time or two until the spring of her twenty third year, when she’d found Peter, the absolute love of her life. They had met on campus one sunny afternoon and their lives were forever changed. He was her prince, a kind and generous companion, with whom she thought all things were possible. Peter studied English and Literature, while she immersed herself in the university’s business/finance program. Their love was immediate and intense and they found themselves married shortly after graduation.
Everything seemed perfect. They set off for Chicago to begin careers in their chosen field. Peter taught English Composition at a highly regarded suburban high school, while Emily joined a fortune 500 company and began racing along the corporate fast track, headed for the top. Her personal life was put on hold, for fear of losing momentum and all efforts were focused on her career. Things screeched to a halt, however, when quite unexpectedly, a beautiful little girl with twinkling blue eyes and hair, the color of sunshine fell into their lives. Emily was forced to take some time off to love and nurture this unforeseen, yet precious gift who was named Victoria. A year had not yet passed when Emily began to feel the itch and silently, she craved the excitement of her chosen career. Peter, dear sweet Peter, sensed her unhappiness and left his teaching job behind to care for Victoria while Emily chased her dreams.
Up before dawn, six and often seven days a week, Emily slipped silently out of the house while her little family slept. She returned late in the evening, usually after Victoria had fallen back to sleep. Peter tried to be understanding but after years of loneliness and broken promises, his support turned to angry tolerance, and his patience to exasperation. Victoria grew up and Peter grew tired. He packed a suitcase and left Emily the day their daughter went away to college.
Emily had gone on to become CEO of her company which resulted in a rather uneventful celebration at home, alone that evening where she toasted herself, with a glass of expensive wine and a bag of stale Cheetos. She had never felt so utterly abandoned and alone, not until today.
Victoria stopped by every now and again with a coffee cake or sugar cookies from the bakery around the corner. Sometimes she brought a bouquet of flowers which she slipped into the crystal vase, where they would remain, until brown and brittle, eventually crumbling to the table below. Having such a busy life, Victoria could never stay long and the visits became shorter and less frequent as time went on. Emily could not be surprised; much less angry, for this was her fate, her karma, her destiny. Victoria had learned by example and her mentor, had of course, been her own mother, Emily.
Sitting there alone, waiting for a stranger to roll her downstairs to the dining room, she thought of Peter and longed to see his smile. Emily picked up the silver frame from the table and stared at the old and faded photograph. She clutched it tightly to her heart and cried. She had held the greatest treasure in life for a time and carelessly let it slip away. It was with great regret that Emily came to realize the importance of family and the value of time. The money and possessions meant nothing now, as she sat here abandoned in this solemn purgatory, where she found herself suspended between a wasted life and an eventual death. If only she had realized sooner that although time was free, time was also priceless.