Sex on ThursdaysJan Orman
"Have you noticed how much happier Dad seems to be these last few weeks?”
Bill looked up from the paper with the blankest look he could muster as Myra bustled in the door with the groceries. “You must have noticed! He’s even shaving and he told me today that he was planning to go back to bridge.” Bill smiled to himself but said nothing, not trusting himself to speak. She was used to his silence so she just carried on.
“I have to say I don’t know what I think about it. On the one hand I’m really pleased – it’s time he tried to have a life without Mum – but on the other it feels wrong. Part of me thinks he should grieve for her forever."
That’s what he’d always loved about Myra. She was totally honest and full of very human contradictions. Who, for example, seeing her sweet face, her soft white curls and her plump matronly body, would ever believe she liked sex so much! Bill could only count his blessings on that score.
“At least it gets me off the hook a bit” Myra sighed. “I might not have to visit quite as often. My garden is a mess - I need to fix it up before Christmas. I think some of my friends have forgotten what I look like.”
Widowed at 72 after a marriage that lasted more than 50 years, Myra’s father had suffered badly with the grief. For almost a year he had hidden himself from view, hoping to die. For much of that time he had sat in his lounge room in the dark, refusing visitors, only managing to shower and eat when Myra or Bill appeared to make him do so. At the six month mark he had shown more signs of life. Bill noticed that sometimes when he arrived for his turn to visit on Thursdays the paper had been already read and occasionally the crossword in Wednesdays paper had a few answers in it as well. It was such a slow process! Myra was beginning to get desperate. A nursing home was definitely not on the agenda but Myra was worn out and worn down. Something had to give pretty soon or she would fall apart.
It was the new home nurse that gave Bill the idea. She was sweet and chirpy and the short skirt of her uniform seemed to make something of an impact on old George. (It had certainly made an impact on Bill.) Bill knew then what old George needed.
On her second Thursday Bill asked the nurse if she would like to earn a little more money by spending an extra hour or so with the old boy. "He could do with a little loving kindness" was the way Bill chose to put it – with appropriate emphasis on the “loving” part that the girl, thank God, seemed to understand without further explanation. She couldn't do it herself, she'd said, but her friend Bianca was working her way through Uni and was always happy to do that sort of thing. She’d get Bianca to give him a call.
Bill was worried. Bianca sounded OK on the phone but what if she wasn't George’s type? The nurse was clearly George’s type from what Bill could see, but Bianca could be any type. He hoped she wasn't too whorish for George’s taste - it occurred to him that really he didn't know a lot about George’s taste - but he tried to console himself with the thought that beggars couldn't really be choosers, especially old beggars. Nevertheless he was racked with doubt and anxiety that did not subside until he saw Bianca for himself.
The following Thursday Holly, the nurse, and Bianca arrived together and, to Bill’s relief, the two girls were peas from the same pod. If anything Bianca was even cuter and Bill’s mind kept wandering off to the possibility of the two of them together. He thought of Myra and nipped the idea firmly in the bud. “No point in torturing yourself thinking about what you can’t have” he told himself firmly.
Bill and the nurse left Bianca with George, she stayed with him for an hour and then left. George’s improvement began immediately.
That’s how they continued. Bianca would arrive with Holly on Thursdays, help with the nursing duties then Bill and Holly would leave George and Bianca to it. Bill gave both girls their money each week and spent a lot of time imagining what might have happened on his way home.
After a few weeks Bill noticed that George had found his reading glasses and was engrossed in one book or another each time he arrived. He began to engage Bill in discussion about current affairs and even asked Bill to arrange for him to get some regular transport to the library. Bill was bemused, but did not argue. He couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read when they had a perfectly good television to watch with loads of sport on cable TV. He offered to take George to the video shop instead but the old man insisted on the library.
It occurred to Bill that maybe the old man was trying to impress Bianca. She was a uni student after all. Maybe all that loving had him in its grip. He asked Myra about George and the library and she just said she was pleased that he was going back to his old interests, so maybe it wasn't Bianca’s doing after all.
Gradually George needed less and less help from the family and by December he had recovered so much that he announced that he was going on a cruise. Myra and Bill were thunderstruck. It seemed that Bianca had persuaded him that he still had time to enjoy life and do some of the things he had always wanted to do.
Bill thought it was strange that George had never talked to him about the sex. Anyone would think it hadn't happened but Bill knew that there was no other explanation for George’s recovery. He tried once to bring the subject up but George seemed strangely vague about it. Even Bianca didn't seem to understand what he was talking about when he tried to broach the subject with her.
When they went to see George off on his cruise Bianca and Holly came too. Bill was struck again by the similarity of their appearance especially now that Holly was out of uniform. They were both petite with many earrings, short boyish hair cuts, scruffy jeans and t-shirts and big lace up boots that made them look like they were off for a bushwalk. Myra thought they made a “cute couple” and Bill wasn't quite sure what she meant. It was only when Bill started to notice George’s fellow passengers that something finally struck him. Maybe it had been hovering at the edges of his consciousness for a little while but it was the tanned and toned young men that were boarding the ship in pairs that made him finally realise what was going on.
In shock he heard George say to Myra “I promised your mother that I would do this for myself one day. I was so scared when she died. I knew I’d have to keep my promise. If it wasn't for Bianca here I would never have been able to do it. She will make a great little psychologist one day”
Interestingly, Myra didn't even look surprised.