I have been helping Lydia and her late husband, Edwin for many years with their computers and internet. I would often drop in for a cup of tea and a chat just to see how they were going. A traditional old English couple. They enjoyed art, books, tea and conversation. Edwin was a very religious man, he enjoyed his garden and shed, always working on projects to help Lydia. His health was fading when I met him for the first time. Lydia would spend her days looking after Edwin and painting landscapes. Her easel and paints, canvas and brushes on display in the spare bedroom, her creative space.
When Edwin passed, I was worried about Lydia. She seemed to be alone. Our conversations changed to community care visits. I just knew if Lydia was well enough to talk, she would get through anything. Even if it was just complaining about her situation, while she was talking about it she would be OK.
Lydia’s calls became less frequent, she seemed to be getting into a new routine. When I did visit, Lydia seemed older and less mobile. Still coping on her own but the loneliness was showing on her face. Lydia’s grief counsellor suggested that Lydia write down how she was feeling and continue with her journal. Sometimes talking about the way you feel can help, and if you don’t have anyone to talk to regularly, you should write your feelings down and then you can bring all your feeling up the next time you meet.
It was Thursday morning. My schedule was full. Lots of running around picking things up, dropping things off and getting things done. My days are full of distressed people needing my help. I am the local tech support guy. The go-to guy when anything is broken. It is very rare that I get a call from someone to say G’day or thanks. Usually, the conversation starts will, “Waz, I need your help”.
Today was different because this story starts yesterday.
At 7 pm Wednesday, the phone rang, “Mrs Penn” came up on caller ID. “Hi Lydia, how can I help?” I said. “Oh, I’m in a spot of bother and I wonder if you could help me”, said Lydia. “Of course”, I said. Not knowing what was wrong or worried about the request that was coming. I just figured I would work it out. “I have had a falling out with the carer that takes me shopping and I wonder if you could help, I know you were doing that Uber thing and thought you might be able to take me to the shops, I’ll pay you for it,” said Lydia. Of course, I’ll take you, you don’t have to pay me, I am happy to help”, I said. “No, No, this has to be a business transaction so I can call on you again, if you won’t let me pay you, I can’t do it,” said Lydia. “Ok”, I said. The minimum Uber transaction for me was about $9.00. I pay my son Coops pocket money of $10.00 per week, so if you pay Coops $10.00, I’ll pick you up, take you shopping and bring you home every Thursday morning. “Oh Warren, I may not need it every week, but that would be wonderful,” said Lydia.
Thursday Morning Checklist:
- Get out of Bed
- Get ready for work
- Take my bride to the bus stop
- Take the boy to school
- Visit Lydia
Each Thursday morning, I would drop Coops to school and drive over to Lydia’s house to take her shopping. Lydia was always waiting at the door with her $10.00 in her hand to pay me before she would get into the car. We would chat about the family and our new kitchen renovations, Lydia loved to be in the kitchen, cooking her pears and preparing her meals.
Today would be different.
We navigated the hustle and bustle of our poorly planned local shopping centre to find a spot close to Coles. I try to get as close as possible so Lydia doesn’t have far to walk. I grabbed a small trolley, it is Lydia’s preferred and set out behind Lydia down an aisle. Still spritely for her age, slightly curved and disheveled, not happy to be there, she saw the shopping as a chore that had to be done, not a pleasant departure for the day. We visited Coles and Aldi’s, searching for the best value in veges and sauce. Very thrifty, getting value for every dollar, which is necessary for our pensioners today. Finishing up at the bank and the post office to pay her bills.
I loaded the car and navigated our return to Lydia’s for tea. I carry the groceries inside and place them on an old wooden trolley that Edwin made, standing in the middle of the kitchen. I turned Lydia’s computer on, so I could help her with her emails. In our conversations, Lydia had mentioned keeping a diary of her entire life and also having the diary of her father. I was fascinated, so much history kept away from the world. A personal view of life that has seen so many changes. “You need to write some stories”, I said. “How did you know I could write” Lydia replied. “I didn’t”, I said. “I just assumed that a person that has kept a diary there entire life would be able to put pen to paper and create a great story, I know you are creative I can see it in your paintings.”, I said.
Conceived less than 5 days before, on a coffee table with steaming black tea, white sugar and a single silver spoon. Lydia Penn was reborn. She blessed this world with more than 80 years experience. Ready to touch the hearts of thousands with her stories.
Prior to Lydia’s rebirth, she was an aged, fragile woman, lacking purpose and waiting to join the minions of community aged care members. Ready for imprisonment in the cells of despair, with very little to imagine or dream about. That’s how Lydia described the aged care system in our country.
Lydia is unable to use the computer well enough to write her stories. She works better with pencil and paper. But the funny problem was that Lydia couldn’t read her own writing. She warned me about this early, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to work it out either.
Thursday morning came around and I again dropped Coops off to school and visited Lydia for her morning shopping. After about an hour and 30 minutes, we were back at Lydia’s, sitting at the dining room table, ready to have tea. A white plastic document folder was on the table with 6 sheets of A4 paper, each filled, and numbered with a dark pencil. The top of the page was the title: “Travails of a trolley”, by Lydia Penn.
“I have finished my first story,” said Lydia. It has taken a few edits to get right, but I think it will be OK.”
I was excited to read it. I didn’t know what to expect. I had not read anything Lydia had written before. The look on her face was total satisfaction. I was seeing for the first time a lady that was proud of herself and confident that she had taken the first step on a new path. I was convinced that I was witnessing something monumental.
I started reading a descriptive short story of Lydia and Edwin traveling with luggage that seems to have a life of its own. The story was not about their trip but about the luggage. I was fascinated and compelled to get to the end to find out what happened. “Wow, what a great job. Well done!”. I said. “Give me a few days, I will type it up and create a website to put everything online. We can add some advertising. Over time your stories can become little digital assets that can earn some income for you. You never know you could become a published author, earning a living from writing stories. “I don’t understand all this website stuff or the advertising, but it seems very exciting,” said Lydia.
I created a domain named https://inflection.cloud. An inflection is a significant change to the story that is told. I created this domain for 2 reasons, first, it was available, second, it symbolizes the change in Lydia. That point in time, over tea and the dining room table that took a frail old lady to a confident person with a purpose. The significant change is how Lydia now sees the world. As an Author! Lydia now has a purpose. As an author, Lydia spends her time researching her next story, editing and writing the current story, reviewing and promoting her old story. This small change in attitude has affected everyone around her. The relationship with her son has started on new terms, they now have something to talk about.
I look forward to every Thursday when I get to be part of the inflection.
True Story by Warren Moore.
The Story of Lydia Penn