A long time ago, they used to spend their balmy summer days as lovers by the lakeside. One day he ran to the lake to see her floating there, her white dress stained red. He dove into the lake and drew her up and held her in his arms. She opened her eyes, with a look that showed first surprise, then a dawning realisation that mirrored his relief, that she was OK, she was just menstruating. Two weeks later I was conceived.
The war came and took a little of their innocence, and as the years wore on they bore witness to all the great changes of the 20th century. The city called; they had children, bought a house; and did all of those things you do; staying loyal to each other through the memories of those long days by the lake faded.
In her final years, she developed dementia. Now the look on her face betrayed nothing, meeting only his sadness as he continued to care for her. Myself also entering my later years, I took them back to the lake. On a summer’s day, it shimmered in the distance, piercing through the haze of memories, relatively unscathed by the passage of time. I left them there to have a moment together. From the distance, as I allowed myself to steal a glance at my beloved parents, I saw her turn to him. Through the haze, I thought I noticed a look of dawning realisation on her face, and a smile. She took his hand and he hers, and they walked to the edge of the lake.
By the time I had reached them, they were drifting there. This time it was too late for a handsome tanned man to rush down through the trees to the edge and dive in to save a tender-faced young woman, who now seems so incredibly young.
On their old faces I think I saw a look of bittersweet nostalgia, as they rested together, holding each other, gently rocking in the water.
– Jan Gerhards
– Evie Pardoe (photo)