I came across this story I had written some time ago. As many might remember our homestead down in Birmingham burned to the ground a few tears ago.
But, when my Mom was deathly ill and I lived in Wyoming< I received a call from my brother at the club I was playing at in Thermopolis, Wyoming...It was Jim. He said," Norm, Mom's dying, come home."
I could hear my Mom calling my name as she lay in the Hospital. Mom always told me that she wanted to die in her home, not some dam(n) impersonal hospital. My Dads Mom and Dad lived with us when they became too old to care for their selves. My grandmother on my Moms side spent her last 12 or maybe even more years than that, at my Aunt and Uncles down at Birmingham. That's the way it was done back then and I believe it is still the best way today. Why should our loved ones that raised us, loved us, spent a great deal of their lives caring for us, suddenly be shipped to some impersonal utility to live out their last days. I say days to illustrate that I firmly believe that their lives are shortened so much by being shipped off to nursing homes and real homes add years to their lives and add to the quality of ours. Pop Leeper was 94 and 1/2 when he passed at our home Gramma was in her early 80s.
Mom told me, perhaps only me and Dad that she wanted to die at home, like she should... But she waited too long, or not long enough.
Anyway, there I was in November. walking through the freezing Wyoming night. I remember at the on ramp in Sheridan, Wyoming, kneeling beside my old red suitcase as i tried, unsuccessfully to gain some measure of relief from that tearing wind.
Later that night I walked seven miles through the freezing, star lit night in South Dakota before some nice person took pity on my plight.
The next night , I stood on an entrance ramp in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, praying for a ride. I saw a semi slow down as he passed me and the air brakes sounded loud in the night air. I walked quickly towards the truck before I realized that traffic had stopped for some reason and he wasn't stopping for me. I drop kicked my red suitcase right out into the slow lane, muttering words I seldom used.
I saw the driver putting something in the front of the flat bed as I passed him.. He looked over and said, "Well, you need a ride or not?" Evidently he saw my circus trick with the suitcase and felt I needed some help. I told him of my situation and upon hearing why I was hitching from Wyoming to Penna and that I was a former driver myself, kept in radio contact with other drivers , finding me rides clean to Penna.
My last ride dropped me off at the Tyrone exit, and after 2000 miles of walking/riding, I stepped off the lane onto the main road into Tyrone and my brother picked that moment in time to drive right past me. I saw his eyes go to the mirror, widen, then the truck screeched to a stop and he grabbed me and embraced me right there.
I go to tell my Mom goodbye and that I loved her, but I never could do anything about letting her die at home.
Years later, while attending the Univ of Wyoming, I wrote this story for my Creative writing class. I simply sat down an hour before class and wrote it.
My Instructor asked if she could put it in the school paper. I said yes and promptly forgot about it..
I recently ran across it again a couple days ago.
I had decided to allow my Mom to die at home as she so fervently wished. But, because it was just a story, I took a few liberties with it. I hope you like it.
A Death In The House:
There was a death in the house and it troubled the old house greatly. There had been other deaths there in the past, it was you see a very old house, but this one was different. This one was the lady of the house and she had been a good one. Few, over the years had even the slightest hint that there was more to the old house than was readily seen. But, the lady of the house had known, though over the last hundred and twelve years there had been only a very few who had known or suspected.
She had loved the old house and had raised her children there and shared those years with the Man of the house. He was a good one too and it was rare for the house to have two good ones there at the same time. These had been good years and the old house had been content.
But now the kids were mostly grown and most had left and the house was almost as sad and lonely as the Man of the house. There was a time not so long ago, when the rooms rang with the laughter and the cluttered noise of the children, and friends and neighbors were always present. Relatives were a common presence also, but, again, that was then and this was now.
The Man of the house was alone now, even with all the kids and neighbors and family that were in the house. He walked aimlessly throughout the house, picking up this item and laying it down, then moving into another room and doing it again. There was a deep sorrow within the man and nothing anyone said or did made the slightest dent in that hurt. The table was piled high with food and every light was on. The conversation and traffic through the house only amplified the silence everywhere else.
The other houses across the way and on either side felt the sadness of the house and wished it well, though secretly, they were grateful that the death in the house hadn’t happened there.
It was indeed a sad day within the house and who was to say what was running down the corners of the panes wasn’t rain or the tears of the old place. The wind made the house creak and moan which only added to the sadness throughout..
Soon, but not soon enough for the man of the house and the children who had stayed over, the company had left and the old house grew slowly quiet again. The passing of the Lady had come as an unexpected shock to everyone, though the house had sensed there was something terribly wrong with the Lady of the house. The old house had been awakened many nights to se the lady of the house moving restlessly on the old single bed in the living room where she had taken to spending most of her time. Though she hid her illness well, the Lady had great difficulty breathing late at night. Even so, it was a shock, even to the old house.
Over the many years others had passed away in the old house. Back then that was how it was done. Few went to hospitals and most were cared for in the home. Others had passed away there, but not all had left. This caused the house some concern over the many years. It had seen things that troubled it –just out of the corners of its panes, mind you. The old house didn’t really care for the ones that hadn’t left, for the most part. Oh, the Mother and father of the man of the house had passed on there, but only the Mother had remained, so far. She was welcome there, and the old house counted her as a friend.
But, some of the others.
The house was glad they weren’t there all the time and felt vaguely uneasy when they showed up. It was always somewhat of a shock whenever they did, and he was glad when he left. He always felt he should have more say in what happened there, because they always seemed to get some pleasure in scaring the younger ones who had lived there throughout the years.
The old Mother, who had stayed there after passing, kept the others away when she was present. She had been a good one also, kind and generous, and one with the Lord. The old father was with the Lord too, and had passed there too. He hadn’t been seen by any of the who lived there, though the house had seen him from time to time.
It was late in the house now, and quiet had settled in. The only sounds were the ones the old house had been making itself for these many years. Old sounds, comfortable sounds. The children had finally fallen asleep and finally, the Man of the house.
The house was watching carefully, even at this late hour, for he was old and needed little rest. Besides, he was thinking and hoping, even at this late hour.
Soon, out of the corner of his panes, he saw a movement in white. There was the Lady of the house, alone, moving on the night air through the hallways. Moving softly to the first doorway where the children slept, she turned to the old house and with a sad smile, held her finger to her lips. The old house shifted sadly and watched as the Lady of the house moved silently into the bedroom and bent over her children. With a touch lighter than the air in the house, she kissed each child and moved back into the view of the house. Sadness and love were in her face as she moved to the next room where the Man of the house slept fitfully. The lady of the house bent over her man and gently kissed his cheek and caressed his furrowed brow.
With a soft moan the Man of the house reached up in his sleep and called “Barb”, then turned over and slept quietly.
The lady of the house then moved out of sight of the old house. The house was stilled filled with sadness, but at least he knew the lady of the house would be there from time to time. It wasn’t the same; it would never be the same again.
But for the old house it would be enough…..
A place for Short Stories, fiction or non. Please be sure to credit all sources if they are not your own.
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