Elder Series – Alone

M Dawn Thacker has compiled a series of short stories about elders, their experiences aging, and the challenges they face. M Dawn continues her series with Alone…

 

“I’m all alone, honey, all alone. I’ll tell you the truth. I was the sickest child born to my family and I’m the onliest one left in this world. My Mama had the flu when she gave birth to me. That’s why I was born in the hospital. Puny little thing, they said, carried me around on a pillow for three months.”

“The Lord must have a reason for you to be here, then.”

“I’m not sure what that reason is, child. Sometimes I go and sit with sick folk. I stayed with my Mama, you know, stayed with her and took care of her until she passed. She was real sick. At the end she couldn’t even get up out the bed, just laid there, looking up at the ceiling, like she was watching for God to come down from the light. Every once in a while, I’d look up there just to see if she was studying on something I might see.”

“Sick people do that sometimes you know. They focus on something that the rest of us can’t see. I wonder if they’re seeing someone who’s gone on over before, like their Mama or Daddy. Maybe their Daddy is holding his hand out, reaching, wanting to take them over to the other side. It’d be nice if someone was sent to help you over, guide you in the right direction. I’ve wondered about that.”

“Maybe so, maybe so. My Mama went peaceful. I was with her when she took her last breath, holding her hand, talking to her about my Daddy, and in between, reciting her favorite Bible passages, the twenty third psalm, John 3:16, those comforting words she loved. I sang Amazing Grace to her. That was her favorite hymn. She was sleeping. Her breathing wasn’t even. It was kind of like she’d take fits and spurts, short breaths and then long times between them. I remembered her talking about how my Grandma passed. How she did and then didn’t breathe. Mama took one real long breath in, let it out and didn’t take another one. That was it. I guess the Lord called her home just at that moment.”

“It was good of you to be with your Mama ‘til the end, not to put her in a nursing home, leave her to the care of strangers. That’s a pitiful shame, to do that to someone.”

“My Mama took care of me when I was little, raised me up and did right by me, showed me right from wrong and taught me what I needed to know to make it in this world. It was the least I could do for her, take care of her at the last. She’d of done the same for me. Yes she would. You know after my Mama passed, it was like the whole family fell apart, different ones started dropping, one after the other.”

“Oh no.”

“Yes Lord, that’s the way it happened. It was tough times, but when the Lord calls you home, you don’t have a choice, you gotta go. You know, our family was close, real close. We stuck together through thick and thin. I think after Mama left us, she got lonely for us up there all by herself, alone. She had fourteen children you know. There was fourteen of us. Whew, that was a houseful.”

“Houseful and spilled out to the barn, sounds like.”

“I could see my Mama up there at the Lords table with those fourteen empty chairs around her and my Daddy’s place at the head of the table empty too. She would have cried, lonely as she could be, wishing for some company, someone to cook for. My baby sister passed next. She was the one living in Washington State. You know she played the piano. I sang and she played the piano, tore that thing up. She could make it talk.”

“You sang and she tore up the piano, huh?”

“Yes Lord. We were something in church on a Sunday morning. The rafters rattled and the chandeliers shook. My family took up two full pews in the East End Baptist Church. We might’ve been dusty during the week, but we were spit shined and squeaky clean on Sunday morning. My Mama and Daddy made sure of it.”

“Yeah, us too. We might’ve run ragged during the week, but we shined on Sunday. Went home after service, hung up our good clothes, had a big meal, fried chicken, potato salad, green beans cooked with fat back, candied yams, homemade rolls, chess pie and pound cake. Souls and bellies full, we visited with family the rest of the day. Everybody came to Mama’s house. Even after the children left home, they came back to Mama’s on Sunday . Sunday was family day.

“People don’t have big families like they used to. One or two children, different ones scattered all over the place. I wasn’t blessed with no children, but if I could, I’d a had a house full. Helped raise up some of my nieces and nephews, but they’ve scattered too. Used to be, folks stayed close to home, were there for each other when times got hard. In 1973, I lost my Daddy, two of my brothers and three of my sisters. It was a year, we didn’t think we’d ever get through. It seemed like we had one funeral right after another. Felt like we filled up the entire church cemetery that year, lined up, one Johnson headstone after another. But the rest of us who were left, we were there for each other. We didn’t have to face it alone.”

“Sad year, yes it must have been, six in one year. I can’t imagine it, just can’t. How did the rest of you survive it?”

“Honey, only the Lord can carry you through times like that, only your trust in the Lord, that’s what got us through, only the Lord. Never had another year like it, lost brothers and sisters one at a time after that. Each one was hard, but didn’t smother you under like that year when we lost six. Tough times. Don’t get no harder than that. Now it’s just me, the onliest one left. Don’t look forward to much anymore. Nobody to share it with. Only wish I knew who was going to be with me when I take my last breath, just wish I knew.”

 

Alone © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Read M Dawn’s latest on Now.readthisplease.com and check back for the next story in her Elder Series.

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