ForeverMissed
Stories

Partly Together

Shared by Deborah Grate Bennett on May 11, 2011

Partly Together

The aging covered entrance that once grumbled at the relentless traffic pouring in and out suddenly remained motionless. Openings slowed to a few once-in-a-whiles, but there was still delight as long as Mama made her few strolls outside to pass on her uncovered secret. She had past her best, and not a soul in the world could do anything about it.
            She told her children several times, “The spirit lives on as long as you hold to Belief. And when Death stops survival in the known, life picks up where you left off with Belief guiding the way.”  Her saying meant a lot to her. She clasped Belief’s hand and held it tight. When she struggled to take breaths, she clinched the sheets. When she wrestled to turn over, she reached for the bedrail. When she fought with her stomach, she held it down. When grief attacked her mind, she flung words of Belief to impel it back.
            As soon as the will of yes was stronger than the word no, the battles slowly flagged a wave of defeat. She had an accident. No one saw it coming, but Fate assured, “it was accidentally on purpose.” After she learned about the invasions on her body, she refused to go outside the walls of her home. But one day, she took a chance. She decided to take a ride with Daddy, her husband and the only man she loved since she was old enough to love. He drove her around the little town of Loris, and each scene reawakened a memory. A smile escaped her lips, and she retold a story that collided with every background.
            They finally made their way to the oldest daughter’s house and Mama decided to go inside. She never went inside any of her children’s home although she visited them more than a few times. But that day was different. She took Chance by the hand, leaving Belief behind. She set her walker on the porch and eased up the four steps. She moved slowly inside the house and took a glance around.
            As soon as her spirit was pleased, she moved back to the porch, threw her walker on the ground, and proceeded to go down the steps. She made it to the third step and was about to move to the second when bam. She hit the ground. She quickly grabbed her right ankle and cradled it like a baby. The painful throbs sent shocking waves up and down her spine and tears soaked her ballooned sock. Her husband, who was very much smaller and way much older, lifted his hefty wife and carried her to the car. He took her to the emergency room and after the many days, weeks, and months of putting her ankle back together, the efforts still left her unable to walk. That day was the last time she needed a walker and the last time she went outside the house without the need to go.
            Fueled by the inner desire to live, she laid on the couch with her voluptuous body wedged between four fluffy pillows, two on each side and her head propped up by three more pillows. A cup filled with the purity of life was in her reach, but its closeness was too far-flung. A small nip was all her body needed to calm the waging war inside of her. Of all the things that could have happened, the one thing she never thought did. She tied Belief to a railroad track, and Chance, a fierce train, was speeding straight for it.
            Chance shredded her ability to walk, and her body was already torn. All she heard from the doctors was, “You’re a very sick woman.” Her sickness was not an illness cured by a pill or a shot, but the kind that broke her to pieces. Shattered her like an unseen train smacking a parked car. It was abrupt. It was painful. It was grave. But most of all, it was ripping her from the family she raised. It was splitting her from the man she loved. It was scratching out the life she knew.
            Terrified of what would become of her once her eyes were sealed, Mama often lay on the couch with her eyes widened and her mouth fastened. Although she stared at her children, then at the television, and then out into outer space, she trapped her feelings inside of her mouth and let them mingle with the little air she had left. She did not speak. She did not grin. She did not want to die.
            The stuffy, decaying porch cried the tears Mama held back. Paint chips and broken pieces of wood shed and slowly with the wind, they fell on the floor. The covering underneath was masked with clumped debris, trampled by each family member’s footstep. Although company came and went, the conversations from Mama were missing and the cracks in the porch made it known. It was the place Mama used as a retreat when she wanted to escape. It was the place Mama took her burdens. It was the place Mama held sacred. But lately, Mama was stuck on a couch unable to move.
            As the sun announced the presence of another day, the family began to gather at the old house where silence lived. Lynn, Mama’s baby girl, approached the porch with her baby girl planted on her hip. The little tot, who was not quite one, was cheezin’, squirmin’, and makin’ funny noises as her older sister tried to grab her feet. Lynn shifted the sippy cup from one hand to the other and reached for the screen door. When she tugged at it, the door pulled back and refused to open. Shifting the baby to the other hip, Lynn yanked at the door. And again, the door yanked back.
            “What in the world is wrong with this crazy door?” she blurted out loud. She motioned for her daughter Dabria to give it a try. Dabria, who was only ten but looked the age of a fifteen year old, tried to open the door and the screen door nearly knocked her down. She tugged, pulled, and yanked, but the foot of the door refused to let her in. It was stuck. It was willful. It was not budging.
            Lynn peeped through the holes in the screen and found Mama on the couch with her eyes shut. She knocked on the door like a rent man on the first of the month. After one last hard pound, she turned her head at the sound of an approaching vehicle. It was Mary in the Ford pickup that was passed down to her from Daddy. She pulled in the yard with her two boys loaded on the back. She parked the truck next to the house and forced open the squeaking door. The loud bang from the slam made the little tot in Lynn’s arms jump.
            “Why you jumpin’?” Mary asked as she approached the tot. “I scared you huh?”
            Grabbing the baby’s arms, Lynn said, “We can’t get in the house. The screen door won’t open.”
            “It’s probably locked. Let me try something right quick.” Mary reached inside the tiny, secret hole and tried to tap the lock. “Well, it’s not locked.” She positioned her body in front of Lynn and tried to force open the door. The door, stubbornly as before, would not open.
            “I don’t know what’s wrong.” Mary quickly backed away. “Is anybody in the house?”
            “I don’t think so. I’ve knocked and knocked, but no one will answer.”
            “Have you tried the back door?”
            “No, I didn’t think about the back door.”
            Mary and Dabria rushed around to the back of the house. Within seconds, they returned.
            “The back door is locked,” Mary said as she came back to the screen door. She made another attempt to open the door. But it would not open.
            Beating, pounding, and knocking, Mary would have awakened any and everyone inside the house, but no one responded. She peeped through the hole, like Lynn did earlier, and saw Mama lying on the couch in her peace mode.  
            “Do you think Mama’s alright?” Mary inquired. “She’s just lying there and with all this knocking, she’s not even moving.”
            Lynn went to her car with the baby still hanging on her hip. She opened the door and hotness puffed mist into her eyes. The car was steaming, too hot for a late fall morning. “Come here, Dabria.” She gestured. “Get the baby. I need for my hands to be free.”
            When Dabria held the baby in her arms and the tot smiled with satisfaction, Lynn approached the porch for another shot. She rubbed her hands together and grabbed the handle on the screen door.
            “You’re gonna open today.” She used her strength and full figured body to rear back. “Come on! Open!” With sweat popping and sliding down her forehead, Lynn tugged and pulled, but played a defeated game of tug of war. The door would not cave in. She peered through the screen at Mama, leaned on the door and cried, “Why won’t you let me in?”
            Mary pounced on the door like a cat and began scratching at the cracks, almost creating a rhythm. “Mama,” she yelled. “Mama, can you hear us?”
            “She ain’t moving, Mary. Something’s not right.”
            The clackety sound of an old vehicle touched the girl’s eardrums. They turned to spot Daddy in his long white Lincoln. He whipped the aged tin can into the driveway, parked, and stepped out with the oldest daughter and oldest son by his side. They drew near Lynn and Mary.
            “What y’all doing?” Daddy quizzed, removing his hat from his bald head.
            “Trynna get in this house,” Mary responded. “Mama’s on the couch, but she ain’t movin’.”
            “She ain’t movin’?”
            “No!” Lynn tried to remain calm. “She’s just lying there.”
            Daddy pressed his flimsy weight against the door and then pulled at the handle. Still, the door would not open, not even for him. For several minutes, they all pulled and tugged, but the door did not allow any of them to walk inside. Mary rushed to a side window and heaved. The window, just like the door, would not open. Daddy had it fastened down with three inch nails. Just as Mary ran back to the screen door, a little bird flew between a gap in the screen and made its way onto the porch. He landed on the back of the couch and sung a sweet melody.
            “This ain’t good,” Daddy insisted. “We all know what the sign for a singing bird means.”
            “I don’t,” responded Dabria. “What does the singing bird mean?”
            “It’s a sign for death,” Daddy mumbled.
            “Death,” Dabria wailed. “But I don’t want Nana to die.”
            “She’s not gonna die,” Lynn assured her crying young one. “She’s going to be alright and we’re gonna get in this house.”
            Mama laid still, positioned flat on her back. Her mouth was partly opened, but her eyes were sealed. Left over tears rolled down her cheeks and made small puddles on the pillow. However, she could not wipe a drop from her face. She was numb, swinging from one world to the next, dangling and waiting for the first wind to blow her down. Although she appeared to be gone, she was still fighting with Chance. Belief made a sudden escape from Chance and gave her something to reach for. With Belief sliding by her side again, she pitched a few of its words at Death. Although she could not fully stop it, she could prolong it enough for one more look at the children she raised, the man she loved, and the life she knew.
            Outside, Daddy asked humbly for the chance to touch his wife’s warm, tender face. He begged for a chance to cuddle her flimsy body in his arms. He only needed Belief, which was waiting for someone to pick it up. Daddy leaned his head back and let out a deafening wail. The longing for his wife breezed into the house and faintly crashed into Mama’s life-force.
            Lynn stole a look through the screen. Mama’s eyes popped open and there was a little movement. She reached for the handle on the screen door and yelled, “She’s awake! She’s movin’!” She pressed hard against the door, and wondrously, it caved in. The bottom of the screen door popped open. With little hesitation, they rushed onto the porch and came close to Mama, who was trying to force air through her wind pipes. Mary grabbed the oxygen tubes and inserted them inside of Mama’s nostrils while Lynn pushed the button for the machine to go to work.
            As the air flowed in and out of Mama’s lungs, she regained her normal breathing pattern. She rested her head on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.
            “Just rest,” Lynn suggested. “Just rest and concentrate on catching your breathe.”
            Mary, who was Mama’s caretaker, went about her day after day habits. She fed Mama thirteen different pills, one by one, and gave her one glass of nutrition in a can. When Mama’s pulse stopped racing against death, she raised her head.
            “I thought I was a goner,” she managed to wheeze through her lips. “I …”
            Amazed that Mama spoke, they gathered around her like flies on a half eaten corn dog.
            “I was lying here earlier and I started feeling bad. No one was around, so I started praying for help.” Not being able to move before, Mama twisted to one side. “Something was pulling me from my body and I kept asking the Lord to be with me as I journeyed. As I approached a light, the Spirit came up to me, pushed me back, and said ‘Not yet. It’s not your time.’ Without a doubt, I now know...” Tears escaped from her eyes, and for the first time in years, they watched as the drops slid to the pillow.
            Sitting up like an energized bunny, Mama signaled for her wheelchair. “Take me on the porch,” she commanded. “I need to feel fresh air.”
            “Wait!” Lynn insisted. “Let me clean the porch first.” She rushed outside with a broom and dust pan in her hand. Sweeping and panning, she removed all the chips of paint and shredded wood. She stole a glance at a few cracks in the porch and their slants looked upward. Moving into the living room, she helped with sitting Mama in her wheelchair. Mary wheeled the chair onto the porch.
            Heaving Mama and her dead weight, they planted her on the couch. Mama’s body was wedged between four fluffy pillows, two on each side and her head was propped up by three more pillows. Mary, Lynn, and Daddy walked away as Mama closed her eyes and her lips whispered words of Belief. She pushed Chance out of the way, and Belief filled in each and every small crack.  

 

 

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