UNITED STATES—”Are you going to stay the night?” says the mother. Hers is the last bed in the room that has a light on over the headboard of the hospital bed.
“Don’t go changing the subject,” says the son.
“I didn’t know there was a subject,” the mother groans. “Can you do something about my head, so it can get comfortable?”
“The French has a little invention,” says Davy, “It was called a guillotine. I’m so angry at all that stuff in the storage. It should have been faced years ago.”
“What did you do with it?”
“We had to eliminate is, box after box. What a waste.”
“But we’re out of that darn storage space. That”s another 600 dollars a month. That’s something.”
A voice booms in as a new figure enters the door:
“Think of all the trips that could have been, or really nice cars, or experiences.”
“Look, it’s Karen, Mom,” Davy says.
“Where is Karen? Why isn’t she here?”
“There she is, right before our very eyes.”
“What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t coming till the end of January?”
“One of my co-workers got back early from vacation, decided they hated their family and voila. Here I am. You’re looking good, Mom. You’re looking better than I expected. Hi, Davy.”
“How was your drive?”
“It snowed on Donner Pass. We had to wait two hours for the snowplows to clear it.”
“Stand where I can see you,” says the Mom. “I want to get a good look at you.”
“Well, you’re looking good, Mom,” Karen says.
“Yeah I know what you mean, Karen. I come here and Mom’s rosy and apple cheeked. Every time I come I think she’s gonna be all withered away and definitively old.”
“Oh, I don’t know what you’re saying. I’m old. I am 90 years old.”
“You don’t look a day over 89.”
Betty, the mom, suddenly breaks a smile, and says, “Oh that’s funny.”
“Wow, Karen, you got her to laugh,” says Davy. His sister beams from ear to ear, then he peers at her with theatrically clouded eyes: “Who are you?”
“I’m your sister.”
“How can I have a sister if I’m an only child.”
“It’s good to have you here, babe.”
“Are you going to stay the night?”
“Well, mom,” Karen says, “yes, I want to do everything I can for you.”
“You say with the gentle naivete of the newcomer to Betty’s bedside,” Davy’s whispered aside.
“Dear, I came to check your blood pressure.”
“What should I do, Davy?” the mother peers with a child’s helplessness, craving guidance.
“Nurse, what’s her blood pressure?”
“91 over 60.”
“The bottom figure got higher. It wasn’t like that before.”
“It could be the pain killers,” says the Latina nurse.
Karen and Davy trade glances. The nurse who took the blood pressure announces:
“It’s 8 o’clock. Visiting hours are over. You’ll both have to leave.”
“Bye mom, love.”
“Love. When will you be coming back.”
“Where am I,” the mother asks.
“Wherever you want to be.,” Karen says with all the love in the world.
Later, in a diner. Karen and Davy sit in the intimacy of a diner. The upholstery under their arses has been mended with duct tape.
“It’s so strange being in that house without her. All that stuff. It clogs the hallways. And you want to start digging in and throwing out stuff left and right. I try to tame the urge. The force just sucks me in and I could just plain forget to visit mom. ‘Why weren’t you here?’ and then she’ll go on to tell me about my bald spot.”
“You can never win with her,” Karen says.
To be continued…