poured out before bed
“Do you live here in RadCity?”
“No, I live in SouthBurbs – but it’s only a 15 min drive to here.”
“Oh, that’s convenient. Who do you live with?”
“My husband. ” Her face darkens slightly.
“Tell me about the people in your life – your support system,” I lean in and catch her pale blue eyes. Those eyes smile back at me, the lines around them a unique frame for proud glory.
“Well, I have two beautiful daughters – they are the joys of my life, you know! Lisa lives only about two hours from here, and she has three little ones – three grandchildren for me to fuss over! Oh, and then there’s Anna – she lives just over in WestBurbs. She works downtown – a big-shot lawyer, she is. And she has the nicest young man to court her. Very fine looking, and very well mannered.”
“I’m glad your daughters live nearby. And how about your husband? Is he a help to you?”
“Well, he’s a bit of a lout sometimes… but he means well.”
“What do you mean – a bit of a lout?”
She fixes on her gnarled hands gripping the chair arms and sighs.
“Well, you know men – the men of my generation, anyway. They watched too many Rat Pack movies – smoke too much, drink too much…and like to be the boss. That’s Marty, alright. He loves me – I know that – but he doesn’t always know how to show it.”
“That must be hard.”
“It is.” She nods and adjusts the yellow kerchief about her neck.
“We’ve been married 52 years, you know?” her voice trembles, a mixture of age and emotion assaulting her speech. “You really get to know a person in that time. Marty has done some things I hate… But he always provided for the family and oh how he loves our girls… But, you know… you know, they were both products of rape… He took what he wanted, when he wanted it… But he gave me Anna and Lisa. And he was so good to them. So, even when he’s not so good to me, I think it’s alright. He balances out alright.”
I feel a swirling of sorrow and indignation catch in my throat as I watch this woman, strong for all her physical frailty, sweet for all of the bitter she’s endured, fold her hands in her lap resolutely.
“Mrs. Jones, I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” I cover those folded hands with mine.
She shakes her white head and pats my arm, the lifted veil in an instant replaced.
“Oh goodness, I’m 87 years old. I’ve nearly forgotten all of that nonsense. Everything turned out alright in the end. Except for this cancer… You know, Marty doesn’t even believe I have it? He thinks that just because I got treatment years ago that it can’t possibly be back. He’s being a stinker about all of this now, with the recurrence and all.”
“I understand you don’t drive – will Mr. Jones be open to driving you to your radiation treatments?”
“Oh no! He’s against all of this. But I’ve got it arranged so a car can come to get me to bring me here. I’ve got it all set up for either mid-morning or midafternoon – that way it doesn’t interfere with Marty’s meals… I’ve learned to think ahead, you know!”
“How can we help you?” I ask, running through my head a scene in which I heft her over my shoulder fireman-style and whisk her away to live with Mr. Whine and me.
For the first time, tears cloud her eyes. She reaches out, squeezes my hand. Hard.
“Just give me hope. Hope of good last days. Not more days. Just good days. I don’t want to hurt anymore. I just want to be me, living my life, till I’m not.”