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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: Always From Kansas
By Sheri Gordon
05/28/08
~2nd Place


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“Good morning, Miss Norma. Are you ready for some breakfast?”

The nurse’s aide placed the cafeteria tray on the bedside table and began adjusting the hospital bed to a sitting position.

“We have toast and eggs for you today—does that sound good?”

“Oh yes, that’s my favorite. And milk. Did you bring me a glass of milk, with three ice cubes?”

“Of course.” The aide ceremoniously presented his venerable patient with the glass of milk. “I could never forget my best gal’s drink of choice.”

“Stop that now—you’ll make me blush. I don’t even know you that well. What is your name again?”

The young aide tucked a napkin around his patient’s neck and answered, “My name is Sir Rodney, my dear lady. At your service.”

Rodney’s formal bow brought a girlish giggle from the elderly woman’s lips.

“Well, Sir Rodney, have you met my cousin George? He came all the way from Kansas to see me. Wasn’t that nice? We haven’t seen each other in years.”

Rodney turned my direction and offered me a fork. “Nice to meet you…George. Would you like to help this beautiful woman eat her breakfast?”

I took the fork from Rodney and began the daily breakfast ritual. One bite of egg, with just a touch of salt. One bite of toast—jam, no butter. One sip of milk.

Accompanying this forty-five minute routine was a running commentary on the 24-hour daily news broadcast. I made no attempt to interrupt—choosing instead to let her carry-on her one-sided conversation.

“Shame about that girl in Florida.”

“Those tornadoes sure were devastating. Did they hit your place?”

“Why can’t those politicians stop their yammering?”

“Those tornadoes sure were devastating.”

“All those politicians need to just be quiet.”

“Did your place get hit by those tornadoes?”

“Shame about that girl in Florida.”

At the conclusion of breakfast, I pushed the tray aside and turned the volume down on the television set. After opening the curtains and window, I sat down on the edge of the hospital bed.

“It’s a beautiful spring day. Can you hear the birds? They’re sitting in the tree outside your window.”

“Oh yes. Are the little yellow ones there? It was sure nice of you to come all this way to visit. Are you going to be able to stay awhile? Did you bring your wife with you? She was such a lovely girl. I remember playing dolls and house with her, and we made you nasty boys stay away. Did you ever think back then that you’d be married to her one day? Such a lovely girl.”

“I’ll visit for a bit. No, my wife wasn’t able to come today, and yes, she’s a lovely girl.”

“I forgot…do you have kids? My mind’s not what it used to be, you know.”

“Yes, we have two beautiful boys.”

“I’d like to meet them sometime.”

“That would be nice. Maybe next time.”

“I have two children, too. A girl and a boy. I don’t know where they are right now. Probably outside playing. I’m sure they’ll come in soon. Have you met my children?”

As the familiar lump formed in my throat, Rodney returned to remove the breakfast tray. “Okay, Miss Norma. We’re going to put you in the wheelchair for a bit. Maybe your visitor can take you outside to watch the hummingbirds. It’s a gorgeous day—just like you.”

“You stop flirting with me, young man. My cousin is here—all the way from Kansas—and he’s not going to like that. Have you met my cousin Henry?”

Rodney’s compassionate eyes spoke innumerable words of comfort. “Nice to meet you…Henry. Are you ready to take our princess for a stroll?”

I pushed the wheelchair outside and parked it under the white awning, facing a multitude of hummingbird feeders. I stared forlornly at the frail figure in the chair, lost in her yesterdays. I knew she would be content to sit here for hours. I also knew that Rodney would come take her in for lunch shortly.

I bent down close to her face. “I have to go now, but I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Okay, bye Kenneth. Thanks for coming. Give your family our love. You know you’ve always been my favorite cousin.”

Every day was the same. Every day I visited, and every day I was a different cousin, or many different cousins. Always from Kansas.

I gently kissed her head. “And you’re my favorite, too, Mom.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 05/29/08
Stunningly well-written. Perfect title. This is simply a masterpiece.
Sara Harricharan 05/29/08
Oh my! I would say this is sad, but it's so well written, I can only enjoy the bittersweet feel of it. I didn't even think that it could be his mother, I thought it was maybe a sister or a cousin, but wow. Excellent writing! ^_^
Shirley McClay 05/29/08
Beautifully done. Excellent.
Lynda Schultz 05/30/08
Wonderful. I can't think of anything that should be changed. This story reminded me so much of my own father's last years. Very well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/30/08
This is an awesome story...one that will linger in my mind for a long time.
Karen Wilber 05/31/08
I knew there was something amiss by the "...George". This has so many examples of showing, not telling. And it's very authentic. It either happened to you, a close friend, or you have a great deal of empathy. Well done.
LauraLee Shaw06/01/08
Your ending was simply outstanding, and you made me cry! Great characterization and sense of place. Love this line:
I stared forlornly at the frail figure in the chair, lost in her yesterdays.
Well done.
Laury Hubrich 06/01/08
Wow! This is a great piece. I didn't guess that she was his mom, either. Wonderful writing and so very sad.
Laury
Sharlyn Guthrie06/01/08
Touching!
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
Wow! The last line was a killer! I was captivated the whole way through. I knew it was an Alzheimer's patient, but I thought maybe his wife, not his mom. Beautiful job! Blessings, Cheri
Joanne Sher 06/01/08
Oh - heartbreaking. Wonderfully characterized and excellent job with dialog. I suspected something was up fairly soon, but what it was escaped me.

Not sure if this was just me, but I was thrown by the introduction of "I" so many paragraphs into the story (maybe it wasn't that many - but anyway...) - I had to go back to try to figure out who was speaking. Just figured I'd mention it.

Great title - actually, just GREAT!
Dee Yoder 06/02/08
Beautifully written. You describe so well the intricacies and the sadness of having a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. My dad still recognizes me, and though I dread the day that he may not, I know in my heart that he'll always be my special dad. Lovely story.
Beth LaBuff 06/02/08
I had to smile at the milk with ice cubes (my husband drinks it that way). :) Your story is excellent, poignant, and very well-written.
Lyn Churchyard06/02/08
Voice, dialogue and descriptions combine to make a touching story of love. Superb!
Joshua Janoski06/02/08
Alzheimers is such a horrible disease, and you really did a good job of showing the effects that the disease has on the family members of those affected by it.

A very interesting way of taking the cousin topic and adding a twist to it. I enjoyed reading this sad, but realistic, story.
Debbie Wistrom06/04/08
I loved Sir Rodney's patience.
Funny how all the cousins were from Kansas-nice touch-great title.

Well done, endearing and heart tugging-thanks for the story.
LauraLee Shaw06/05/08
Congratulations on 2ND PLACE!!!!
I'm doin' a happy dance for you, girl!!!!
Lyn Churchyard06/05/08
Congratulations Sheri, awesome job 2nd Place AND an EC Award. You rock girl!
Cheri Hardaway 06/05/08
Congratulations, Sheri! Your article was awesome and deserved to win. 2nd place and an EC! Many blessings, Cheri
Aaron Morrow06/05/08
Beautifully done Sheri! The dialogue is fantastic. Congratulations!
Sharlyn Guthrie06/05/08
Congratulations, Sheri. Woo-hoo!
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/05/08
Oh, I suspected he wasn't really a cousin, but the last line still made me almost cry. Well done and well deserved EC.
Sally Hanan06/05/08
Yeah Sheri!! Well done on a heart-touching story.
Patricia Turner06/05/08
Congratulations Sheri! What an outstanding picture of what Alheimer's is like. My mother has it so I know it on a daily basis too. What a tender and caring take on it too. Thank you for sharing it.
Lollie Hofer 06/06/08
Congratulations on a well-deserved win! The ending brought tears to my eyes. My husband went through the exact same thing with his mother - only she reached a point where she didn't know him at all - as son or cousin or uncle. On one visit she mistook him for her husband. You captured the frustrations and pain of this horrible disease to a tee.
Betsy Markman06/06/08
Absolutely excellent. Congratulations on the EC.
Peter Stone06/06/08
Beautiful story, both heart breaking and yet touching at the same time. Wonderful conclusion.
Lynn Jacky06/06/08
HI - I like this story - excellent writing and dialogue.
Helen Dowd 06/07/08
What a sad story. How painful it is when a loved one's mind goes. This son was very compassionate to let his Mom pretend. You told this story well, climaxing it like you did, letting the reader believe, with the lady, that her cousin had come, and then revealing who the real "Rodney" was...Congratulations on your second place win. You deserved it...Helen
Joni Andrews 06/20/11
This is so good.