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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)

TITLE: Shingles, Rabies, Whooping Cough
By Jan Ackerson


Everyone has a gift—mine is worrying. To my credit, I’m very good at it. Hardly any of the things I worry about ever happen, and I like to think I had something to do with that.

I know what the Bible says about worrying. I’m working on it. Just last week, I was able to not worry that Joy would come home from her sleepover covered with tattoos (by the way, she’s only eight). I also didn’t worry that my husband’s atrocious neckties would cost him a commission. This was actually a banner week for Craig—he managed to wear both the trout tie and the orange-and-pink one and still bring home a paycheck.

As I said—I’m working on the worrying. But red flags sprung up and waved madly in the breeze when my mother came by for her Saturday visit looking flushed and exhausted.

Mom’s a remarkable woman. She’s been a single parent since Dad died when I was only ten, and she raised me in such a way that I just naturally fell in love with her Lord. But she’s been alone for a long time now, and I’ve always known that eventually it would fall upon me to parent her.

“Mom, are you all right?” I eyed her reddened face and mentally reviewed the list of possible causes. Fever, infection, lupus…

“Of course, dear, I’m fine.” She plopped onto the couch and closed her eyes. “I’m just worn out, that’s all. Joy, honey, come give your grandma a kiss.” She received Joy’s smooch, then patted the couch cushion. Joy snuggled close and the two began their weekly ritual: a crossword puzzle and caramels wrapped in crinkly cellophane.

Exhaustion: anemia, mononucleosis, typhoid…

Perhaps I watch too many medical shows. Craig says they cause flare-ups of my worry warts.

I watched my mother and my daughter murmuring crossword answers to each other, their heads bent low and close. While I sipped a cup of coffee, I thought back over the events of the past several months, and realized that I couldn’t ignore the crescendo of alarms jangling in my brain.


“Have you borrowed my small casserole dish, dear?” My mother seemed bemused. “I just can’t find it anywhere, and I can’t imagine what I’ve done with it.”

Losing things: dementia, mini-stroke…


“I’m gong to a concert tomorrow night. It’s a piano concerto by…” Mom’s voice trailed off, and she squinted with the effort to think.

“By who, Mom?” I listed her favorite composers. “Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn…”

“Mendelssohn! That’s the fellow!” She chuckled and shook her head. “I can’t believe I forgot Mendelssohn! Where’s my thinker these days?”

Forgetfulness: depression, brain tumor…


“I can’t stay, dear, I have places to go.” Mom stopped at the mirror in the foyer and applied raspberry lipstick. Her hand was trembling.

Shakiness: Parkinson’s, malaria, mad cow disease…


Having convinced myself that Mom was horribly ill, I placed my empty mug on the end table and cleared my throat. “Joy, honey, would you go play outside for a while?”

My daughter looked up at me, obviously annoyed. “Mom! We’re not done with this puzzle!”

“You can finish it in a bit. I want to talk to Grandma.”

My mother tugged playfully on Joy’s blonde ponytail and smiled. “It’s okay, Jump-for-Joy, run along. I need to talk to your mom, too.”

We watched as she sulked to the back door, then we both started to talk at once.



I gestured for her to go ahead. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to say, anyway, and my heart was thumping alarmingly in my throat.

“Dear, I have something to tell you. I’ve been to the doctor…”

I knew it. Oh, help me, sweet Lord, she’s got encephalitis. Diphtheria. Typhoid. Leprosy.

“…and he’s put me on a diet. I want to lose twenty pounds by May. So tell Joy for me, will you? After today, no more caramels.”

My mind was still attempting to process everything after doctor.

“What--a diet? Twenty pounds by May? But…why?”

Pink spread from Mom’s neck to her hairline and she looked away from my gaze.

“Well, I haven’t really known how to tell you this, dear. You know how you worry so. I’ve been…seeing a gentleman…Howard. Howard Glover. He goes to my square dancing group. We…we’re getting married.”

I looked at her—beautiful, blushing, a girlish smile plumping her cheeks.

Flushed, exhausted, trembling, forgetful: my mother is in love!

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This article has been read 1510 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 11/23/06
This is truly delightful! I suspected how it might end, but you did such a super job of describing this poor worry-wart that I was more enthralled with what the next list of diseases would be than how you would tie it all up at the end. Great stuff.
Amy Michelle Wiley 11/23/06
LOL! Great story. Tee Hee! What creativity. You totally got me on the ending.
Sally Hanan11/23/06
Haha, very funny, and some welcome relief to the other heavier entries.
Shanti Singh11/24/06
This was absolutely delightful. The story grabbed me and never lost its grip on me all the way through to the end. Thanks so much for writing this!
Cherry Bieber 11/26/06
This was just too much fun!! You did such a wonderful job of capturing the heart of so many mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, etc.! I'm going to be smiling over this one for quite a while! Thank you!
Mo 11/26/06
Very creative. You put a funny spin on a serious parenting trait. I loved "flare-ups of my worry warts." Delightful!
Helen Paynter11/27/06
Very very funny - and scarily familiar (I've lost count of the number of times I've planned my children's funerals). On your usual form, I see.
william price11/27/06
Masters debut Phoey! You've been writing Masters Level for as long as I've been a fan of yours. Excellent story here. You had me from beginning to end with no speed bumps. Excellent, honest, crisp writing. God bless.
Jan Ross11/27/06
How delightful! You would have thought you were describing me -- my worry warts flare up with every doctor show I watch! LOL This is great stuff, a delightful read, masterfully done, and fun! I want to meet your mom! Awesome, once again! :)
Betty Castleberry11/27/06
Oh, this is absolutely priceless! The last line is masterful in every sense of the word. I really enjoyed this.
william price11/27/06
Okay! So I gave the wrong writer credit for this piece. Sometimes the clues confuse me. Of coarse this reads like a master, because the masters Master wrote it. Sorry Jan. I enjoyed this beginning to end.
God bless.
Bonnie Derksen11/27/06
I loved, loved, loved this! I once bought a book called "The Worry Workbook". Pushed my sleeves up and was ready to study my way out of worrying!... then more of life took over, and I couldn't find the time. The greatest quote I've ever read about this topic, and it definitely applies to my role as a mom: "I've suffered the most from the troubles that never came".
Thanks for your great writing, Jan, and for hinting my way here. You are indeed a Master, leaving many of us in the dust.
Jen Davis11/28/06
I loved this! Very entertaining, clever and funny. A real joy!
Joanne Sher 11/29/06
This is SO fun! I giggled all the way through. Your characterization is wonderful and I love the "lists." You reminded me of ME! Maybe this will help ME stop worrying as much.
dub W11/29/06
Loved the humor, this is well done. Thank you.
Donna Haug11/29/06
I agree. The lists of possible diseases were the icing on the cake - and a delicious cake too. Great writing.
Sara Harricharan 11/29/06
LOL! A delightful read, loved the humor and the 'worrying' especially the italics. Good job!
Debbie Sickler11/29/06
I figured out kind of early on that she would be in love, but that didn't take away from this great story. I loved how you added little things like the nick name "Jump-for-Joy" and Grandma tugging on her ponytail playfully. Added a sense of authenticity to it. Very cute take on the topic. :)
Catrina Bradley 11/29/06
What a joy to read! Loved the worries that ran through your head, and the flare up of your worry warts was a great line!
Also loved the happy ending!
Lynda Lee Schab 11/29/06
Masterful, indeed. The story was excellent but my favorite part was the twist at the end...loved it! As always, superb, creative writing. :-)
Donna Powers 11/29/06
Very precious and enjoyable. You brought humor and a good description of a worry-wart to the same article. I enjoyed reading this very much. Thanks for sharing this.
Ruth Neilson11/29/06
hehehe, sure teaches the daughter on being a worry wart. I loved the ending.
Suzanne R11/30/06
Gorgeous! I saw the ending coming, actually, possibly because of my grandfather, who lived with my family at the time, beginning regular 'pastoral visitation' to a widow in his church - they eventually got married. I recognized the symptoms. You tell a story extremely well!
Edy T Johnson 12/26/06
Oh, Jan, this is a keeper! I know about having to parent my parents. And now, I start to fear our kids will think they have to start parenting us, sooner or later. How wonderful, after all the negative worry, to discover it's LOVE behind all the "symptoms." Thank you!