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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

TITLE: A Name is just a Name
By Lynda Lee Schab


“Pass me one of them mints, Jimmy.”

There are two reasons I’m not going to grant my mother’s request for a mint. One, she didn’t say “please.” Hey...I expect it from my kids, why should my mother be any different?

And two: my name’s not Jimmy. If I were a man, being called “Jimmy” might be easier to swallow. But this definitely calls for a word with my hair dresser.

“Mom, I’m not Jimmy. I’m Deseree. Remember?” Of course she doesn’t.

“What?” Mom wrinkles her brow and clucks her tongue. “Desiree, you say? What a ridiculous name. Do people call you ‘dizzy’ for short?”

“Sometimes.” More often than I care to admit.

“That wasn’t very nice of your mother. I’ll bet she doesn’t have a ridiculous name.”

“My mother’s name is Catherine.”

“Catherine...” She looks into space. “That’s a very nice name.”

I sigh. A typical day in the life of Catherine Arnold.

The door opens and my sister, Sue, breezes in. “So what’s up, Dez? She recognize you today?”

“I wish,” I say, glancing at Mother, who is reciting the name “Catherine” over and over to no one in particular.

“Hey, Ma!” Sue says loudly, as if our mother is suffering from hearing, instead of memory, loss.

Mother’s face brightens. “Sue!”

I roll my eyes. It figures. Every time we visit, I pray that just once, Mother forgets my sister’s name instead of mine. It must be wrong of me to pray for something like that because my prayer has never been answered. That’s what I get for having a name like Desiree. Thanks, Mom.

“The nurse was just telling me about Catherine,” Mom explains.

Sue grins at me. “You’re the nurse now?”

I shrug. “Hey, it’s better than ‘Jimmy.’”

Sue throws her head back and laughs. Yes, it’s so hilarious, isn’t it? She covers her mouth. “Sorry, Dez. But sometimes you just gotta laugh, right?”

“Only if your name is Sue.”

Mom tugs on Sue’s sleeve and pulls my sister closer. She lowers her voice to a whisper. “You know, the nurses around here are pretty cranky. I don’t think she’s cracked a smile once.” She hitches a thumb in my direction.

I smile a large fake smile, baring all of my teeth, “How’s that?”

Mom frowns and looks, wide-eyed, up at Sue. She places a hand on her chest. “That was scary.” She tentatively glances at me again, terror in her eyes. “Get her out of here! She’s scaring me!”

I look at Sue. She is patting Mother’s arm, trying to calm her down. And me? I am on the verge of tears. It’s bad enough that she has no clue as to who I am, but now I’ve frightened her. And all because I smiled. Okay, so it wasn’t a nice smile. But still...I’m her daughter, for crying out loud!

I stand, fully intending to walk out the door before the dam breaks and I become a blubbering mess. Sue stops me. Her eyes, filled with laughter a moment ago, now hold compassion. “Dez, come on. It’s the disease.”

I swallow and blink back a tear. “I know that. But she remembers your name. Do you know how difficult it is for me to not even be recognized by my own mother? And then to see her recognize you...every time...”

“Dez, she doesn’t recognize me; not really. For some reason, she remembers my name. But she doesn’t know that I’m her daughter.

I look at my mother. She is watching us with a curious tilt of the head. “Sue,” she says, “Harold was asking about you the other day. He doesn’t understand why you haven’t called him lately. He’s still in love with you, you know.”

Sue raises an eyebrow at me, as if to say, “See what I mean?”

“Does Matt know about this?” I ask, referring to Sue’s husband of eleven years.

Sue grins. “Like I said, sometimes you just have to laugh. Either that, or crawl under the covers and not come out until they find a cure. But that wouldn’t work for me, since I tend to get hungry every so often. So laughter’s definitely the best solution.” She winks.

As much as it kills me to admit it, I know my sister is right. So I stay and visit with mom for a while longer. Today I am Missy, Leah and Deborah. Not once does she call me Desiree.

But hey...at least she isn’t still calling me Jimmy.

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This article has been read 1047 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/23/07
Good conflict, and good conflict resolution. Well done.
Jacquelyn Horne08/23/07
Encouraging to those who deal with a similar situation, I'm sure. You told it well.
Joanne Sher 08/24/07
I really like the POV of this story - gave me a different perspective on a very difficult issue. Great characterizations, especially of Desiree.
Dee Yoder 08/24/07
My sister and I have some conversations very similar to the ones in your story. It's difficult to know your parent doesn't know you anymore, but keeping a sense of humor DOES help. Your story has a realistic appeal and voice.
Jan Ackerson 08/24/07
Congratulations for having the guts to write about such a painful topic with wry humor! And you had just the right touch of several other emotions: sweetness, anger, love...awesome acheivement in such a short piece.
Sharlyn Guthrie08/25/07
I like the tone you used in conveying the various emotions the sisters experience. Great job wiht a serious subject.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/25/07
You have three interesting characters,introduced through realistic dialog. Good job!
Kristen Hester08/28/07
I loved seeing the MC's honest feelings. Sibling rivalry never ends. This is so easy to read and fun, even though it's a painful topic. Great job as usual.
LaNaye Perkins08/29/07
Your story touched my heart. I love the way you describe the feelings of the MC. Well done!
Brenda Welc08/29/07
Well done. Felt your heart in this one! Keep writing, this is good stuff!
Loren T. Lowery08/29/07
I think that any parent, suffering with this disease, would also wear a wry smile, knowing that even in their present condition, they are bringing a bit of joy into thier children's lives. I think this is so, becuase I also believe that this affliction, like any other is only temporary...
Patty Wysong08/29/07
I absolutely love the voice here!! You caught my attention and I couldn't wait to read on. This is Great!! Hugs!