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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)

TITLE: Sylby Abides
By Dee Yoder
04/29/08


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The men stood with their hands in their pockets, their necks uncomfortably ringed with seldom worn ties. Women, their hands loaded with casseroles and hot pots, meandered in and out of the front screen door, letting it slap shut with a bang each time. One of the men in the group nearest the steps turned and shaded his eyes as he saw me approaching.

“Well, here now! Is that you, Peggy?” He walked toward me, his hand extended in welcome and a smile across his face.

“Yes, I’m Peggy…and you’re…?”

“Paul. Brad’s boy.”

Ah…so you’re my second cousin.” I didn’t remember him, but I recognized his dad’s name as my father’s cousin.

“Yes. How’s your dad?” Paul asked.

“I’m afraid he can’t travel anymore. His health won’t allow it.”

“Well, we’re all getting older. Sorry to hear he’s not well.”

“Thanks. Is…Grandma Virgie in there?” I pointed to the screen door and Paul looked toward the house.

“Yes. She wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what her kin have always done…so…” Paul shrugged.

I nodded politely. “I suppose I’d better go in. Is Aunt Sylby-?”

“Yeah. She won’t let anyone take her away from Grandma. I know it’s not right to speak ill of the dead, but I don’t understand how Sylby can be so sorry to see her mama go…Grandma Vergie was…well…everyone knows what she did to Aunt Sylby.”

I shook my head and solemnly headed to the porch. Inside, the house was dim and smelled of stale wood smoke, fried bacon, and “Evening in Paris” perfume one of the women was wearing. A lady hurried across the room, wrapped her arms around my neck, and pulled me close.

“Peggy! It’s good to see you! Oh, my. I miss your dad, I surely do. I wish things were different…it’d be so good to see he’s well and whole. We’ll all just have to wait for our Heavenly bodies, I suppose, to know those day again.” My dad’s oldest sister, Aunt Claire, held me tightly, tears glittering her eyes.

“Do you think Aunt Sylby will recognize me?”

“Well…you know how she is…I kind of doubt she’ll even notice you, Peggy. She took it hard, though we all know Mama Vergie didn’t deserve her devotion. My, my, my.” Aunt Claire shook her head, wiping her tears with her apron. I glanced around the room and noticed the open door to Grandma Vergie’s bedroom. Aunt Claire nodded at my questioning look.

Aunt Sylby turned to me as I entered the room. Her face held the naïve innocence I’d always known, but the recent scar that Grandma Vergie had been responsible for raised a red, irritated welt under her right eye. Tears tracked both cheeks and she wrung her hands repeatedly.

“Mama’s not waking up…Mama won’t talk to me…can you make Mama wake up?” I looked beyond Sylby’s shoulder and saw Grandma Vergie stretched out on her bed as though she were taking an afternoon nap. Her profile remained sharp and hawk-like, the predatory visage not a bit softened by death.

I felt a bitter childhood memory press forward of Grandma Vergie slapping Aunt Sylby all over her head and ears while Sylby threw her scrawny hands out to fend off the vicious blows. “Stupid Girl, stupid and dumb and ugly…why the Lord ever let you be born is beyond me!” Had I imagined the sly look of satisfaction in Grandma’s curled lip as she pummeled her frustrations out on poor Sylby?

I shivered at the awful memory. Aunt Sylby took my hand and pressed a kiss on my palm. She seemed to have suddenly forgotten her pitiful questions and was looking at me with adoration lighting her face.

“Jesus loves me…this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” Aunt Sylby sang quietly, while her weak and lisping words exposed her advanced age.

“Yes, Aunt Sylby. Jesus loves you…this I know…”

She giggled and twisted away, her gaze once again finding the body of her mother. She gasped.

“Mama? Are you going to wake up now?”

“Aunt Sylby? Won’t you please come and have a bite to eat?” I cajoled.

She slowly turned her eye to mine, grabbed my hand, and smiled, the red scar hiding in the wrinkles of her face.

“Jesus loves me…this I know…for the Bible tells me so…” she sang again.

I hugged her to me, and led her away from her mama for the last time.


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This article has been read 737 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/04/08
Your description of the cultural habits that surround a family member's death is superb. You make the reader feel how love is real, even when it isn't deserved. It's hard to hold back bitter feeling for the one who has just died for her cruelty to one so in need of love and understanding. This is an excellently written story.
Laury Hubrich 05/04/08
Oh, how sad this is. To have enough love for someone even though treated so badly, this is truly a gift from the Lord! To have this kind of love and forgiveness for someone, wow! Great writing, great descriptions!
Laury
Betty Castleberry05/05/08
This is superbly done. I could see Sylby clearly. She has stringy gray hair and a missing front tooth, BTW. ;0)
You addressed the issue very well. Thumbs up.
Joy Faire Stewart05/05/08
I love the details you always have in your writing. You give your characters life. Excellent writing!
LauraLee Shaw05/05/08
Your descriptions and details are amazing. Your ending was just perfect. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 05/06/08
Excellent work with perfect descriptions. You took us with you to see it all. I especially liked the "banging screen door," " the stale wood smoke," and "'Evening in Paris' perfume". Beautiful story.
Jan Ackerson 05/06/08
Heartbreaking, outstandingly creative, masterfully written. A really moving and powerful story, Dee.
Joanne Sher 05/06/08
Excellent descriptions, and vivid characterizations. You brought these characters to life, with their wrinkles and all!
Willena Flewelling 05/06/08
This is a sobering reminder of the faith of a child in his or her parents, no matter whether they are good parents or bad. What a responsibility we have as parents!
Joshua Janoski05/06/08
Sylby is a great example of the love of Christ. Just as he hung on the cross and said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do", Sylby also showed love for her deceased mother despite the pain caused to her.

I appreciate you sharing this. It really got me thinking about what true love really is.
Debbie Wistrom05/07/08
Liked this off slant entry very much. Family gatherings, no matter the cause are one of my favorite things. I felt like I was there. Wonderful!
Loren T. Lowery05/07/08
I admire the way you have written the innocent acceptance Sylby shows towards her mother's acts. Often, an abused child will cling to the one that hurts them the most, either blaming themselves or somehow assuming this is how loved is expressed. Your work continues to grow brillantly in depth and range.
Janice Cartwright05/07/08
The detailed physical description with great word choices and your depiction of family life of a certain era and geography are superb. As in so many of your stories I see the bud of a full-length novel.
Catrina Bradley 05/07/08
Superb, from beginning to end.
Mariane Holbrook05/08/08
I'm late getting to the bricks but I'm so glad I got to read this one, Dee. It is superb. How you come up with such rich details is beyond me. It is so well-written that I hope it places very high!